Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

What is Your Musical “Slam Dunk”?


Greets from the road!

Each tour has an outer experience  and  an inner experience.  This tour has been especially wonderful in terms of the inner journey.

Outer stuff: The shows, posters, Facebook posts, and fan interaction, travel, making new friends, etc.

Inner stuff: What’s going on inside emotionally, reaching for artistic goals, new melodies / tunes that become a fresh “soundtrack”  of the tour, where I stand on my scale of inner peace, etc.

The last few gigs have been quite satisfying on  the inner plane, and here’s why –  I am experiencing a new level of “harmony”  between my playing on stage and my core values.

Here are some guidelines which hopefully will stimulate some ideas – and please feel free to disagree with me:

Becoming the Artist You Are Supposed to Be

You can’t get the deep satisfaction I am describing through imitating someone else. (You may have to start there, but that’s not the “goal”…)

Others may inspire you, but the gem and the gift to the world is YOU in your full honesty.  It might feel fragile and unfamiliar to you at first to accept the idea that YOU are valuable and precious, but it’s special and that’s what I’d want to hear from you.

The big question you need to ask yourself is “what is my musical slam dunk?”


  • For some, speed is their slam dunk – and that’s fine. If so, then do it to the max!
  • For some, introspection and a meditative atmosphere is their slam dunk, and that’s fine too. Go for it!
  • For some, being perceived as the “best” is the slam dunk.  Be careful here – as this has more to do with “perception”  than “the music”  and can be an ego pitfall.
  • There are many possibilities – so just be clear on what has meaning to you, musically.

Be clear on what your values are, and work at them day by day as you practice.  If you are blown about like a leaf in the wind, imitating someone one day, then something or someone else the next day, or employing a “gimmick” – you can’t get to this deep satisfaction I am describing.

Or if your slam dunk is “A”  but you are doing “B”  because you want others to accept you, you’ll probably never achieve the artistic heights you could – because being an artist is a 360 degree full on, HONEST endeavor.

If you are a beginner or a young person learning who you are and just starting to play, be clear on what you like about other people’s music as you learn the craft of music.

This can be tricky when you are under a teacher’s guidance – as students tend to adopt the likes and dislikes of their teachers.

Just be honest.  What do you like and what do you dislike?  It’s all ok!

My “slam dunk” is a combination of things…

  • I want people to hear clear melodies, groove along with me, and get a “variety” of tempos, textures, keys and musical styles along with some friendly entertainment.
  • I want to hold people’s attention.
  • I want to see my audiences true bubbling enthusiasm, smiles and beaming faces after the gig.  I know when people are really touched as opposed to just offering “obligatory applause.”  I want to really tickle them!

After two separate gigs people told me they felt a “warm flow” come over them during my gig as their smiles beamed.  Dang, that’s what I’m talking about!  I made people feel good – that’s evidence of my slam dunk!

Knowing what I don’t like helps too. 

While this may sound grumbly and negative – I am clear on these points.

  • I don’t like being bored by a performer or by the music.
  • I don’t like if I can’t tap my foot for at least some of the concert.
  • I don’t like when a musician tries to “impress” and forgets about groove and melody.
  • I don’t like “too much”  of one thing, it dulls my senses.
  • I don’t like when a performer hasn’t practiced enough.
  • I don’t like when someone is too “careful”.
  • I don’t like music that wanders and has no recognizable melody
  • I don’t like when I see someone simply imitating someone else, (although I give beginners a break regarding this!)

Only honesty with your own values combined with diligent work of slogging it out day by day, will ultimately bring about a deep, meaningful experience for you and the audience.

What are your values, musically or entertainment wise? (be honest!)

What’s your slam dunk?

Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

6 thoughts on “What is Your Musical “Slam Dunk”?

  1. Hey Adam, Great post. It’s good to see that you’re truly “making it”. Not just making a living but also feeling alive.
    As an amateur who plays only for my own entertainment and no expert player at that, my Slam Dunk relates to the stages of learning that you describe on one of your video’s. Playing a new tune in the early passes feels disjointed and clunky as I struggle to co-ordinate my fingers with the tab. It’s hard to hold a consistent beat and make the parts flow in their natural manner. The Slam Dunk for me comes when I’m able to become separated from my own playing to the point that I’m not only playing the tune, I’m able to listen to it too, and to retain enough spare concentration to embellish a little as I go. That’s when the tune makes the transition from the slog of practice, to the pleasure of performance.
    Btw, I’m a total imitator, but I’d like to make a case for it: I love playing. I found the sounds that I love, and I love being able to recreate them. There’s no need for me to “find my own sound” when I’ve already found the sounds of others who have done it so well. Left to my own devices, my playing is sloppy, lazy and unimaginative. By mimicking, I’m able to improve on two out of those three vices.

    • Matt – if you are getting to the point where you can then listen and enjoy, that is HUGE. Martial artists call this “double attention”…eventually this becomes your own sound – and you may even be unaware of it.

      But yes, it is sweet when the clunkiness turns into smoothness!!!!! I love that too.

      On “Making it”? – Funny, once it appears to the public that one is making it, it feels no different from my point of view than my first gig as a kid with his band. I just keep on going, forging through.

      I thought my first tour wasn’t a “real tour” either. The first gig one does is as real as any gig, down the line.

      Keep rockin’ Matt!!!

  2. Why do you tour in the United States. You have a lot of followers and are a star in other country’s

    But I would love to see you thrill American audiences.

    • Doug

      I long to tour more in the states and have a few 2013 upcoming gigs (will post to my calendar) the long & short is that unless I am pulling the fees I need to cover travel costs – it’s dang hard to do the gigs. Whether it’s car rental or planes for each gig – it’s much more expensive than the high speed trains here overseas (I am on the road now.)

      I wish there was more coming my way in the US. It’s a pity that Europe is more “live music friendly” and the distances are not so big – but that’s the deal for now…

      I’ll be doing Niagra Falls & Toronto late Nov / early DEc and then a Florida gig in Feb 2013….

      Where are you located?

      – AR

  3. Hi Adam,

    Love this post, makes a lot of sense to me because one person can’t be everything – your advice is invaluable to young folks. (I’m not that young unfortunately).
    Look forward to seeing you in Singapore!


  4. So excited for your show in Toronto!! I couldn’t make it last year but I will be there for sure this year!!!!!

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