Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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


Home Studio Gear For Recording Great Sounding Fingerstyle Guitar

I call this an “update” because you may have read my earlier post or seen my videos on recording fingerstyle guitar for Youtube videos.

Here, I will describe my home studio setup with getting a great sound in mind.

Please comment below if you have a suggestion or want to mention your gear – or, especially if anything I am saying is not accurate!

The Attitude

All kinds of gear ail sounds great for fingerstyle guitar.  There are many ways to do record it, mine is just one…here goes.

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6 Pieces of Guitar Gear I Can’t Live Without

Hey Gang!

I was just peeking through the mountain of “Fanbridge”  questions that I have, and I came across a recurring theme…

Question:  “Adam what guitar / strings / gear do you use?”

I get asked about this 10 times a week.

With the “mountain”  of gear that one sees in catalogs & stores it is easy to get confused.

Since I carry most of my stuff myself (no car – yep, I’m a a New York guy), it has to be portable, easy and sound great.

All of what I am listing fits in a backpack (except the guitars), and I am ready to play any size concert hall or festival.

Keep in mind, this list WILL change, and “there is more than one way to do it” – but this has been working for me.

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How To Record Guitar For Youtube Videos

Hey Gang,

I wrote a post on this 2 years ago, but I have refined my guitar recording technique.  The old post is here.

At the bottom of this post I will list the equipment & software I use….

There are MANY ways to do the same thing.  I do only one, but it is very easy & fast.  I like NOT using a laptop for these recordings…because the fans create background noise.  That’s why I use a ZOOM H4.

For a CD recording I would use better gear (interface, laptop, several mics), but as I have to be my own video & audio engineer I want to make things E-Z!

If you have ideas, or a better way to do it that could enlighten readers – please comment below – Thanks!

This is a 2 part Video series – Total Viewing time 17 minutes.

Equipment & Software Links:

Maton Michael Fix Model Guitar –

Canon Vixia HF M40 –

Flashpoint Lights with Stands – I use 2  –

Oktava MK-319 Mic:

RODE NT5 Mics (I have a stereo pair):

ZOOM H4 Recorder (newer model available):  

Apple Macbook:

Audacity Software:

Garageband Software:

iMovie Software:

Enjoy and feel free to contact me if you have any questions!



The Michael Jackson Fingerstyle Guitar Sessions – Coated Strings and Guitar Intonation


It’s been a crash course in recording solo guitar to be in the studio working on the new Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar album. The studio has officially kicked my butt, but I am a fighter. Next week are rounds 4 & 5.

Recording solo guitar (or solo anything) is an entirely different challenge from recording a multi instrument track. There’s just nowhere to hide.

Imagine a dish like a stew with 30 ingredients vs a gourmet dish with 3 ingredients. The dish with 3 demands much more care and precision. Any aspect of it being off can throw the whole thing off.

I have practiced and performed this music for a while now – played it on tour, etc. The biggest issue I have dealt with in the studio so far is tuning and intonation.

Coated Strings…Fool Me Once…um…never get Fooled Again!

My bad. I had the information and tools needed to do it right, yet I didn’t. Randy Hughes – master guitar repair, setup and fret guy warned me – coated strings do not intonate well.

Even if your open strings are spot on pitch, notes get weird as you creep up the neck. Ouch. Boy did that G string go flat as I went up the neck. I didn’t realize the cause until after the session.

I like Elixir Nanoweb coated strings, basically. They never sound as good as Martin SP phosphor bronze strings, but they last longer. If I am not on the road, I’ll use Elixirs.

I also have noticed slightly less “left hand squeak” from Elixirs so I figured, what the heck – how bad can it be. So I recorded.

Additionally…I had with me a Peterson Strobostomp tuner…but used my little Korg tuner instead.

My bad…on 2 counts on string & tuner choice…

Long story short…the lessons we learn are often ones that are expensive and exasperating. I need to re-record a bunch of tunes – and I had the information and tools to avoid this, but just got a little lazy.

I repeat, fool me once…um…never get fooled again…

Other Aspects of Guitar Tuning – Your Fingerings

Tuning a guitar really well is not so simple. Some tuning problems can be avoided by changing the arrangement! That’s right – even on a totally in-tune guitar, one fingering can sound more in tune than another. This requires an insanely high degree of listening.

On my version of “Rock With You” I do melodies across the top 3 strings. Now when I play D on the 3rd string 7th fret and open B together and really listen – OUCH!!! It just sounds terrible. Yes, it’s the right notes, but listening deeper, there’s a problem. New fingerings will come to the rescue.

The same applies for squeaks. Listen for them as you practice, and you may find that there are other fingerings which don’t squeak.

So often we’re just happy to get through a piece and we don’t listen to ourselves on this level until we are in the studio and it’s too late!

In Conclusion

When you record, try using fresh uncoated strings. Stretch them well.

Before you record – listen for tuning and squeaks at home. Adjust the arrangements to minimize tuning issues and squeaks, and then go record.

Before recording a take, play different spots in the song and listen. Each song may require a different adjustment in tuning. Oh – and remember to have the patience to tune with a tuner before every take. Check out the Peterson Strobostomp!

JUST ADDED: Peterson has their strobe tuner technology in clip on tuners and even has a strobe tuner iPhone app:

Gang, my first 2 solo efforts were “commando” style – at home, with mics, background noise; music with warts and all. This time I want to give you and all my listeners the most excellent, sublime recording I can.

Ok, coffee cup is empty and post is written…time to practice.


Christmas in August – Recording on the Road

Ho ho ho….Merry Christmas!!! In August…

Greetings from 30,000 feet. I am on my way from Denver to San Jose right now to do my usual August Bay Area workshop. Sorry for not posting in a while…I have not forgotten about you or the blog, just been busy.

It’s been an exciting 2 weeks. With a minimum of recording equipment, I have recorded 18 Christmas hymns and carols, hopefully to be released just in time for Christmas 2009.

In case you are wondering how I recorded this, here goes. Here is a brief rundown of what I used for my bare bones travel recording setup:

Guitar – Cole Clark FL2AC
2 RODE NT5 mics.
A table top mic tripod from Guitar Center – designed for podcasts
A “stereo” extension for mic stands, so I could do an X-Y configuration
with the mics
2 XLR Cables
ZOOM H4 Digital Recorder
Mac Laptop with Garage Band

A key aspect of recording (I am a newbie – forgive me if this is obvious) is having a nice quiet spot to record. Things like refrigerators, air conditioning, traffic, and neighbors thumping all come through on recordings. Out in Colorado I was able to use a friends empty office space, with fabric covered dividers, carpets, etc.

The ZOOM H4 is cool. What’s key is that it offers “phantom power” along with it’s XLR inputs so I was not limited to the mics on the unit. Inside is a memory card just like a digital camera, as opposed to an internal hard drive. It mounts on the Mac via USB and each track is a stereo wav file.

While Garage Band is not ideal software – it really has a lot of very cool features. After a while with it I got quicker at the editing process. As well, I did my best to play takes right minimizing editing.

The AU effects are a bit more complex than their “out of the box” effects. Ultimately I will go to a real studio with great sounding gear to mix and master, but Garage band is an excellent tool to edit with. A real mastering house has compressors that cost $20K and the guys who are experienced engineers can listen and know what frequencies are missing or overloaded…so I’ll leave that to them!

The only slight drawback was not having a real mic stand…I had to put the mics on a chair close to me and do my best to get a good position. But hey, what I have fits in a suitcase!!!!

While my setup may be less than ideal compared to a fancy studio – I had a quiet environment, great mics (ok, really good mics) and most importantly – the TIME to be creative and spend a whole day on one or two songs. Some takes were done 10 times until I felt that I captured the spirit and essence of the song. So, despite any technical flaws this “open ended” studio time I think allowed for some great music to emerge.

Please post comment especially if you have good mobile recording advice!!!

Until next time….

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Busy and Joyful in Nashville

As a stone cold, New York, Harlem bebop funk kinda guy the last place I ever thought I’d appreciate and love is Nashville. Wow, it was amazing!

I have just returned from 2 trips to Nashville in a course of 2 weeks. First trip was to visit the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) annual gathering. The second trip was to attend Summer NAMM where I did demos for Cole Clark Guitars.

It was my second time at CAAS and already it feels like a family. Correction – it is a family. And youtube makes it all the stranger and lovelier…I walked in knowing the names, faces and music of many of the fine players there and they knew me. It really makes me wonder…how love and appreciation of guitar and music draws certain souls together. Beautiful!

I spent quite some time hanging out with Tomi Paldanius of, Joscho Stefan, Joe Robinson…but there were so many other fine players there…Edgar Cruz, Muriel Anderson…the list goes on. Oh yeah, there was also some talented guy named Tony Enamel…Emmanuel…or was it Tommy? I forget what the heck his name was, but he seemed to play pretty good 🙂

NAMM was also neat-o! The convention is much more personal and less of a freakshow than L.A. NAMM. Everything has it’s place, but I really liked the vibe of this NAMM show. HIghlights included – buying a “porchboard” and rocking the house (product review will come), Muriel Anderson’s All Star Guitar Night (best guitar concert I have ever seen), Jerry Douglas stopping by the Cole Clark guitar booth, and eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel 3 days in a row. More butter, please.

The musicians in Nashville are generally…well…awesome to say the least. Great taste, great feel and no room whatsoever for attitude. For a guitar picker like me it felt like home, I must say!

Well…back to work. I am still preparing my handouts and lessons for the Swannanoa Gathering where I’ll be teaching “the ways of the funky fingerstylist” from July 26 to Aug 1, 2009.

Until next time…God Bless, and keep pickin it – never let it heal!


Youtube Recording Technique for Guitar Videos


I recently posted 2 walkthrough videos showing how I do all this.  Check them out, and read this post here as well.  This is an update even more trial & error, so I hope you get something out of it!


Hey friends! After several requests, I figured I’d write this once so that it is easily accessible, and hopefully will save at least one of you some hours of frustration.

In case you’ve not met me or been introduced – my name is Adam and I am a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist. Youtube has been a blessing in so far that is has connected me with fans and other guitarists around the globe…I mean, I have walked into new countries and people say “you’re the Billie Jean guy!”

Pretty cool! This type of exposure was only formerly possible with a huge record deal. I have people in St Petersburg, Korea, France – all of whom can watch my vids seconds after an upload.

But enough about that –


Here’s what we will cover:

1) sound recording
2) video recording
3) editing
4) uploading, file formats etc


1) Sound Recording

Ok, DO NOT use the camera for sound. It will suck, period.

You’ll need a good condenser mic, and I have had the warmest results with a large diaphragm mic more suited for vocals. I would never use that (at least I think) on a record, but for a big fat mono signal it sounds good.

I have had very very good results with a Studio Projects C3. (see end of article for new updated gear)

The mic is the heart and soul of the sound you’ll get.

The software simply massages the signal. Even Garage Band is fine, once you get a good sound – so don’t sweat the software. You will need some basic audio software though.

I use Digital Performer and I get the sound into the computer with a MOTU Ultralite interface. I got pretty good at editing in DP and I find I can slice with precision more easily than in Garage Band.

I did do a few videos when I was in Europe recording with a handheld ZOOM H4. The sound was tinny, as they are different mics – but I’d like to try it with a condenser mic (you can plug one into the H4).

One option I have not checked out are usb mics. If you have software but no interface, you may want to investigate these…that way you need no inteface.

2) Video recording

Previously I recorded to DV video cassette and imported into Apple’s Imovie, but now since I have a laptop with a cam I record video with my laptop.

The downside? The footage takes up lots of space. The upside? I am more mobile – so if I travel I have my video kit, and they look pretty good.

3) Mixing & Editing Sound

I fix my mistakes in the audio. I don’t make many, but when I do, I don’t want to get into that “start again, start again, etc” in search of perfection. Well I do get into that, and it is maddening, so eventually I find the most musical take and fix small things.

Of course it’s spot edits so I don’t screw up any syncing with the vid.

Usually I will do the following to the guitar (mono)

– boost level
– add compression
– eq, usually bring up bass & treble
– add reverb

When I am done, I’ll output an .aiff file (same as .wav)

4) Imovie Work

I’ll then sync up the souped up audio with the video, totally turning off the sound that’s with the video file. This was easier in the old imovie, but I try to always push out of my comfort zone and learn new software.

As well, in imovie I will boost the audio level again. This just takes experimentation. You can check another Youtube vid and see where the level of yours would sound good.

Add titles, and the movie is done.

5) Outputting the file

There are many articles on Youtube Settings, and then of course youtube upped their limit from 100mb to a gig…so here’s how I export the file. Remember, you can output a big (less than a gig) file since their servers will do the compression & squashing of your file.

Some of my vids look better than others, as I have experimented a bit…

Here are my Imovie settings, and there may be better ones out there:

Compression: H.264
Quality: Best
Frame Rate: 30
Frame Reordering: Yes
Encoding Mode: multi-pass
Dimensions: 640 x 480
Scale: Letterbox

Format: AAC
Sample Rate: 44.100 khz
Channels (Stereo L R) – who knows, I may record in stereo someday
Bit Rate 128 kbps

Here’s what those settings and techniques yielded…Enjoy!!! If you know better than I and see a horrible mistake, please enlighten me, there is always room for improvement!

– Adam


Hey Y’all – Update. I am on the road and finding great results using.

RODE NT5 Stereo Mics
Mixing in Garage Band
And – you can output up to a 2 gig movie now for youtube

Same concept – marry the spiffed up, souped up audio with video. Check it out:


Tour Diary- Greetings from Leesburg VA 5-10-08!

Greetings! I’m writing from a Days Inn breakfast room in Leesburg,VA and knocked out gig #1 last night of what I call my “Kentucky Fried” tour. I did a warmup gig at a small coffee house called Market Street Coffee.

Well the gig was ok, but I feel my playing was not at it’s peak. Gotta practice after finishing this post! 🙂

Before we get to Leesburg though, let’s go back to NYC in our minds – I’d like to thank Holly from Rudy’s music stop in NYC. I went there the day before the tour with a Taylor guitar with an intermittent ES pickup system. Needless to say, having equipment crap out the day before the tour is stressful. I do have a backup guitar, but the idea is to travel with 2 functioning guitars, not just 1.

Holly totally gutted & replaced the ES system. Oh, and just for kicks she filed & re crowned some frets, oiled the fingerboard, and saw that the nut grooves needed a slightly different cut. Yeah!! Thank you Holly for loving what you do and over delivering!

Last night’s gig was also the maiden voyage of my new BOSE L1. That too, was source of stress a day before leaving as it had been behaving weirdly at home. Long story short, the little T1 mixer is more akin to an ipod than a mixer. I had to download the latest firmware, reboot and all that jazz. The little T1 is incredible – 4 channels, digital effects, presets- all connected with just a data cable. Whatever the updates did, the BOSE did great on the gig.

I feel good knowing that I have a killer acoustic rig, and can show up anywhere and have great sound.


An artist can’t stand still or just do yesterday’s tricks. What was full of life, and in the moment last month is not the same now! When I launched my acoustic direction part of the beauty was the freshness, the aliveness and the newness. I have officially hit the next stage, but an important one that I think many musicians deal with.

It’s time to refresh again. I already feel like I am doing yesterday’s tricks and it’s not even a year that the CD has been out. Yes, part of playing a great solo guitar gig is that you have great music ready to go under your fingers – and maybe it’s a question of being “in the moment” with the known music – just the same way David Copperfield has his tricks that he does night after night. Part of my practice today will be getting “the juice” back into tunes I feel like I have played ENOUGH.

Certain songs have a different meaning after having played them for a year. Some songs feel better and deeper. Some don’t feel right and need tweaking or need to be dropped / replaced. (FYI “I Got Rhythm” is one of my trickiest and I will go practice it in 5min…)

The journey never stops. Looking forward to tonight’s gig at Patisserie Cafe in Lexington,VA…..more to come!

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Adam Rafferty on Tour May 2008: Kentucky Fried Pickin’, BOSE L1, Visualization and more…

Friends, short entry here. I am very very excited about this tour that is coming up. I am doing a small tour of Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky playing SOLO guitar May 9-18, 2008.

Once again, I am PSYCHED to connect with people in the good ol’ US of A and make friends, play guitar and, well, get the hell out of NYC for a week!

Did I just say that? 🙂

Visit Adam’s Myspace for TOUR DATES

I am proud to tell you that I bought a killer sound system – the BOSE L1 (Model 2). I’ll be bringing it with me. It has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. Essentially it looks like a thin pole 7 feet tall, with a tiny subwoofer. And yep, BOSE kicked butt on the engineering. It’s better than a regular PA – less shleppping, and a better experience playing.

Take a look, and if you are near a Guitar Center, check it out:

In fact, I spent enough on it that even if it sucks I am determined to like it 🙂

Seriously though I will post a more in-depth gear review after some gigs!


It’s late here, yet I feel obliged to write.

I do want to say one thing – back when I started my solo guitar project is when I saw “The Secret”. Say what you will about the movie, but it is vital to know that we get what we think about whether it is wanted or unwanted.

In my minds eye I saw touring, playing for good ol’ folks in the heartland, and kickin ass on the guitar. And it’s a comin’. It took some time to manifest but iit’s on it’s way.

Now after having held the vision in my mind’s eye, it is becoming real.

Thank You, God – Universe – Source. It is an amazing feeling and realization to know that whatever I envision comes. It also gives me a “knowing” that the vision in my head is MORE important than what appears to be objective reality, as it paves the path ahead.

My current future visions – just to let you know, consist of concert hall and festival touring, a busier year-round touring schedule, more recording and well – more musical exploration.

I remember before I even had one solo arrangement down, I told my girlfriend Jill “Watch and you’ll see. It will happen…” and it is. I tell you the same!!!


I promise I’ll write from the road. Looking forward to giving you tour updates!

Warmest Regards,



Adam Rafferty On the Road: April 2008 Europe Tour Review

Greetings Friends!!!

It’s 4am and in feels like 10am and I am back in NYC after a long commute back from Linz, Austria – you know, one of those good ol’ 14 hour treks.

Well all I can say is THANK YOU to those that helped, hired, drove and hung out with me overseas. The tour was an absolute success, and ridiculous fun. I am on Weiner schnitzel overload, but some NYC chinese food and Starbucks will balance out my body’s PH.

I did want to do some road blog entries, but time was too short, and I was in “tour zone”. It ain’t like sittin’ at home with my ibook! Here is a quickie video greeting, and an in depth review follows…


I have only toured Europe with a band, and going solo I must say – there were certain aspects that were MUCH easier (sorry guys, I still love you!). Coming and going when I wanted and less overall managerial functions made it easier. Also, no one to egg me on to stay out until the birds chirped kept me in better shape physically 🙂 Fitting in a taxi also made things comfy. (Yes, I have done a whole jazz trio with upright bass in a German taxi….that’s a good way to practice swear words in a foreign language)

Oh, and did I mention one plane ticket, train pass and hotel room on off nights instead of 3?

Hey – that’s just gravy though…the music is what led me to solo playing, but it is a nice perk to have lower expenses. 🙂

I did miss having some other musicians to “lean on” sometimes, and the intensity of playing solo was, well…intense! Of course I will play with bands, but this is what is happening now!

Fortunately I had more than enough material to do 2 long (1 hour plus) sets. That’s with pretty much no improvising, so it’s quite a lot of music.

I really re-learned an aspect of practicing music, which is “practice the tune you think you know” because just when you think you’ve got it covered – that’s where a brain fart can happen!!! I was shocked at where mistakes happened. I knew, and I am sure no one else did.

As well, I found that early in the tour I had concentration problems and difficulty being “present” while performing. I was concerned with the show’s flow and often thought about “what tune will I play next” while playing a tune.

That’s ok – a few musical brain farts in the music would zap me back into the present moment, and all would be well again.

Audiences were of 3 sorts: 1) a hushed concert audience that had to be shmoozed to an loosened up. 2) a cigarette smokin’, beer swillin’ audience that had to be attacked 3) and something in-between. All 3 types are expected and totally cool. A performer should be able to deal with all those situations. Just don’t play a sentimental ballad for the beer swillers.


Well, at least now I know I can actually move across an airport and train station with 2 guitars, a suitcase and a laptop case. I was a little unsure about the sheer physicality of moving around, but it worked out ok.

And, kudos to Bruce Lamb of – guitars did get thrown around, but survived. The only scratches on my Taylor are due to my percussion!


One of the success / self help people I have been checking out lately is a guy by the name of Joe Schroeder (I got hold of an interview done by Mike LIttman) and he made a comment “people first, money second” and really beat the drum of the spiritual approach to business, as opposed to the “money first, people second” approach.

You can’t TRY to do this because that’s like saying “once you fake sincerity, you got it made”. It’s only in hindsight that you see what attitudes take you through life happily. Dare I say maybe a smidge of wisdom is dawning? 🙂

I came to realize that touring and playing music can be summed up in one word: LOVE. That is just where it is at! Sounds easy and as if it is regurgitation of someone else’s principle – but I realized that it is all about “people first, gigs second” and NOT “gigs first, people second”….which is an easy trap to fall into when you are booking a tour.

I enjoyed my time with the people who helped me organize and helped schlep PA systems, and all that. I enjoyed connecting with parents of kids who enjoyed that concerts at schools. I enjoyed shmoozing with the audiences. People first!!!

Funny how it works. There was just way less ego involvement than I have had in previous years, less self importance. There I was, just wanting to turn people on with the music…and when faces would light up, and there’d be a buzzing energy in the room. One club owner told me after the gig “I do 100 concerts a year here and can see whether or not the people REALLY dig it or not – and man, they loved this!!”

And I realized, this is about people, whether it is a student, a club owner an audience member, an old friend – whatever. All the yummy stuff surrounding success comes second. All the books say this, but to experience it first hand is POWERFUL.

I am not an articulate enough teacher in this subject to tell you how to do this, all I can tell you is that when my mind shifted to LOVE and PEOPLE, the world shifted to SUCCESS!

I guess another way to say this is when one shifts from GIVING instead of WANTING the world opens up and actually gives the giver even more!


Playing solo is much more akin (at least to me) to being in a rock / pop band than playing jazz guitar with a band.

Every tune is planned, and the evening is “crafted” with dynamics, highs an lows, covers and originals. Contrast is vital to making solo guitar interesting for a long time.

In the vein of my hero, Tommy Emmanuel – I strove to make it enjoyable for non musicians as well as musicians…and it worked!!!


Well it is over and in the past coming home from tours has been a downer. Not this time, I am psyched for the next one. I have some Kentucky gigs in May, some summer stuff, and a festival outside Prague in November 2008, so I’ll be busy filling in dates.

Time to catch up on some sleep!