Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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

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This Blog is Moving!

Dear Subscriber,

Well, that day has finally come….

I have decided to set up my blog on my own website, as I have been outgrowing “”


I don’t want to lose your readership!

Please click here and re-subscribe on the new blog page:

All of your comments are there, preserved in digital goodness.

Thanks, and let’s keep rockin’ on fingerstyle guitar it in 2014!



How to Do Outrageous Musical Marketing

I’d like to give you something to think about based on my real life results in terms of getting gigs, magazine coverage, and excellent word-of-mouth promo.

There is zero BS here. Enjoy and please comment!


You and I are running businesses, we are not only artists.

A hard pill for many of us musicians to swallow is that we all need to market ourselves.

If this makes you shiver, feel un-artistic, or think I am a fraud – WAKE UP! Any business, no matter what their product or service is, has to market themselves.

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How To Create a Great “Set List” For Musical Performance

I’m often asked the question “do you use a set list when you play concerts?” This brings up the question of how to put a set together for a good show. I use a loose set idea with a game plan which I will describe.

But first…has the following every happened to you.?

The Dilemma

  • You go to see a band, their first tune sounds great, but as the set goes on it all the songs start sounding the same.
  • You go to see a singer-songwriter who has written all originals.  She’s cute, her guitar skills are not quite up to par, and other than a smile, the music has nothing you can sing when you get home.
  • You hear a rapper and the beat is loud, energy is good.  But, after 3 songs it all blurs together.
  • You hear a jazz band, and they solo endlessly.
  • You hear a solo guitarist, and after 10 minutes it all sounds the same.  (whether it’s percussive, new age, classical or whatever)

Get the idea?

It’s not the style that’s problematic – it’s that musicians can very easily fall into the trap of all material sounding the same – without realizing it.

The problem is twofold…

  1. You need good material.
  2. You need to use variety in, tone, tempo, dynamics and groove in your set.

The Solution – Melody and  Contrast

You’ll first need to choose the “what” (good songs), then you’ll need to present it all in the proper proportions, and sequence (making the set list).


First off, you need good melodies that are memorable whether they are your original songs or covers. The basic theme of whatever you play should be singable, like:

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, “Billie Jean”, “Yesterday”, “Isn’t She Lovely”, Your Own Song(s) Here.

Cool percussive stuff is not melody.  The endless stream of consciousness lyrics from rappers and songwriters is not melody (no matter how heart wrenchingly profound it may seem).  Different guitar tunings and/or fret locations may be fun for the performer – but do not necessarily make melody for the listener.

Whatever you play should have “a theme” that your mother could sing back after hearing it once.


I plan my sets knowing that I want contrasting “musical colors” to break things up and provide satisfaction for the listener.

These are personal to me…yours can and should be different.

I use the following – (take note of the variety):

  • funk grooves
  • jazz swing grooves
  • Brazilian grooves
  • a blistering boiling fast song – to raise excitement
  • something bluesy with bending strings
  • a few ballads for a dose of “pretty”
  • a percussive / beatbox song – i.e. getting different sounds from the guitar & visual contrast
  • some midrange easygoing material for middle of set

That covers the “what” I’ll play.

Now – set planning.  Don’t try to do it from first to last song…plan in order of “important moments” in the set, and let the order take shape from both ends to the middle!

  1. First I plan the last song. I always end the set with a BANG !  (Which of your songs could do this for you?)
  2. Next, I plan the first song. I start the set groovy get the peoples heads bobbing, it helps them (and me) relax.
  3. For the first 3 or 4 songs, I entertain!
  4. Set middle is the “journey” – ups & downs are OK.  Mid-intensity material OK.
  5. Have at least one pretty ballad midway – to let the set breathe.

Any one “type”  of song for a whole set is way too much – whether it’s a ballad, funk, uptempo.  Too much is too much!

Maybe you are starting to think about your own set…thoughts like… “I need more ballads”  or “I need an uptempo” or “wow, all my stuff is similar”  – and that’s good, for you to start this process.

Now your practice sessions can be used to choose and “round out” your repertoire so you can provide more variety for a set.

Rock on, practice hard, and let me know how your journey goes!

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A 15 Year Old Guitar Player asks “Do you arrange all your Michael Jackson guitar songs by ear”…

Hi. I am 15 years old and have just started playing acoustic guitar and you are a great inspiration to me. I love all of your music, but especially the Michael Jackson tunes because he is my favorite artist. The question that I wanted to ask you is do you arrange all your music completely by ear and if so do you just listen to the music over and over or do you find the basic chords or something to get started?

Read My Answer Here


Letting Go

Greetings Friends.

I know it’s been a while since I have written. To be perfectly honest, I like to write when I am spiritually flying, so that I can exude great vibes and raise everyones spirit.

It’s been an exciting, busy successful time since August but it’s been very trying at times, with personal, emotional and physical rough spots. I did not feel right writing. I now feel I am getting back on track, and wanted to reach out to you.

No worries – I am in great shape now, but life is just ….well, life!

This year I had set myself a bunch of goals, and I have achieved them:

1) Release “Chameleon” CD
2) Release the Stevie Wonder DVD
3) Release a Christmas CD (announcement coming soon)
4) Continue Touring

But like anyone who works hard – be it a business owner, a medical student, a stay at home mom – if you do the job at hand, other aspects of life can and often do get stressful. Relationships, a feeling of grounded-ness, and loving care for one’s body easily slip.

What happened yesterday though was amazing. A friend visited me for lunch and he was beaming, as he had just been to Santa Fe. For him it’s a very spritually charged place, and he just looked rejuvanated.

Simply in his presence I listened to him and looked at him, and chose not to speak much. I felt my troubles simple drop. If I started talking, and telling myself “my story” again my tensions would come back.

I saw this ability to simply “let go” which the Release Technique and Sedona Method are based on. It is very deep to see that the feeling about an issue is not the issue. Let me repeat that – becasue it is easy to gloss over this idea. The feeling about something is not the thing.

We can in fact let feelings go and not hang on.

The Release Technique and Sedona Method give specific and awesome techniques of inquiry to facilitate this. In my case yesterday it was more intuitive and spontaneous, but I felt like myself again – in an instant.

I’m black! Err, I mean back……


So friends, I’ll write from the road – I leave for Swizerland tomorrow to play with Jazz Drum Legend Alvin Queen for a week!


A Perfect Reminder

This past month has been interesting. I have left my hometown of NYC to be in Colorado and California to spend time practicing guitar, recording, and breathing easy. Many New Yorkers think if they’d get away from NY life would fall apart. Funny, there is life outside NY and I feel fine.

However – there are a few universal principles to remember. 1) wherever you go, there you are 2) you take yourself and baggage with you wherever you go.

I found yesterday – exactly one month in, that I took my baggage with me. A feeling of “it’s not good enough” and “I want more” and “everything will be ok when (fill in the blank)”. Ahh, the tendency to deny the present moment was something I got into my “carry on item”.

Luckily I found the medicine I needed. A quick profound message from a Sadguru on Youtube, and then one from Lester Levenson. Sadguru observes how there are people who create their own heaven and their own hell. I realized that I already have everything I want in life, and that once I have gotten “the object of desire” – it is utterly transparent. To want more, and to deny the present moment – is a mini hell I create, and to sit quietly is a heaven I create.

Another teacher (not the one posted above)Lester Levenson describes it quite simply. He has observed that we already are whole, complete – and that through desire we create a disturbance, an added unhappiness, and when we fill that unhappiness with the object of desire, we find our wholeness which was there the whole time. The mind quiets, we call it happiness – and then get on the merry go round again. The happiness is simply our natural state. It is that we “assume” a lack which is not real.

Just hearing the words of these enlightened teachers is a perfect reminder. I can reflect on all the desires I have fulfilled over the years, and can also see that these did not bring me lasting happiness. Knowing that, I can breathe right here right now and allow myself to be happy.

Our happiness is not “coming” at “a future time, a better time then now” when we have something, or when something special happens. We can listen now. We can breathe now. We can let it all be, and allow a profound peace to pervade.

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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!

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Eating Frogs…mmmm Yummy!

Greetings friends.  Wow, it has been a whirlwind of activity here on my end….so much to talk about.

I recently picked up a personal development & productivity book by Brian Tracy called “Eat That Frog” and it has been a life changer.

My most productive periods in life have been when I have essentially focused on something and allowed the rest of life to fall apart. Yet, I somehow would feel guilty when I did that.  For example, when I dove into solo acoustic guitar I simply let EVERYTHING else fall apart.

And, I find that I have returned to my standard M.O. of feeling overwhelmed and spending my days taking care of little tasks trying to “put out little fires “.   The problem is – the feeling of overwhelment and the hyper activity of taking care of little tasks like email, phone calls, laundry end up happening instead of the 2 most important things – practice guitar and organize gigs!

Brian Tracy’s message is unique – you can never get it all done, so do the big important stuff and just let the little stuff fall apart. WOW.  In hindsight, I saw that’s what I have done in my most productive periods.

According to him – the most successful people have the ability to figure out which action is the most important to do at any given time.  You may find you have “10 to-do’s” on you to-do list – but ONE action will be TEN TIMES as productive as the other 9.

He calls this “eating the biggest, ugliest frog first”.

Let’s see if you can spot the most productive task.

For example:

Go To Cleaners
Buy Cat Food
Call Mom
Sew Hole in Shorts
Wash Dishes
Go To Post Office
Send email to dad
Re-organize bookshelf

He approaches this basic premise from many different angles.  I am reading, re-reading and highlighting.

How often I find myself getting stuck in the B.S. tasks!!!

Allow me to share a personal story. For years, I have had a dedicated web server.  Yep, I was a hobbyist programmer / web geek designer and would do the occasional site for friends / family and then host them for a few bucks a month.

Well, multiply that by about 15 friends and before I knew It – I was accountable to 15 people. I’m a nice guy, have a hard time saying no – and I can’t tell you how much guitar playing got pre-empted due to being in charge of this server.

Most of the time, the thing ran fine – and I had months and months where I did not have to think about it – but nonetheless, it was there.

Recently I had to decide (since I was in need of an upgrade) to keep it or not.  After reading “Eat That Frog” I realized that the low-level, unproductive task of all the talking, energy, emails TOOK THE SAME TIME that a VERY productive task such as writing music or recording does.

From the book – “RULE:  Don’t spend time doing something very well that needn’t be done at all”.

So this was and is a big “letting go”.  Silly as it sounds, I had to admit that I like the feeling of controlling the server and of being the “go to” guy for people.  Time to let go – and really decide what activities will accomplish my goals and what won’t.

And yes, I remember being on tour in Vienna years ago doing web tech support across the Atlantic right before a gig.   Ridiculous!!!  Well, I am proud to say that I have made the right choice now – and I urge you to do the same so that you may reach your goals.

Eat the big frogs FIRST, not the little ones.

I highly recommend this book if you feel that anything I have said here resonates with you!!!!