How to Play the Music of Stevie Wonder by Adam Rafferty is a fantastic new release aimed at fingerstyle guitarists wanting to hone their chops and add some R&B and funk to their repertoire with arrangements of the Stevie Wonder hits “Superstition”, “I Wish”, “Overjoyed”, and “Sir Duke.” The DVD/booklet sells for $34.97 at www.adamrafferty.com.
The DVD lasts just under two hours and Adam spends between 20 to 30 minutes teaching each arrangement. The video begins with a short introductory segment in which Adam encourages guitarists not to be intimidated or frustrated with the complex material presented in the video. He then briefly talks about what he calls “learning how to learn” and describes four specific stages of the learning process that students will encounter while working through the pieces. Adam adds that he continues to practice these pieces often and that he too is still fine tuning his performances!
The remainder of the video takes a no-nonsense approach. Each of the four songs is shown being performed in it’s entirety and is then deconstructed and analyzed in the following segment. During the instruction segments the video consistently shows a close up of Adam’s left hand and an smaller inset of his right hand so guitarists can closely study either hand. Adam is comfortable in front of the camera and is obviously used to breaking down information into short, easily understood phrases. There is enough detail given to the specialized guitar techniques used that you can’t misinterpret how to recreate them. Once enough explanation has been given, short sections of the tune are demonstrated at a slow enough tempo that intermediate-level players should be able to start playing along with only a little practice. Adam ends most instructional segments with some performance notes and often points out places where he has slightly changed elements of the original songs in order to make them groove harder and sound more at home on the guitar. Below is a short trailer for the DVD.
The 30-page booklet that accompanies the DVD contains very detailed scores in standard notation and tablature. Left-hand fingerings are included for every note and occasional right-hand fingerings are indicated as well. Often there are notes from Adam in the music suggesting alternate fingerings or describing guitar techniques that printed notation can’t clearly show. My only gripe about the booklet is that it’s a bit small. The booklet is made from standard 8.5 x 11 paper folded in half like a church bulletin. It’s certainly not any worse than what is included with most instructional DVDs but I may take the booklet to Kinko’s and enlarge each page to make it easier on my 39-year-old eyes.
Although the arrangements are quite complex and will take even an experienced player some time to master, I’m sure anyone wanting to better understand how to arrange for solo fingerstyle guitar would benefit from watching the DVD. Adam either directly or indirectly addresses a myriad of concepts and techniques that guitarists use when creating solo arrangements. Some of these include: choosing a key signature, isolating melody and bass lines, understanding syncopation, cross-string scales, right-hand-slaps, hammer-ons form nowhere, hinge barres, and more.
I totally enjoyed watching and working with this DVD. Adam’s friendly vibe and attention to detail ensure that any guitarist willing to spend time practicing the material will be able to master the four songs presented.