DVD Review: Adam Rafferty Teaches Stevie Wonder

dvd_stevieHow 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.

Visit www.adamrafferty.com to find out more about Adam or check out his YouTube channel to enjoy more of his music.

10 thoughts on “DVD Review: Adam Rafferty Teaches Stevie Wonder

  1. I have not yet bought the video,and will soon, but have spent 50 hrs on Super and I Wish…making progress 🙂

    I can say I just spent a week at guitar camp as Adam’s student, and the guy is nothing less than brilliant.
    His videos of JAckson and Wonder tunes on YT are merely the tip of the iceberg.

    His understanding of music is just about as deep and anyone I have ever met or studied with.
    And his ability to very clearly explain everything from the note for note practical to the more philsophical invisible world of rhythm and harmony that makes his playing so spectacular is superior.

    These arrangements are not easy! I bet he practices them often to keep them clean. But at the same time, with a lot of time and concentration, the Wonder tunes ARE playable. Ya just gotta have the guts …and persistence.


  2. Bryan,

    As far as I know, the DVD is only available mail order via Adam’s website or from amazon.com.

    I would suggest contacting Adam through his site for ordering info. If you want a copy I’m sure he could get it to you.


  3. I bought Adam’s DVD this past fall. I was very impressed by how clearly and easily understandable he makes these difficult pieces seem. I’ve been rockin Superstition like it’s my job, and it impressees a lot of people. Which in turn leads to the conversation of where I learned that piece, which then turns to going on youtube, which then turns to a few more Adam Rafferty fans up here in Canada.

    All I have to say is thanks.

  4. I think Adam’s DVD is an excellent way to learn his style and the songs he performs. I love that way of playing finger style guitar. I have been toying with the idea of ordering the DVD, but feel since I do not know how to play finger style guitar that it would be too difficult. I have only played with a pick for many years. I am just not sure. I realize in my age group (early 60s) it would be slow and I am sure very rewarding since that is how I want to play. I guess I just need some encouragement. I have a finger style lesson book and will probably start with that just to get the basics down and then buy the DVD. Adam is amazing and I like all of his arrangements on the DVD. From what it sounds like, the DVD is a very good instructional method on how to learn each song as well as how to apply the method to learning other songs as one progresses. I hope I follow through with my desires and not let road blocks of any type get in the way. I do not want to miss out on the opportunity.

  5. Frank,

    Based on the description of your experience, I agree that Adam’s arrangements may be a difficult place to begin. However, watching the video would provide you with a detailed look at how great solo arrangements are structured, something that many videos do not fully explore and which may be just as valuable as actually mastering the mechanics of the pieces. Best of luck in your guitar playing!


  6. Adam, great, great, great playing! Great idea,? arrangement, and, the most important, great feeling! BTW, is that Angel (Cole Clark) model? Thanks!
    This is some great stuff as usual. I’d love a DVD for building fingerstyle chops with your own tunes, going from easy basic picking, to maybe some Travis picking to some? more complex stuff

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