Review: Study with Adam

World-renown fingerstyle guitarist Adam Rafferty recently hung out his virtual shingle as an on-line guitar teacher. His well-thought-out website offers step-by-step video lessons on many of his popular arrangements and originals, a chance to interact with and receive constructive feedback from Adam, and a treasure trove of opportunities to learn and grow as a guitarist and arranger.

As a teacher that meets in person with students I was a little dubious of how much value could be offered via a website that – at first glance – offers prerecorded lessons, but after spending some time exploring (SWA) I was really impressed with how much thought was put into the design of the site and how much care Adam takes in creating meaningful interactive content for it.

On the site, you’ll find over 23 hours of video providing instruction on professional-level songs, techniques, and concepts to help improve your understanding of harmony and groove. If you’ve ever seen any of his other video lessons, you’ll know that Adam thoughtfully prepares these videos and presents everything you need to know in very concise way that’s easy to follow without ever letting things get overwhelming or boring. You also get a feel for why he chooses certain chord voicings or fingerings as he goes through the material. Videos are rated by difficulty so you’ll know a little about what to expect and most pieces are often broken into small, manageable segments. There’s also a detailed audiobook and accompanying PDF “How to Arrange for Solo Guitar” that delves into Adam’s approach and provides players with several methods of creating their own arrangements and even some instruction on jazz improvisation if that’s an avenue you want to explore. New content is added about every six weeks and there is a poll where users can let Adam know what they’d like to see a lesson on next.

One thing you won’t find on the site is guitar tablature for Adam’s arrangements of popular songs. Unfortunately, guitar tablature requires print licensing so lessons are taught strictly by rote in order avoid copyright infringement. Some of the newer lessons on SWA include occasional onscreen chord diagrams or PDF “help files” containing tips and tricks and blank TAB lines to scribble in the fingerings of the melody or other notes for your own personal use. Also, note that if you want to learn any of Adam’s arrangements of Stevie Wonder or Jackson 5 tunes they are only available on his DVD packages and they do include licensed tablature booklets. You can find them here:

One of the most popular features of the site is the ability to upload a video of yourself performing for Adam to review and offer constructive feedback. Adam is really devoted to keeping up with this and recently reported that in 2016 he watched over 280 student uploads. It’s important to note that users do not have to record a piece from Adam’s repertoire to participate in this exchange. Of course, many players do submit video covers of the material presented on the site but others will upload pieces by other well-known guitarists or even their own arrangements. A response is given by way of another video from Adam discussing what elements of the performance were good and which need improvement. Adam’s advice is always thoughtful and encouraging but contains concrete observations and specific, personalized suggestions of how to improve.

For me, this is a key hidden value of the site: watching other guitarists perform for Adam and receive feedback is very often just as instructive as receiving a critique of your own. It’s essentially a digital master-class where all the students can learn from observing one another.

The only criticism I could possibly make is that although the website has a “community” section for members to connect, it’s not particularly robust or intuitive. However, a private Facebook group for SWA members more than makes up for that and anyway, you should be practicing – not chatting!

I highly recommend Study with Adam for any intermediate to advanced fingerstyle guitarists who want to widen their solo repertoire, improve their arranging chops, and deepen their groove. SWA also offers several subscription options that are all very reasonably priced and all feature a 14-day free trail so you can take some time to be sure the site is right for you. Go check it out!

Feedback from Fall 2016-2017 Classes

Responses from MUS1650 Guitar for Music Therapy

• I love this class – Mr. Horne is engaging and tailors the class to match the abilities of his students. I look forward to going to class!

• John Horne is absolutely one of my favorite professors that I have had at Ohio University, I enjoy attending his class and feel I haveimproved a good deal during the semester. Can’t wait to have class with him again next semester!

• Love him. He is such a great teacher.

• Made me feel successful on an instrument I have never been great with!

• My guitar skills have improved so much in just one semester of guiar. I was challenged every class and there were always multiple ways provided of how to play something to make it more challenging which met everyone where they were.

• Overall the class is wonderful and I enjoy it and it makes me feel like I can really am learning. I just wish that there was an update every few weeks of our grade. Overall the class is very effective and really teaches us guitar. I would love to see one one-on-one work though out the class but I honestly love this class.

• Professor Horne is a wonderful guitar teacher. He is extremely helpful in class and offers helpful advice every day. I wish I knew what I had in the class, not knowing my grade in any class is very stressful. But I am confident that if I was doing poorly, he would let me know. I look forward to another semester of guitar!

• This was my favorite class this semester

• Dr. Horne is an excellent guitarist and Professor and consistently presents the material in a way that is both challenging but concise for the class to learn. I have never played guitar before, and he has helped me to have a firm foundation to continue learning and an inspiration to keep learning more.

• He is very patient. I really like this class.

• John Horne is a great professor. Our class is at 8:35 in the morning and he is a great way to start off the day- especially that early. I really appreciate how accommodating his curriculum for students who have never played the guitar until now- me. John Horne is really funny and is a good teacher.

Responses from MUS2550 Jazz Combo

• I love this class. I look forward to it every week, and I learn a lot every time we meet. Professor Horne does a great job creating a comfortable environment where each person can experiment.

• It has been a pleasure to have professor Horne as an ensemble director this year. He chose appropriate rep and asked for suggestions from the group. As a group I felt that we really loved our rep this semester for that reason. His directions were very clear and he used rehearsal time very effectively. His vast knowledge of Jazz music and performance is evident in each piece of advice he gives the members of the ensemble. His positive attitude and love of jazz music really unified and motivated the group. He also created materials such as arrangements or additional parts to songs. Professor Horne is an extremely effective director and a joy to learn from.

• Professor Horne has a gift; acting as catalyst, he has created an ensemble of musicians, not just eight individuals playing their notes.

Responses from MUS2550 Jazz Improv for Music Therapy

• The final project was awesome, even though it took me more time that I expected to finish it. However, it gave me more opportunities to thinking about how to use what we learned in the music therapy session.

• The several techniques we have used in class has inspired me in many ways, especially in clinical area.

• Great teacher with great passion for jazz.

• I enjoyed jazz improvisation. It would be helpful to have assignment posted prior to being assigned. I liked the source the instructor used to assign homework and information.

• I like that he made the class fun and didn’t have us so worried about grades. I especially like that he had us improvise based on feel. He taught us “feel” instead of reading notes on a page.

• John Horne is very passionate about jazz improvisation and is a great class facilitator. However, I believe the majority of the class materials is not applicable to music therapy. I wish we could have done more clinical interventions with jazz improvisation.

• Professor Horne made the class applicable to the career I will be going into, and I really appreciated that.

Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar from Lucas Reilly on Vimeo.

I was recently chosen as the subject of a photojournalism project by Ohio University student Lucas Reilly. Lucas is a former student and it was great to reconnect with him and have him shadow me for a few days. Not only did he impress me with his photos, but he was amazingly professional and discrete while capturing these images.

Windy and Warm Transcription

I’ve always liked Chet’s performance of “Windy and Warm” on the Porter Wagoner Show television show from 1961 and finally got around to transcribing it all. Check out the sneaky maneuvers at bars 32-33 and 50-51 that combine open strings and fretted notes. Both sections require a pretty good stretch but they’re doable with some work. Give her a spin and let me know what you think. There are a few slides that I haven’t notated and probably a few corrections waiting to be spotted. And if you enjoy the transcription please consider putting a buck in the tip jar.

Windy and Warm – Chet Atkins PDF