As modern acoustic fingerstyle playing has grown in popularity, so have the options for online lessons. There’s video courses, tab sites, Skype lessons, and the options keep coming. One of the best I’ve found is StudyWithAdam.com, by Adam Rafferty.
Run by ‘funky fingerstyle guitarist’ Adam Rafferty, StudyWithAdam.com is a membership site for fingerstyle guitar students that runs the middle ground between a straight up video course and a personal interactive lesson. “Guitar coaching” is the phrase that comes to mind.
Several of my readers recently checked out the service, signed up, and liked it. So I thought it would be worth taking a deeper dive for myself. I contacted Adam Rafferty, signed up as a normal user, and got to experience his community first hand. Here’s what I found.
- Registration. When you sign up, you immediately get a very personal welcome. Welcome videos from Adam describing how to use his site, free eBooks, intro lessons, and explanation of how his emails will work. Very clear, very warm. Made me feel at home.
- Watch and Play Videos. These are the core of StudyWithAdam.com. First you watch a live performance of the piece. Then a long (often over an hour) video walks you through learning the song phrase by phrase. Adam’s an excellent teacher, and the videos move at a good speed.
- Varied Levels. Videos are marked for Easy / Intermediate / Advanced. There’s good stuff to jump in with at any level.
- Friday Goal emails. Every Friday, you’ll get an email asking for your weekly guitar goals. I personally like this because I believe goal-setting is the best way to achieve results (in any area of life).
- The Community. Students are encouraged to post videos of themselves as they learn new songs. The comments are encouraging. The performances are sometimes of work in progress, which lowers the intimidation factor for beginners.
Rafferty’s new “Guided Lesson Pathways” is a great way to navigate the content. This is often a problem for guitar lesson websites: With so much interesting stuff…where do you start? And where do you go next? Especially if you want to make the most efficient progress.
The “Guided Lesson Pathway” is a 12-week trail to take through the content on StudyWithAdam.com.
- Style. Adam Rafferty bills himself as a “funky fingerstyle” guitarist, and he’s amazing. But if you’re in to the percussive technique of Thomas Leeb, or two-handed harmonic tapping craziness of Andy McKee, this may not be the best fit for you. If you’re into solid, grooving fingerstyle arrangements of melodic, popular songs, you’re in the right place.
- It’ll push you. This is not for mildly interested. Rafferty uses email, a Facebook forum, and frequent updates to keep engagement high. If you’re ready to get to work, you’ll love it. If you’re not, it might get annoying.
- Assumed Knowledge. There are some materials available for the complete beginner. But the Watch and Play videos assume that students are past the beginner level of guitar playing. Even a Watch and Play video marked “Easy” will require decent technique and familiarity with the fretboard. So if you’re a total newbie, you’ll likely find yourself straining to keep up.
UPDATE: Rafferty’s new “Beginning Fingerstyle Guitar” helps out a lot here. When you log in to your account, navigate to the “Watch and Play” section, and then look under the first “Getting Started on SWA” section. This beginner mini-course will get you up and running.
- Limited Songs. Rafferty is adding songs regularly but, as of yet, the catalogue is limited.
UPDATE: When I first did the review, this was the case. BUT Adam has been consistently adding to the catalogue so that it’s now pretty amazing. Personal favorite of mine at the moment is his swinging version of the jazz classic, “Misty” : )
StudyWithAdam.com is a really positive experience. Rafferty’s personal style is very warm and welcoming. The site is well-organized. The goal-setting mindset makes improvement attainable. The songs are great and the lessons teach at a great pace.
My only personal hopes are that a) we may see some more percussive/harmonic fingerstyle techniques included, and b) that Rafferty can keep up the output (he has a busy performance schedule in addition to the site).
If you want to sign up, there are 3-month ($99.97), 6-month ($179.97), and 12-month ($199.97) subscriptions available. If you want to test it out like I did, the free 14-day trial is the way to go.