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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

After a week at IBMA, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was good to get back to teaching and the Tip Jar Jam. I missed yall! Wednesday's jam featured SIX banjo players and three guitar players counting me. Actually for a while there were only five banjos as Kathy H honed her rhythm guitar skills on the Big Three for the late night jams at our upcoming Beginning Banjo Camp.

The blog title was handed to me on a silver platter about halfway through the jam, when Dan arrived, fresh and glowing, from the Bible study class he is teaching at the Presbyterian Church. I don't normally divulge so much personal information but his life's work--minister--makes the quote WAY funnier.

We were up in the key of C, for some womyn singing, when Dan walked in and strapped on his banjo just in time to take a break on Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Since Chuck was gone, Diane had her old song back! We missed you Chuck! We did several other songs in C--I'll Fly Away (Kathy G), I Saw The Light (Kathy H), Katy Daly (moi)--and then I asked Bob A to sing East Virginia Blues because C is his key for that and Dan has been working hard on a break for the song from one of Casey's Custom Lessons. (Note to Marty: You might try to sing EVB yourself in that key.) Everyone else (except David) was going to do the Roly Polys, which goes to show you how far they have all come in this area because East Virginia Blues has a long and slightly complicated chord pattern. [Editor's note: It's exactly the same as Lonesome Road Blues.] ...continue reading

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Here are the recent additions to my (now quite long) list of custom banjo lessons. As always they can be ordered directly from my website.

  • The Battle Belongs To The Lord (B) Watch clip. - Gospel song in a minor key, with rolls to sing along with.
  • Granddad The Preacher (B) Watch clip. - A Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers song. Easy turnaround for the break, along with the vamp chords.
  • Love Lifted Me (B) Watch clip. - This is a melody-only break (just notes, not very many rolls) to this old hymn.
  • Mama Blues (A) Watch clip. - Earl Scruggs's classic break off of the Live at Carnagie Hall album.
  • There Is A Time (A) Watch clip. - A Dillards classic. This teaches two of Doug's breaks.
  • They Call It Music (A) Watch clip. - A Gibson Brothers song in drop-C tuning.

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Our fourth Murphy Method Beginning Banjo Camp is just around the corner (October 24-26 in Winchester, Va.) and we still have a few openings. We keep the camp small and never take more than 20 students so you can be sure you're going to get plenty of individual attention from Casey and Murphy. (We hope that's a good thing!)

Since our camps are all about YOU PLAYING THE BANJO we do have a few prerequisites. You need to be able to play three Murphy Method tunes, the Big Three: Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, and Boil Them Cabbage Down. You don't have to be able to play them fast, but you do have to be able to play all the notes in time. We will spend a lot of time playing these three tunes. Mostly the class will play at the same time, in unison, but we always offer the chance for you to solo. Perhaps by Sunday you'll be ready to make that Leap of Faith! ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Murphy blogs every month over on Banjo Hangout and we will be cross-posting these blogs so they'll be all here in one place. This was originally published September 25th, 2014.

I've been trying to figure out how to teach banjo students to improvise for almost 40 years. And it's only in the last year that I've finally figured out a teachable technique that worksAs always, I used my own students for guinea pigs and now every week in our Tip Jar Jams I get to see them playing breaks to songs they've never even heard before. It's pretty fantastic! (I swear this sounds like one of those unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true TV ads! I feel like I should be saying, "And wait! If you order now, we will send you two of everything. All you have to do is pay additional shipping and handling!") But I digress....

Pause For Shout Outs: Before I go further let me give some shout outs to my guinea pigs: Kathy G, who challenged me to come up with something simple for her to play on the singing songs that she loved; to Julie for showing me that this technique would also work for  instrumentals; to Tim for naming this technique the "roly polys," and to Kathy H, Kasey, Ben, Pam, Dan, Betty, Gregg, and Drew who almost never pass up a break to a song anymore! Why should they when they can make something up on the spot? ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Yee haw! I will be presenting two awards at the IBMA Awards Show this Thursday, October 2. My good friend (really!) Bill Evans will be my co-presenter and we will be handing out the awards for Female Vocalist of the Year and Guitar Player of the Year. Thanks to my other good friend Chris Stuart, one of the show's producers, for asking me to take part in this year's show. (Note: Both Chris and Bill, along with Janet Beazley, are the teachers on our Harmony Singing DVD!)

The Awards Show will be broadcast live on Sirius XM Satellite Radio (Bluegrass Junction) and streamed live at ibma.org. The show starts at 7:30 but that may just be when they want us in our seats! Not sure what time the broadcast itself starts. The online bluegrass magazine Bluegrass Today is a good place to find out more about what's happening, along with the IBMA website.  ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I just realized I should have taken a picture of the three Bobs: Bob Mc, Bob A, and Bob V! In lieu of that, I will paraphrase a nursery rhyme: 

Murphy, merry, quite contrary
How does your jamming go?
With Silver Bells and three-ply shells
And three Bobs all in a row.

Not my best effort, to be sure, and no one in the jam plays a Silver Bell banjo, but I'm guessing there are some three-ply rims!

We welcomed back banjo-picking Bob Mc who now lives in Florida but still makes the occasional foray back to God's country! With Bob A and Bob Van on guitars, that was quite a collection of Bobs. And, for a time, they were all sitting in a row. And then they were sitting in a row with Kathy G in the middle, a rose among the thorns, as we say here. ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We resumed shooting our new DVD, Kickstart Your Jamming, on Friday after a two-day hiatus. On one of those days Casey and I took her son Dalton to the Shenadoah County Fair. I could write a whole blog about that but will settle for letting you see a picture of our lunch, since I seem to be really into food pictures right now:

Schaffer's BBQ!

Schaffer's BBQ!

Friday morning we were back in the saddle again with me playing the Roly Poly versions of the songs I'd previously taught, but this time with Casey accompanying me on guitar. On this DVD, for the first time ever, we are including some songs that I don't teach breaks to. These songs (Worried Gal, I'll Fly Away, Foggy Mountain Top, to mention three) are so similar to the songs I DID teach that I decided to let you, the students, make up your own Roly Poly breaks. To aid and abet, I vamp and sing the song while Casey plays guitar. Then we leave a space for you to play (with me still vamping, but not singing) and at the end I play my version of the Roly Poly break. I think you'll really like this and it's all done super-slow. ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

And thanks to Diane for the lovely blog title! It's one of those sayings that makes sense, only you're not quite sure WHY it makes sense. She said it to Gregg toward the end of the jam after he'd been valiantly trying to do the Roly Polys all night long. She called it "jamming by fire hose" and I wrote it down. We all knew exactly what she meant. 

Gregg, you might recall, started taking lessons from me and coming to the jams in July, right after Kaufman Kamp. At that time he sorta knew two songs: Cripple Creek and Boil Them Cabbage Down. I let him keep his version of Cripple Creek, but finally told him I never wanted to hear him Boil the Cabbage like that again. It was confusing his hands.

Anyhow, I was telling you all that to tell you this: Since he was coming to the jams, I had to give him a crash course in Roly Polys so he could play on more songs. So he didn't get the slow, let's-ease-into-it-one-song-at-a-time version. He got: "Here's a G Roly Poly, here's a C Roly Poly, here's a D Roly Poly. Let's play Bury Me Beneath The Willow!" Which is a song that Chuck was learning to sing.  ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Again, a quick blog about our recording today. I got through all of the upgrades to the Roly Polys! Hooray! Red may have a time with the editing, but the footage is there. For upgrades (meaning harder licks) I included the Tag Lick, the Foggy Mountain Breakdown Lick, the D lick first taught in Do Lord, the Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms lick, the 8th-note walk-down C lick (which does NOT have a good name!), a hammer-on to the fourth string for the C Roly Poly, the D lick from Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and finally, that cool Ralph Stanley lick that I first teach in When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder. WHEW!

So these are all substitute licks for the basic Roly Poly Breaks which I recorded yesterday. I can only HOPE that the students (this means you!) will not move too fast through the DVD or skip around too much.

When we got done about noon, I didn't even have time to MAKE a sandwich to take with me to my teaching place. So, alas, I had to stop by McDonald's which was on the way. Here is a picture of my lunch:

Lunch

Lunch

I don't know why I'm suddenly compelled to tell you what I have been eating! Maybe because recording takes so much focused energy that I stay hungry all the time!

We still need Casey to add the guitar parts and I am getting Red to play the mandolin on Daybreak in Dixie so you banjo folks can hear what the song sounds like. Much better than me HUMMING through the chords! But we are closing in on being done! Except for that all-important cover shot!

Stay tuned. And thanks for all the positive comments about looking forward to this DVD.

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I'd hoped to have more energy to blog in detail about our first day of recording the new DVD, Kick Start Your Jamming! (And a tip of the big ol' Stetson hat to Texas Tim for helping with that title.) This DVD will teach you everything you need to know about the Roly Polys!

We recorded nine songs, from Blue Ridge Cabin Home to Somebody Robbed the Glendale Train, and will be adding the upgrades tomorrow. Then Casey will join me later in the week to add the rhythm guitar. I am extremely pleased with how the DVD is turning out. Can't wait for you to see it!

Post-DVD meal: Eggs and grits

Post-DVD meal: Eggs and grits

Here's a picture of our post-DVD meal: eggs and grits. Cheese grits! I cooked the eggs, and Red made the grits. This has always pretty much been our go-to supper especially when we were playing bluegrass full time and coming back home from a festival or being out on the road. (Okay, sometimes we did resort to that quick Kraft Macaroni and Cheese! Yummy!)

So, I'm not sure how well you can see the things spread out on our eating table (my Mama made the tablecloth) but Red's plate has the most grits on it! Mine are in a bowl. We are also having green beans (compliments of J.P., my fiddle student, who had already strung and snapped them!), cantaloupe, and toast made in the oven and topped with Casey's homemade apple jelly!

But now, it's time to crash and do some serious vegging in front of the TV. I hope there's a pre-season football game on!

We'll be recording some Roly Poly upgrades tomorrow! Stay tuned!