Beginning Banjo Track – Updated Nov. 2015

Murphy HenryBeginning banjo students frequently ask, “In what order should I go through the DVDs?” (Although I’ll have to admit, the question is usually phrased using my favorite bluegrass grammar, “What order should I go through the DVDs in?”) Regardless of how the question is asked, it’s a good ‘un.

My own approach to the order of the songs has changed over the years as I learn more about teaching, and especially as I learn more about teaching adults.

So here is my highly recommended Beginning Banjo Track.  You will notice that I skip around on the DVDs, but always stay with the Big Three: Beginnning Banjo Vol 1Misfits, and Vamping. These are your foundation. [See the comments below for what Murphy has to say about Ned Luberecki's DVD.]

We strongly suggest learning only ONE SONG A MONTH, including the vamping.

Banjo in the Hollow--Beginning Banjo Vol 1 [no vamping yet]
Boil Them Cabbage Down--low break--Misfits DVD [no vamping yet]
Cripple Creek--Beginning Banjo Vol 1 [no vamping yet]
Boil Them Cabbage Down—high break—Misfits DVD [no vamping yet]

These songs are the Big Three. They are your foundation. Please make sure you can play them all the way through—slowly—without stopping before you move on. We recommend practicing them in a “loop,” that is, playing the song 4 or 5 times in a row without stopping to really get the feel of the song. We also recommend playing these songs along with us on the Slow Jam DVD. Even though you don’t know the vamping yet, you can practice playing the breaks.


From this point on, we have two different beginning banjo tracks. If you are playing in a jam session or playing with other people, work with the Jam Session Track. (Or if you are a natural singer.) If you are not playing in a Jam Session (yet) work with the Regular Beginning Track. The difference in the two tracks is that in the Jam Session Track we introduce the “Roly Polys” which are the foundation for improvising you would do in a jam. If you’re not in a jam, the Roly Polys don’t make a whole lot of sense! And you can always learn them later when you get in a jam.

Regular Beginning Track

I Saw The Light ---Misfits DVD [learn the vamping also]
Do Lord--Misfits DVD [learn the vamping also]
Vamping to Boil Them Cabbage Down. [Misfits DVD]
Cumberland Gap—Beginning Banjo DVD [no vamping yet]
Worried Man--Misfits DVD [learn the vamping also]
Vamping to Cripple Creek. [Vamping is taught on our Vamping DVD.]
Foggy Mountain Breakdown [Beginning Banjo Vol 1; Vamping on Vamping DVD]
Two Dollar Bill--Misfits DVD [learn the vamping also]
Vamping to Banjo in the Hollow. [Vamping DVD]
John Hardy—[Beginning Banjo Vol 1; Vamping on Vamping DVD]
Vamping to Cumberland Gap [Vamping DVD]

Jam Session Track (if you are playing in a jam session; includes a focus on improvising)

After you have learned the Cripple Creek, Boil Them Cabbage, Cripple Creek:
I Saw The Light --Misfits DVD [with vamping]
Blue Ridge Cabin Home --Kickstart Your Jamming DVD [with vamping]
Vamping to Boil Them Cabbage [on Vamping DVD]
Do Lord--Misfits DVD [with vamping]
Bury Me Beneath the Willow--Kickstart Your Jamming DVD [vamping]
Vamping to Cripple Creek [on Vamping DVD]
Do Lord (yes, again, for the Roly Poly break in case the jam gets too fast for you to do your Misfits break. We’ve seen it happen!)
Foggy Mountain Breakdown [with vamping from Vamping DVD]
Vamping to Banjo in the Hollow [on Vamping DVD]
Worried Man--Misfits DVD [with vamping]
Cumberland Gap--Beginning Banjo DVD; [vamping from Vamping DVD]

Note: You can skip Worried Gal and Somebody Touched Me on the Kickstart DVD unless you want to do them. They are Do Lord clones.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken—Kickstart Your Jamming [with vamping]
Two Dollar Bill--Misfits DVD [with vamping]
I’ll Fly Away—Kickstart Your Jamming [with vamping]

Note: Here you can continue to do as many Kickstart Your Jamming songs as you like. Because the next song, John Hardy, is pretty hard!

John Hardy--Beginning Banjo Vol 1; Vamping on Vamping DVD

One more thing: The DVD Capos, Chords, and Theory offers a wealth of information about how to use the capo in all keys, the names of all the vamp chords on the banjo neck and how to find them, and just a touch of easily understandable theory that assumes you know nothing about theory to start with! You can start watching and learning from this DVD at any time during your Beginning Track. And you’ll probably find that the more you learn from playing the banjo, the more you will be able to learn from this DVD. In other words, it’s a DVD you can return to time and time again and learn more each time.

As one of our students said recently, “Just want to express how very helpful this DVD is to me. I have had ‘dribs and drabs’ of this info from different teachers and I usually came away totally confused. Your presentation on this DVD all makes sense now and I finally get it!” Thank you, Sue!

For where to go from here, see our post on the Intermediate Banjo Track.

7 thoughts on “Beginning Banjo Track – Updated Nov. 2015

  1. Dave

    Just joined yuo’re blog. you write as well as you teac. Same with Red and Casey. Love you’re lessons. Thanks for tking the time to share you’re knowledge.

  2. Pingback:

    Good Question « The Murphy Method Blog

  3. Oscar Albretsen

    Thank you Murphy for posting this blog. There have been a lot of questions on this subject from the Misfits in our group in BHO. I will direct the Misfits to this blog when the question comes up again. You answered a lot of questions. Thank You..Oscar

  4. Tam

    “You can skip “Do Lord” if it’s not a song you know”

    No No No! There are important licks you need to learn from that lesson before you can progress through the rest of the lessons on the dvd Murphy.

  5. Keith

    Where would you put your upcoming DVD “Ned Luberecki: Start With The Melody” on this list?

  6. admin

    I can’t remember the exact lineup, but I would put Ned’s DVD after Beginning Banjo Vol 1 and 2 and Misfits and our own Improvising The First Stage DVD. I think the concept of Starting With the Melody and working out a break is an Intermediate Level Skill. But everything you would do with Murphy Method DVDs would help train your ear so that picking out the melody will come easier.

    Now, if you have music skills on other instruments, esp skills in hearing melody already, then you could probably use Ned’s DVD much earlier, say after Vol 1 (real early!) or after Vol 1 plus Misfits.

    Ned did a fantastic job with this DVD–everything is explained very clearly– and we are so proud of it and of having him as a teacher!

    Hope this helps and Hope you enjoy it!


  7. Keith

    Thanks for the response – I’m looking forward to going through this DVD. Also I’m early, but have a happy birthday!

    I was wondering if you ever considered putting out something like your jam dads but just in audio format. Perhaps you could take the audio from your DVDs and just add a little intro – song name and key, or maybe that would be encoded in the song name. I was thinking there might be a market for something people could load onto their smartphones. Then they could add songs they know into a playlist and practice away from the dvd player or computer. Also with an app like amazing slow downer people could easily adjust the tempo/key or loop tricky bits. Just a thought that you’ve probably already considered…

    Feel free to delete this comment if it distracts from this “beginning banjo track” post above.

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