Banjo Lesson Ideas

Casey Henry

I ran across this article last night (through a link posted on Twitter) about people spending less and being happier. It's an interesting subject to be because I always find that when I get caught up in the cycle of buy, buy, buy it never makes me feel as satisfied as I think it will. I try to practice "calculated consumption" rather than "conspicuous consumption" and I always feel better when I do.

The article says that new studies show that "people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects." I'm all in favor of that. Until I pause and consider that The Murphy Method sells material objects (DVDs) and it would be bad if people stopped buying them.

But that's not all we sell. We sell knowledge. We sell the experience of learning an instrument. We can teach you how to develop a skill, which is not at all the same as conspicuous consumption.

In that vein I was thinking about how we could do more of that: sell knowledge more effectively. With one of my students who moved away from Nashville I'm doing long-distance lessons like this: every week she learns a new song off of our DVDs (she's working through Improvising right now). She records herself playing it and emails it to me. I listen and comment and give her an assignment for the next week. That way she has the motivation to keep learning (nothing like having to play for a teacher!) and she has me nagging her to find other people to play with.

Would that sort of thing interest more people? A banjo-lesson subscription service where you pay a flat fee every month, learn songs off of our DVDs, and maintain a weekly email correspondence with the teacher (that would be me) recording yourself playing your tunes so that I can comment and correct. You would have to be computer-savvy enough to be able to email an audio file, and to open one up and play it when you received one back from me. These audio file exchanges could be augmented with webcam lessons if you have the necessary equipment (that would be a webcam...).

If you're at all interested email me (or comment below). If there seems to be widespread interest we may figure out how to add it to the regular TMM website.

10 thoughts on “Banjo Lesson Ideas

  1. Bob Van Metre

    Good blog Casey!

    Great anology between “selling knowledge and experience vs material objects”. I can attest to the value of gaining knowledge of the music in general, and experiencing the satisfaction of learning to play (or trying too in my case) an instrument utilizing the MM.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Susan

    I like both! Conspicuious Consumption AND Acquiring Knowledge. I think nothing about spending thousands of dollars on an instrument of my liking, while spending next to nothing on clothing, shoes, housing, and food – none of which interest me! And YES, I would like more exposure to you. Especially your custom lessons; I can get the DVD tunes during my lessons with Murphy. She can do the jamming stuff with me and the @#$@%#$@ improvising stuff, which I KNOW I need, but which I HATE. She’s good at forcing me to do it, even with my well honed skills of resistance. I can do the video cam with my MAC computer, (I think!)

  3. Martin Bacon

    Susan is right about her love of banjos. But I think she dresses fashionably as well. I think Web Cam lessons would be great and fit right in to my Banjo Immersion school plan. Affording lessons with you, your Mom and Julie could cause my wife fits of course. And I have a Webcam on my MAC too.

    I do think that Web lessons really broadens your business plan because there seem to be so many people not living in bluegrass friendly parts of the country (or the world for that matter) that really want to learn to play the banjo well.

  4. Tam

    Hi Casey

    I have mixed feelings about this, on the one hand I think it’s a great idea athough it might surprise you to learn it’s not something I would personally subscribe to.

    At this moment in time the Banjo Hangout is full of teachers offering this kind of service. The danger of setting up such a programme means that your time is fully occupied dealing with a single student at anyone time.

    If you consider your time to be valuable and I am sure you do the time you spend teaching one student you could be recording a video lesson that could serve the needs of many students.

    I think it is important grow the business that your parents established I also think that it is important to keep a hard copy record of your teaching skills and your knowledge for future generations.

    The DVD is one such media.. One hundred years from now a student picking up the banjo for the first time will want some form of hard copy media to help teach him/her to play…

    If I had my choice it would be a Murphy Method DVD… Can you see yourself teaching in one hundred years time. William Shakespeare died in April 1616 yet he still commands a large following in 2010.

    By all means follow the popular trend but please don’t neglect the those loyal students who do not have or wish to use the internet.

  5. admin

    You definitely make good points, Tam, and I don’t by any means mean webcam and lesson subscriptions to replace making more DVDs, but rather to supplement them. Lots of people can really use face-to-face feedback in addition to learning the material off the DVDs. So that’s kind of what I had in mind. Certainly it’s not for everyone!


  6. martha carlton


    I think I would like the long distance learning during the months that I am in Florida. But, it will take some work for me to get all the equipment up and going. We will talk about it some more this summer, I hope.

  7. lauren

    Why don’t you do SKYPE lessons? it works well..that way you can fix what the student is doing wrong the first time before bad habits occur..and you have one on one instruction !!!

  8. Jim

    OK! The email type of lessons sounds great! I think I am in a bluegrass/banjo void in this area because I can not find a teacher. I have a degree in music myself but learning banjo is new to me and I could use some help. I have been using the Beginning Banjo DVD Murphy has and have started to learn Cripple Creek but to have someione critique me and offer suggestions would be very helpful. Let me know if you pursue this avenue for teaching.

  9. admin

    I have actually started doing webcam lessons. Have only done a couple so far, but they’ve gone well. (I think it would help if I had a faster internet connection, though…)

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