Thoughts on A Banjo Clinic

Murphy Henry

By Marty Bacon

(Some, but not all, grammar and spelling cleaned up by Murphy in deference to Marty’s wife who is a professional writer!)

Hi Murphy,

Just finished Nameless Banjo Clinic and thought I would share. What I know from that clinic is I can jam with folks if they will let me define the tempo which doesn't have to be excruciatingly slow. But some people just want to play everything fast. Also it seems that all banjo clinics only have people who want to play non-singing songs. Odd, huh? All they want to do is play the banjo. 🙂 [As opposed to becoming banjo players.]

It is interesting to get in groups of people who have different playing interests. I found another banjo player who has been playing just a little less time than I have and she was a little better technically than I was. Then it turns out she worked diligently for decades to try to become a professional cellist. If it’s not that you are a Primitive Baptist, it’s that you are already accomplished on multiple other instruments. Everyone seems to have a leg up on me. 🙂 She at least is really nice and lives in Pittsboro which isn't too far away so she is going to start going to those jams I go to and we might get to play together some.

I did learn a new Scruggs lick (one that you tried to teach me at Kaufman Kamp, I can only describe it as bum-ba-bum-ba-bum-ba-bum out of an F shape and you can play it out of any chord. Does that make sense? [It actually does! Casey teaches it on Beyond Vamping!]

I am also discovering that I know a lot more about the keyboard. Just quiz me and I can tell you where an awful lot of 2-finger and 4-finger chords are. The problem is, in some respects, it is knowledge that hasn't translated into improved picking, so that is problematic for me. The classes at these things are still too much of “let me show you what a great player I am” and not enough of “let me really see how to make you better.” But it is banjo immersion.

I am always inclined to think I could have spent my money and time better up there with you. Nonetheless, I am getting better. At some point I have to unconsciously be able to keep my fingers down on the head so folks stop cranking on me about that. [Let it go, Marty. It is what it is. You’re playing!]

I am looking forward to coming up there in December, because I really have no idea where I should be at this point and I think some good direction will be a big help once you can see where I am at. [Okay, I couldn’t stand to correct that bit of bluegrass grammar!] Every time I learn something new about the banjo, it seems like 10 more things crop up that I don't know or can't do.

Hope TDB is almost finished. [TDB is The Darn Book.]

Take care,


Comment from Murphy: In defense of banjo clinic teachers everywhere, it is REALLY HARD to know how to make a room full of people you’ve never seen before better banjo players in one afternoon or even one weekend. And it’s even hard to get them all to play songs together. Fortunately, Casey and I love the challenge! Not saying we always succeed, but we always try.  When we teach, students play!

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on A Banjo Clinic

  1. Marty Bacon

    Teaching is really hard. Teaching people you don’t know well who may be at mutliple levels is even harder. Teaching banjo to that kind of group must be even more intimidating. I think that there are PLAYERS who teach, and TEACHERS who play, but few TEACHERS who PLAY. PTL that Murphy is the latter and that Cheryl directed me to her. I have never left a class with her that I didn’t know something new. (So enough with the sucking up.) Can’t wait to see you in December.

  2. Susan

    I agree with you, Marty! After some basic “assessment” of students’ playing levels, Murphy is off and running with the teaching, and students are picking the fire (or is that “far?”) out of their banjos. And students leave exhausted with some licks, tricks, and picks, and maybe even a T-shirt! March can’t come fast enough!

  3. Martin Bacon

    Well, Murphy says it is On and On (long O’s) not On and On (short O’s) so I am sure is must be “Far”.

    Let’s pick:)!

Comments are closed.