Tip Jar Jam: Two Little Boys

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Is this a perfect title, or what? Of course, it will only have resonance or poignancy if you know the song. Irregardless (as we say here in the Valley when we can't decide between "irrespective" and "regardless"!), are these not the cutest little boys you have ever seen? (Of course, all little kids are adorable, I just happen to be partial to these because they are holding a fiddle and a banjo!)

Two Little Boys: Reece and Drew

Two Little Boys: Rhys and Drew

Brothers Drew and Rhys have been to the jam before, but not in a while and they have obviously been practicing! Drew takes from Casey and Rhys takes from David McLaughlin. I've asked David to show Rhys a lot of the tunes that we are playing in the jam, and David has obliged so Rhys now plays Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, Cumberland Gap, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown in addition to some of the singing songs. Drew can play all the tunes on Beginning Banjo Volume 1, all the Misfit tunes, and will start work on Old Joe Clark next. Both boys keep excellent time and can play their tunes both slow and fast.

Drew is still playing his beginner banjo, so in a effort to hear him I loaned him my Stelling. He took to it like a duck to water! His only comment was, "It's heavy!" His dad, Jason, who plays guitar, was a little nervous about Drew and the Stelling so I cheerfully told him, "Don't worry! If he breaks it, you can buy it!" When Drew dropped his pick later on and it hit the wooden floor I told Jason it was piece of the Stelling falling off. I thought he turned a bit pale...

Rhys was curious enough to ask about the series of 8 or 9 brownish dots on the head of my banjo. When I told him I had pricked my finger on a string end and had dotted the banjo head with blood he was properly appreciative: "Cool!" (He might have actually used a more current term, but "cool" is all I can think of now!)

Having the Two Little Boys livened up the jam, but they weren't the only students playing good music. Kathy G continues to elevate her playing and was adding ending licks, both long and short, with gusto! I never paid much attention to teaching ending licks until Casey's students, Ben and Kasey, started putting them on their songs in the jam. I was impressed at how easily they seemed to do that, so naturally, I had to start teaching my students how to use the ending licks. It's harder than you think because the singing songs get the "short" ending lick and the instrumentals get the "long" ending lick and if you are anywhere but the Key of G, then your up-the-neck markers are different and it's easy to get lost. (I may have blogged about this before. If so, chalk it up to CRS!) My suggestion is this: practice putting an ending lick on all your songs, all the time. And then practice your songs with the capo on (at least second fret and fifth fret) and add your ending licks there.

Kathy also had good luck this week adding her D lick from Foggy Mountain Breakdown in place of her D7 Roly Poly. (I'll be posting a blog about Roly Poly "Upgrades" soon--it's already written!) She's also learning learning Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms for the same reason: The first lick of that song makes a wonderful, all-purpose G or D improv lick, an upgrade to the Roly Polys. It makes every break sound like Earl!

It's amazing to me how much influence the Tip Jar Jam has had on my banjo teaching. Now all my teaching is aimed toward helping my students improvise. I can feel a blog about this subject stirring, so I'll save my thoughts on that for a future posting.

And kudos to Bobby for again playing bass all night long! But, as I told him after the jam, I missed him sitting beside me. With him being so far away, I wasn't able to properly pick on him. There was no Bobby-Murphy banter. No talk of duct tape. No, "Yes, dear." We may do without the bass next time!

Diane, on guitar, introduced a new song to the jam, Ashes Of Love. As a two-chord song, it's actually on our Beginning Guitar DVD, but so few people know the song that I tend to shy away from it. Diane was raised on bluegrass and then got away from it, but these songs still resonate with her and she easily memorized all the words. As usual, her guitar break--which she picked out all by herself--flowed well in the lesson but less well in the jam. She'll get it. It just needs some "jam pressure" to solidify. (I'm actually envisioning an old-fashioned pressure cooker! Do you use those to make jam?)

Another guitar student, Bob A, is working hard on playing his breaks louder and after the jam he said he thinks that picking louder is actually helping him play better. I agree. Again, I never taught much lead guitar until we started jamming and now all my guitar students are playing lead! I teach guitar breaks that are simple and stick to the basic melody, but still and yet, they are lead breaks. I am pleased as punch at how well the guitar players are doing. Thank you Bobby and Janet for paving the way! (I'm thinking I need to put all this on a guitar DVD. This Tip Jar Jam has really got me motivated!)

We will be jamming next week, Tuesday June 10 and Wednesday June 11, 7-9 pm. Murphy Method students of all levels are welcome to drop in. The suggested donation is $20. It's $10 per person if you come in a pair or in a group.

NOTE: NO JAM on June 17 or 18. I will be off in Maryville, Tenn., teaching at Kaufman Kamp! Hope to see some of you there!