banjo

Ben Smelser

Ben Smelser

Trying to help Murphy again on these blogs so here goes. At 12:30 campers began checking in and picking up their name tags. After looking around I could tell that some of these faces I had seen before. Yep I was right!! Returning campers from last year's intermediate camp. Going around the room listening to introductions I noticed that some folks did a great deal of traveling. Maine, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Southern Virginia. Plus I noticed that most of our heads were grey/white except for one teenager, the gentleman from Maine, and one Banjo instructor. The other instructor's hair has been altered. [Ha, ha!] I would say the average age for this Camp would be probably around 55. Where are all the young people? We've all gotta do better job of getting the youth involved. How many of us wish we wouldn't have waited so long to start playing? Encourage the young! ...continue reading

Ben Smelser

Ben Smelser

Yep, that's right folks, the Thursday night Jam was held at the Courtyard Marriott to help accommodate the Murphy Method Intermediate campers who are living there the next few days while attending camp. So....that makes a big house. Bigger than mine anyhow! 

Oh yeah, I'm blogging, not Murphy, trying to help her out cause she is busy with the camp. Since we had so many folks there last night I won't get into names. But here's my take!

Once we got the room set up and everyone got in the circle we were ready to jam. I missed the first song due to Murphy forcing me to drive to her studio and get the bass. But I rushed and that was the only song I missed. [It was a 15 minute version of Banjo in the Hollow!] ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I wish I could use one of Betty's colorful expressions about her banjo playing for the title of this blog, but she would kill me. In fact, right after she said what she said, she looked right at me with a steely glare and said, "You better not use that in the blog!" To which I could only reply, "Yes, ma'am!"

Some of Betty's frustration centered around John Hardy. She has been playing it slowly and without inflection, as Casey and I both insist that beginning students do. But, as Betty said, when she hears the rest of us play John Hardy in the jam it sounds like a completely different tune! I know what she means. And it's not the speed that makes it sound different (although the speed does play a part), it's more the inflection or the bounce, as we say in the banjo world.

Let me try to explain.  ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well! I never thought I would hear those words out of the mouth of Betty Fisher! But last night in the jam she was playing her patootie off and she did an exceptionally good job on Old Joe Clark. After we were done, I heaped praise on her as did Bobby. I told her that Ben Smelser himself hadn't done as well the first time he played Old Joe Clark in the jam, especially on the coming-back-in part. At which point Betty uttered the amazing words, "Well, I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself!" And I was proud of her for being proud! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Okay, just a short blog about last night's jam. We started out with five guitar players and two banjo players. The balance might not have been so skewed but, Kathy, who normally plays banjo, was practicing her guitar chops for our upcoming Intermediate Banjo Camp where she will be one of our accompanists. Bobby, ever the team player, noticing the plethora of guitars volunteered to get out Kenney's bass (which Kenney leaves there for anyone to play). To me, that's like "taking one for the team" so I thank you for that, Bobby. However, you know that good deeds never go unpunished!

So, we're playing Old Joe Clark. I was giving Tammie, a new guitar student and jammer, a quick review of the chords. Since we were playing it in the key of A and were capoed up two frets, I was telling her the chord positions, as if we were playing in the key of G. I said the A part had two chords, G and D, and the B part had three chords, G, F, and D. Tammie totally got it and started practicing her F chord. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

As Ben reminded me last night when I was writing down one of his comments for the blog, it's been a long time since I wrote my own blog! But I have a good reason: I had my wisdom teeth pulled! All four of them! It was a preventative measure, as they weren't giving me any trouble. But they all had big fillings (!) and I knew sometime down the line that these fillings would fail or the teeth would crack and I preferred to get them out while I was still, ahem, relatively young and in good health. Since it had iced and then snowed the day before my appointment, Ben was kind enough to drive me in with Casey along as my "caretaker." Apparently I needed one as I remember absolutely nothing after the dental tech put a mask over my nose said, "Now, take 14 deep breaths...." ...continue reading

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Here's what I've been up to for the last month or so. These are the new custom lessons I've added to my list. You can order them all here on my website.

  • Lost Highway (I) Watch clip. - Hank Williams song.
  • Oh, Shenandoah (I) Watch clip. - My own arrangement of this beautiful old song.
  • Old Hickory (I) Watch clip. - This is a twin banjo number that the Osborne Brothers recorded. I teach both parts (lead and harmony).
  • Roving Gambler (I) Watch clip. - This is Eddie Adcock's kickoff break from the Country Gentlemen's recording.
  • Walls of Time (I) Watch clip. - My own fairly simple arrangement to this Bill Monroe tune.
  • When The Saints Go Marching In (A) Watch clip. - This is Gene Parker's break from the Lost and Found recording.
  • Uncloudy Day (B) Watch clip. This is an easy beginning break in the key of G. (This song, but in the key of C, is taught on the Murphy Method Wildwood Flower DVD.)

Kasey Smelser

Kasey Smelser

Note from Murphy: Kasey's dad, Ben, wrote a blog on February 9 about what led him to start taking banjo lessons with his daughter. Recently, Kasey had to write an essay for school that focused on something she'd had to learn. Naturally, she wrote about the banjo. Naturally, her dad emailed it to me. Naturally, I asked him---and Kasey---if I could use it as a blog. Naturally, they both said yes! So here's Kasey's take on her banjo-playing experience.]

My Dad and my brother always had a special bond, but since my brother went to college he has become more independent and doesn't need my Dad as much anymore. Now that my brother is not at home my Dad decided he wanted to do something to stay close with me. Out of nowhere my Dad asked me if I wanted to play an instrument. I'm really into music so I just said yes. I had no clue he wanted me to play the banjo. ...continue reading

161In the January 2014 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited a fantastic review of our DVD Banjo Backup For Fiddle Tunes appears. You can read the whole thing right here.

This guest post is brought to us by Betty Fisher, who takes lessons from Casey and regularly attends the Tip Jar Jams.

So it’s New Year’s Eve and I am picking up my banjo for the first time in more days than I care to admit. (Sorry Casey and Murphy. You can kick me later.)

I had gone through my repertoire and have now capoed up to A. I don’t know what happened but somehow things got badly out of tune and I seriously over cranked the first string and it snapped. Scared the bejeebers out of me! (Couple of bad words flew.) So now I knew I had to re-string it. I had bought new strings on the advice of Murphy after the last jam that I attended. She told me if I was the least bit mechanically inclined, I could do it on my own. I am mechanically inclined. Having been a previous surgical nurse, there were many occasions when I had to get a malfunctioning piece of equipment working again in the middle of surgery while a surgeon stomped his feet and yelled, “Just fix it!” Also there is a very embarrassing story (for my husband) about a broken washing machine that he couldn’t fix, but I did in about 5 minutes….but I digress.

...continue reading