Casey Henry

Happy Groundhog Day!! Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring. That’s sure an appealing thought in the face of today’s twenty-degree high temperature.

I owe you a blog. I was supposed to blog on Monday, but I forgot amid the craziness. I’m in Dallas, Texas, working on the Super Bowl halftime show. This is my fourth Super Bowl. I’m part of the stage crew. Our task is to get the stage on and off the field for the show. This year the Black Eyed Peas are the band. They are totally uninteresting to me. I don’t know any of their songs, although I did recognize one of the songs they are doing in the show. I didn’t, however, know it was a BEP song.

My job is assistant volunteer coordinator, which means that I check in volunteers for our rehearsals, make sure they have all signed the necessary waivers, and do a lot of waiting around while they are practicing moving stages around. Many of the same people work on the show every year, so I’ve made some good friends over the course of these four years.

This year’s curve ball is the weather. Last week it was seventy degrees.  This week it’s twenty degrees. With ice. The wind chill below zero. Every single person made a trip to the sporting goods store to buy long underwear and outerwear. I myself got a lovely pair of ski pants almost exactly like a pair I have at home in my drawer and never wear. So now I have two pairs of ski pants to not wear.

Tonight’s rehearsal (minus ten wind chill predicted) is the first time we’ve seen the band. We’ve had our own stage rehearsals. The field cast (the kids on the field that dance around) has had their own rehearsals. We’ve had a combined rehearsal. But this is the first time the actual performers will be present. The volunteers are very excited about that. I’m just glad that the stadium is enclosed and therefore many degrees warmer than outside, with no wind!

No banjo action to report so far this year. If something comes up, you’ll be the first to know!

Red Henry

Today we'll talk about what may be an unpleasant subject: PRACTICE. While some learners find it easy to play one or two or six or seven hours a day, some can't get the energy or time for 20 minutes. But it's important.

I can talk from my own experience. As I get older it's harder to get up the energy to practice, but sometimes there are special events coming up that make it easy. Right now, I'm practicing mandolin and singing every day, to get ready for a CD which Christopher and I plan to record in a couple of weeks. And you know what? Practice helps, even if you've been playing a long time. I'm playing and singing a whole lot better than I could a month ago. I was pretty rusty, but now I'm getting back into shape.

Is it hard for you to practice? Remember that it's a lot easier to start practicing and sound good after just a day or two off, than it is if you haven't played for a week. That by itself is a good reason to play a little every day-- you'll sound better when you play again. In fact, play every day if you can, even if it's just for 20 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or 10 minutes. Then when you get a chance to practice for a longer time, it'll be easier to play and sound better!

As I've said before in these pages, 20 minutes a day is better than 2 hours on Saturday. If you go from one weekend to another without practicing in between, it can be hard to even pick up your instrument and play! So even if your schedule is rushed, when you have a few minutes in the morning or evening, play a tune or two. Your fingers will be glad you did.


Red Henry

Folks, we've had a terrific response to our first 6 DVDs offered as digital downloads (details here). We didn't know quite what to think of this new technology at first, but when we put these 6 up on line, the response from old and new students has been excellent. It appears that the downloads have a bright future for the Murphy Method. These are our titles available at present:

Beginning Banjo Volume 1
Beginning Banjo Volume 2
Slow Jam with Murphy and Casey
Picking Up the Pace: More Slow Jamming
Easy Songs for Banjo
Beyond Vamping: Fancy Banjo Backup as you can see, it's a great bunch of titles. Now, we're working on 8 more DVDs, which will be available digitally in a few weeks:

Banjo for Misfits
Vamping: Beginning Banjo Backup
Improvising: The First Stage
Beginning Guitar
Beginning Mandolin
Beginning Bass
Beginning Fiddle
Beginning Dobro

These will occupy us for a while, as we take care of all the details about putting them on line. I'd estimate that it will take about 5 or 6 weeks to have them available. But from now on, we need to hear from you. Which of our DVDs would you most like to see available this way? We'll have about 25 more DVDs, and need to know which way to go. Please let us know, either through your comments on this post, or by way of the "Contact Us" button on the website. We can't promise that your favorite DVD will be on line soon, but your opinion is important!

Red Henry

Murphy Henry

And what did I do this New Year’s Eve? I went square dancing! And so did Murphy Method students Susan and Bill Morrison. I thought you might like to see a picture of us in our square dance attire! Don’t you love Susan’s scarf? Don’t you love my Chicos blouse? (Thank you sister Claire for that gift certificate!) Don’t you love Bill’s western shirt and string tie? We were styling!

Murphy Henry with Bill and Susan Morrison

Murphy Henry with Bill and Susan Morrison

Susan and Bill started learning to square dance back in September, going to the same class that I attend. I had originally planned on helping out as an “angel” in the class, which is a more experienced dancer who dances with the new students. But then I decided to learn to dance the boy’s part, so I became a student again myself! Now I can dance the girl’s or boy’s part and will never have to be without a partner again. (I hate sitting out dances!) I have a badge that says “Man” for when I dance the boy’s part. I definitely take a lot of ribbing, but it’s all in fun.

The New Year’s Eve dance was open to students (who didn’t even have to pay to get in) and I encouraged Susan and Bill to come. I told them I would make sure that they had “angels” to help them through the first two dances, and I that I would personally dance with Bill. We had a ball! They both did very well and, since they stayed for the whole dance and the Big Breakfast afterwards, I think I can safely say they had a good time.

Janet, Murphy, and Nick

Janet, Murphy, and Nick

Bluegrass content: And after the dance, as you can see, I brought out the banjo and Janet Moore (another MM student and angel for when I’m dancing the boy’s part) and Nick Copozio (the president of the Rivermont Ramblers square dance club) brought out their guitars and we played a few tunes while the folks were eating. What did we play? Lonesome Road Blues, You Are My Sunshine, This Land Is Your Land, my square dance song Save Me A Square on the Floor, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. And then, as Nick says, we left them asking for more rather than asking us to stop playing! We also made $13 in tips! I gave Janet one of the dollars so she could frame the first money she made playing music, and we donated the rest back to the club.

We resume square dance lessons this week as well as banjo lessons. I’m looking forward to both!

Casey Henry

Last night my friend and bass-player-extraordinaire Missy Raines and her husband Ben Surratt had a caroling party at their house. I bet you thought no one went caroling any more didn't you? Well, Missy loves caroling and for the last few years has organized a bunch of her friends and gone to a few houses on her street to sing carols. This is the first year I've been in town for it, and I was excited because although I've sung plenty of carols in my time I've never gone door-to-door.

Missy provided lyric sheets and candles with little paper muffin cups around them (with a hole cut in the cup so it was snug around the candle and kept the wax from dripping on your hand). We bundled up and set out, first stopping at the house across the street. The lady who lived there came to the door with her grandson, who had bare feet, so he hovered just inside the threshold. Then she picked him up and kind of held him on her knee on the outside stoop so he could see better, but then he started crying. A good start to our caroling!!

There was no one home at the next three houses on our tour. That didn't stop us from singing to their front doors, though! The fifth house definitely had someone inside, but she wasn't coming out. Her two dogs barked and stood on their hind legs to look out the window in the door, but she didn't even look out. We could see her walking around inside, however she was having none of it!

Two more empty houses got serenades, but we really wanted to end on a high note. Finally we hit a house that had people who were willing to come and listen! The couple came and stood on their porch and the woman even had a Santa hat on. We gave them two songs, since they were so into it: "Silent Night," and "Joy to the World."

With that success under our belts we retired inside for mulled cider, cheese, chocolate, and other finger foods of varying healthiness. (My own contribution was Strawberry Bread.) A lot of eating, a lot of talking, and a little picking followed, and we all went home that night full of good Christmas Cheer!

Casey Henry

I will be the first to admit I've been slacking off on my blogging. There are so many other things to do as the holidays approach, not the least of which is make and send out all the Christmas Custom Lesson Collection DVDs that people are ordering. (Thank you, by the way!) It's a two-disc set (because the little DVD program that I use won't cram all that info onto one disc) and I make each one individually on my computer. Actually I have two computers---a desktop and a laptop---so I get both of them to making discs, but it's still just a one-at-a-time deal, so I have to sit here at my desk while waiting for the computers to spit the DVDs out. I print out the covers on my (at least) ten year old printer (maybe fifteen) and I cut them out with scissors. Then I label each disc individually with black and red Sharpie, pop them in a case, put the whole thing in a mailer and send it on its way! It's been so popular I'm already thinking of doing a second volume for next year!

It's really beginning to feel like Christmas around my house. I carried all my Xmas boxes down from the attic on Sunday. I put up the tree that I brought back with me from Georgia. I went old-school this year and put on big lights. I thought I had enough strings to do the tree, but I was wrong, so I'm glad to report that they still sell that kind at Target. Though the strings of lights came with transparent bulbs and I wanted solid, so I bought many packs of replacement bulbs and switched them out. They didn't have enough to do all of them, but enough to achieve the desired effect. I think that it is my best Christmas tree ever. Of course, it will look even better when there are a bunch of presents piled underneath! 🙂

So I've been doing all that instead of blogging, but I promise to do better! Just as soon as I get my other tree put up...the silver one.

Santa Hat on BanjoTo help get your holiday shopping jump-started we're running a telephone-only sale. Call us and order any four DVDs for just $75 (plus shipping). Get one to accompany that new banjo or guitar that will be under the tree and give yourself a present while you're at it! Operators are standing by! (Those operators would be Red, Murphy, Casey and Chris...) Sale ends Dec. 13th, 2010. (Available over the phone only, not through the website!)

Go to our website, pick out what you want, and call us to order!


Red Henry

Folks, this time of year we take some deep breaths and start getting ready for the busy days of December. This is the time when I order duplication supplies and mailers and boxes for shipping, because it sure is easier to order them now (and get them fast) than it would be to wait another three or four weeks! I'm staying busy right now, stocking up on our DVDs in anticipation of our busy time coming up. Also, this is a good time for special projects such as our new Murphy Method page on Facebook, which we set up a few days ago.

We've had a few folks express concern that the Facebook page would distract us from this blog. Believe me, that won't happen. This blog is our primary way to communicate with all of you out there, and there's a lot more info about us and our DVDs on this website than Facebook would ever have room for! So if you aren't on Facebook, don't worry about missing out on anything. You can read all the Murphy Method news right here on the blog.

Speaking of getting ready for the Christmas season, we'll be running a sale for at least part of December (I'd tell you all about it now, but we haven't decided what kind of sale to run yet!) -- But don't worry, everyone who has ever contacted us or received a Murphy Method email newsletter will receive a notice about the sale right away. Never received a newsletter from us? Just drop us a line through our contact page, at:

-- and you'll be automatically added to the list and will receive our emails once or twice a month.

Now I have some DVDs to pack up and send out, so I'll sign off. See you again soon--


Casey Henry

One of our long-time mail order students, Bill Breen, received a question from a fellow member of Banjo Hangout asking whether he had used The Murphy Method to learn to play. In response Bill wrote a nice long email about how and why the method worked for him. He said that we could share it here, so, even though it's a little like preaching to the choir, here is his excellent testimonial:

Yes, indeed, Murphy Henry IS my banjo hero. She was able to teach me to play banjo using her "Murphy Method" when all other methods and books I tried failed me. I know there have been a number of threads on the BHO wherein some members claim her method doesn't teach by ear. I am living proof that she DOES teach by ear. I am grateful to her for that, because I can sit down and come up with a break for a song without resorting to "tabbing it out."

Her method initially involves learning songs by rote, but then one progresses to recognizing "licks" from songs previously taught by her from HEARING them. Once the student recognizes the sounds, they can apply their previously learned licks to new tunes.

Back when I was learning from her, her lessons were only available on audio cassette tapes. This, too, is further evidence that one is learning by ear. Yes, she did tell me on the tapes, 'put this finger on this string at this fret and pluck it with this finger of the right hand.' A student HAS to begin learning that way. As they learn, they also hear, remember the sound, and apply it in future lessons. Like building a brick wall, it's accomplished with building blocks: a foundation first. :^)

Sorry for being so long winded. But I felt it important to answer your question while responding to what I believe are some inaccurate criticisms of her teaching method. Now that her lessons are on DVD, the learning process is now even easier. :^D

I know different teaching methods work better for different people: some folks learn better with tab. I could not, so her way of teaching was absolutely PERFECT for me. As a result, I am comfortable playing in jams, performing breaks to songs I've never played before. That, to me, is what enjoying music is all about.

Yep, Murphy Henry is my banjo hero!

Thanks, Bill, for the glowing recommendation. We always love to hear student success stories. Happy picking!

Casey Henry

Well, lookie here. We're on Facebook! In all honesty there's nothing there to look at yet, but we'll be adding stuff in the coming days and weeks. So go look at the page and like us, and tell your friends to like us, or whatever it is you're supposed to do on Facebook. We're not really too sure exactly what you're supposed to do over on Facebook yet, but we're tying to figure it out!