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!

Red Henry

When you're learning to play, or even after you've been playing for a long time, there's a natural tendency to play your newest tunes. After all, they're new and much more exciting than your OLD ones. But you can get bored if you only play the tunes you learned most recently, and your musical skills can suffer.

When you're practicing, or even when you're picking with other folks, remember to play your old tunes too. This does several good things. Among them: (1) You keep your fingers playing a wider variety of licks and melodies. (2) Your friends will enjoy the variety when you dig up a tune from the past. (3) You have the pleasure of re-discovering a great tune or song you'd almost forgotten.

But one of the best things about picking your old tunes, is that it keeps your brain working. If you play just half a dozen or so songs all the time, it's easy to get into a musical rut and stay there for years. Instead, consciously go back and find tunes and songs you used to play. Keep learning new tunes too. Go through our Slow Jam DVDs and remember some songs you used to like. Your brain will like it, and your picking friends will thank you for it!


Red Henry

I'm just back from Hiawassee, Georgia, where I was one of the judges at the Georgia State Fiddlers Convention. There were contests for fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, Dobro, and other instruments, so we did probably 15 hours of judging over two days.

The judges, along with contest MC Barry Palmer and friends, played a set of music each day-- after all, since we were judging the contest, we needed to show that we could play! Our Saturday set went real well (no surprise, since the five people on stage probably had 150 or 200 years of professional musical experience between them), and afterwards I was talking with Chuck Nation, another of the judges, about how much fun our set was. Chuck expresses himself very well, and he commented about playing in a band: "The difference between amateurs and professionals, is that amateurs are competing with each other, and professionals are helping each other." Well said!

I've talked about it before on this blog, but Chuck's comment really put it down plainly where we can understand it. If you're playing in a group-- on stage or off-- are you listening? Are you trying every second to help the BAND (not just yourself) sound as good as possible? Are you playing so as to support the other musicians, not just to make yourself sound good? Your level of proficiency doesn't matter, and plenty of people who can play well don't play in a professional manner, in this respect!

You may be an amateur player, but you can play in a professional way. Think about it.


Murphy Henry

I thought I’d ease back into the blogging groove by trying to find some connection between my latest passion—square dancing (been at it a year now!)—and banjo playing.

We started a new square dancing class in Winchester last week (first two classes FREE! Y’all come!) and four of my students earned stars in their crowns by coming out for the event. Fiddle sister Sandy declined to get on the floor but gamely stayed for the whole two hours, watching us whirling and twirling. Thanks, Sandy. I felt supported.

Fiddle sister Robyn honored her promise of months ago (given under some duress while we were hiking) and came, thinking she too would sit out and talk to Sandy but I said, “No, no. That’s not what you promised. Saying you would come implied that you would come dance. If I tell you I’m going hiking with you that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit at the trailhead and watch you hike.” So, she danced. And had a good time. But she’s already told me she just can’t add one more activity to her already busy schedule. Maybe another time. Logan, beast that he is, did not come. But he was working his part-time job at Chick-Fil-A so he is somewhat forgiven. (Exciting news about Logan: he was nominated for Homecoming King at Winchester’s Handley High School! Go, Logan!)

Susan and Bill Morrison, banjo and bass students, also showed up and danced all night long. I was Bill’s “angel” [partner who already knows how to dance] and danced with him most of the night. Both he and Susan caught on quickly and they said they’d be back. They were surprised at how vigorous the dancing was and both thought it was good exercise.

And then there were Liesel (rhymes with “diesel” and “weasel” she says) and Lars (rhymes with “bars”), a twenty-something couple who showed up. I was in Chicos shopping one day and one of the sales clerks ask me how my square dancing was going. I said “Fine” and then Liesel, who was working the register, chimed in and said, “Square dancing? I’d love to learn to square dance!” (She had just gotten back from the big Clifftop Old-Time Music Festival and was smitten.) I immediately said, “There’s a class starting here in Winchester next month.” I gave her all the info and then said, “Give me your number and I’ll call and remind you.” Which I did. But she and her fiancé, Lars, had remembered all by themselves and were already planning to come. And they were SO enthusiastic. And adorable. And did I say young?

Then I found out that Lars is—can you believe it?—an old-time fiddle player. So, this Thursday he is going to bring his fiddle and I am going to bring my—guess what?—banjo and we are going to pick some in between dances. He told me he has a great love for “crooked” tunes (which usually means extra beats per measure when you’re not expecting them!). I told him I’d do my best to follow him. So we will see......

I realize this is a stretch, writing about square dancing and working banjo playing into the corners. But, hey, it’s a start!