Tag Archives: Boil Them Cabbage Down

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Here's a video featuring the Snow River String Band from Alaska playing at the Anchorage Folk Festival on January 17, 2014. The banjo player, Max, is one of my Skype students. We've only had about six lessons, but he's catching on fast, especially because he has other people to pay with regularly. Also, kids learn fast anyway! The banjo break starts at 2:14.

Murphy Henry

Wow! Just back last night from the weekend workshop I did in Portland West (Oregon!) and just had to blog about it. (The heck with The Darn Book today!)

First of all a huge shout out to Patty Spencer for coming up with the idea. Then kudos to both her and Claire Levine for all the hard work they did in publicizing the event, rounding up students, finding a venue, putting me up for the weekend (that was Claire), and treating me like royalty (which I loved!). And an “extry spatial” thanks (as Lester Flatt would say) to Patty for going with me to the square dance Sunday night and being my partner! We had a ball, dancing to a live, old-time band. And, of course, thanks to all you students who came out and worked so hard at everything we did.

Claire, Patty and Murphy

Claire Levine, Patty Spencer, Murphy Henry

And what did we do? Well, as you may know by now, Murphy Method workshops are HANDS ON! “Less talk, more playing” is our motto. So our Friday evening “meet and greet” included an impromptu concert by Patty (banjo), Claire (guitar), Matt (Dobro), and me; a rather long explanation of the philosophy behind The Murphy Method; an answer to the question “How did YOU learn to play?”; and a few tunes played together by the whole group.

Then Saturday morning, at the civilized hour of 10 a.m., I was ready to dig in and go to work. When I’m working with a large group of students (23) that range from beginner to advanced, I always try to start at the beginning level so that no matter where we go from there, the beginners can still VAMP! I ask the more advanced students to be patient with this review of material they already know, and I am happy to say that I have never had any complaints about this approach.

And I have learned over the years that when teaching vamping to a group it is best to let the beginners use the simplest chords possible which are open G, first position C, and first position D-7. Or if they prefer, they can use the barre C at the fifth fret and the barre D at the seventh. But everyone can vamp! So since the high break to "Boil Them Cabbage Down" was my Song Of The Day, we learned the vamping to that. I sang it, I played it low, I played it high, I sang it some more, I played it some more, I called out the chords, I pointed out the pattern (all chords are two beats except at the last), and we did rep after rep after rep. And, sure enough, after all this playing, pretty much everyone could vamp to Cabbage. (And many, many thanks to Claire for serving—willingly—as my guitar player. Or guitar slave, as we sometimes call it. We call it other stuff too, but I got that idea from Sex in the City so won’t mention that here in this, more or less, family blog!)

Then Rachel asked a question. The arrangement of Cabbage that she was familiar with included another part, a B part. What about that? Whoops! I knew exactly what she was talking about, having been surprised by that B part ON STAGE at a festival by the great Florida fiddler George Custer. Yes, fiddlers to tend to put in a B part, which, yes, does have a slightly different chord pattern. (I had to make up a break on the spot. Fortunately it was not too hard!) So, I told her I had patterned this break as if Cabbage were a singing song (which it also is) and so I didn’t teach the B part. I told her she could either try to make up a B part (as I had done) or just brazen it out by playing it her way and letting everybody else adjust to her!

Which points to one of the great things about this workshop, something that elevated it to “excellent” in my book: the students asked lots of questions, questions that were relevent to what we were doing and showed a real understanding of what I was trying to teach. The students were also very good at asking for further explanation if they didn’t understand what I was talking about, and asking for more reps if they couldn’t quite play what we were working on.


Okay. I’m at Casey’s house and Dalton is awake!!! I’m gonna ask her to post this as is, but I PLAN to continue after I teach today. Stay tuned!!!!!