I will now shamelessly appropriate Casey’s blog title and tell you what I learned at our first Murphy Method Banjo Camp. Well, it will really be a combination of what I learned and what I enjoyed.
I learned that the students really enjoyed learning a whole new tune from scratch. I (again) shamelessly appropriated the idea of teaching "Theme Time" to a group from my bud Bill Evans. Not every song is teachable to a large group. You need one that breaks into similar, repetitive licks which "Theme Time" does. Zac and Susan even remembered it. (I have them for “live” lessons.) So I was happy with that.
Marty really liked the ¾ time lesson, as did Martha. Zac found it hard, but realized it will be useful. What we did was learn a simple, ¾ time roll pattern to "Amazing Grace". (I could show you but I don’t do tab!) [It’s on our Easy Songs DVD.] And then we played the whole song using this pattern. It can be used for a simple lead or for backup (done quietly). And the pattern can be used for any ¾ time song including waltzes. Pretty cool! This was the first time I’d taught this pattern to anyone (it’s Casey’s idea—again I steal!) and I found it worked well for a group.
But what I really enjoyed was teaching "Do Lord" in the key of C. I’d never taught this to a group before (it’s on our Wildwood Flower DVD) and wasn’t sure how it would work. But because these were intermediate Murphy Method students—who are used to learning by ear—the teaching (and the learning) went very well. Playing in C, without a capo and without retuning the banjo, is almost always an eye-opener for folks. The rolls are, in a way, the same but in another way totally different because they are used in a different context. (The one chord, which was G, is now the five chord [in the key of C] and the four chord, which was C, is now the one chord, and you have the F chord...so it’s a mess when you write it down! Disregard! Please!)
And all this learning and all this playing was done as a group which has many, many advantages. No one can hear your mistakes (and sometimes you can’t either!), you get to hear it played over and over—in correct time--by the group, and you get lots and lots of repetitions. The students also learned the vamp chords to each song and got to practice moving between lead and vamp in two groups.
This is what I always thought banjo camp should be about: playing, playing, and playing. And I mean the students playing, not the teacher. You learn by playing and we did plenty of it.
As Casey has probably mentioned, we are planning another Murphy Method Camp—this time for beginners—in the fall. We are so looking forward to it. We will let you know all the details as soon as we get them ironed out!
And a great big THANK YOU to all 15 of the Murphy Method students who attended our first camp. Your enthusiasm, your patience (when things were either too difficult or too easy), and your willingness to sit for hours on those hard chairs without complaining made for a great camp! If I may steal again (from Lester Flatt and the Ballad of Jed Clampett): “You’re all invited back next year to this locality/To have heaping helping of our hospitality!” Y’all come back, now, you hear? Shave and a hair cut banjo ending lick!