Tag Archives: slow jam

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Sometimes smaller is better. Although "better" is not quite the right word. (I just used that to get your attention!) Perhaps it's more accurate to say sometimes smaller is a different kind of fun. (!!) Last night we had four folks at the Tip Jar Jam--Kenney, Janet, Betty, and Doug--and we made some excellent music.

I knew Betty and Doug (banjos) would both be at the jam so my plan (which I was formulating during Kenney's lesson, which made me forget the chord changes to Farther Along!) was this: Since Betty is an Advanced Beginner (not improvising yet) and Doug is just plain old Advanced I figured we'd alternate our banjo tunes, doing one slow for Betty and then another fast for Doug. I mentioned this at the beginning of the jam so everyone would know they would be getting their turn. ("Getting my turn" is very important to me--the oldest of five sisters!) So for our first song, I asked Betty to kick off Banjo In The Hollow. Which she did. And let me tell you, she put some fire into it! As Hank Snow said, we were moving on! Kenney and Janet and I were shelled shocked because we saw Betty when she first came to the jam, knees knocking and finger trembling. Hence Kenney's comment when we finished: "Betty's slow isn't slow anymore!"  ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Our fifth Tip Jar Jam, December 19, went swimmingly! (I always wanted to use that word!) We were “lighter” than at the last few jams (meaning we had fewer people), but we were all bubbling with enthusiasm. I know I look forward to these Wednesday night gatherings and I think the students do also.


Present and accounted for were:


Suzi (fiddle)

Jon (banjo)

Bob A (lead guitar)

Zac (banjo)

Todd (guitar)

Bob Mc (banjo)

Barbara (bass)


We were a Bob short (ha ha—I think that sounds British!) as Bob Van was sick as a dog, bless his heart. Janet and Kenney also didn’t make it so without my two mainstays on guitar I was obliged to play guitar for the entire two hours. Except for the times I pulled out the fiddle to play a twin tune with Suzi. We, along with Bob A, actually did a pre-jam version of Silent Night (in G) while everyone else was getting tuned up and sampling the cookies Zac’s mom, Kathy, had made. Bob had just learned Silent Night (he badgered me into letting him learn it, as he so often does!) and he played it beautifully. Suzi did her usual amazing job of transposing since she normally plays it in the Key of D. It sounded really good with all of us playing the lead together and was a good, Christmassy way to start the jam.


I’ll really have to brag some more on Bob A because he took quite a few leads on guitar and did very well. (And he’s only been playing for a year and a half! Yes, he does practice all the time!) Some of the songs he picked lead on were: Blue Ridge Cabin Home, I Saw the Light, Two Dollar Bill, I’ll Fly Away, and Old Joe Clark. I’m a big believer in learning to pick the simple singing songs on the guitar (playing just the melody notes), because these are actually playable in a jam. The harder instrumentals (Salt Creek, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Liberty, Soldier’s Joy) are just that: too hard! More and more I’m realizing that it is the singing songs that make a slow jam work--all instruments can play these.


Two of the lovely surprises of the evening came from Jon, who takes lessons from Casey. He actually sang Mountain Dew! I had no idear he could do that. It sounded really good, too, in the Key of A. This song gave Bob Mc a chance to improvise a break and he came through with flying colors! At the end of the jam, when we were officially done, Jon said something about how he liked to play Joy To The World on the banjo. I said, “Have at it!” So he played a lovely rendition of one of my favorite Christmas carols while son Chris and I accompanied him. I asked him if that was a version Casey had taught him and he said yes. I said, not for the last time, that she really comes up with good versions of the tunes she teaches. One more brag about Jon: he is really, really good at playing through his mistakes, which is exactly what you have to do to play in a jam!


And speaking of son Chris who is in town for Christmas...He came in toward the end of the jam, joining us on mandolin in the middle of I’ll Fly Away and tremolo-ing away. He and I then did a blistering version of Little Girl in Tennessee (mandolin and guitar) after I had declined to try to sing tenor on Bill Monroe’s The Last Whippoorwill, which I don’t know well at all. The jam then moved on to When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder with Chris and me providing the vocals. Then Chris and Zac played a fast instrumental together—I think it was John Hardy—and then we closed out the jam with first a slowish version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown and then Chris and Zac took off on a lightning fast version. Zac, a senior in high school and an excellent banjo player, is so good to come and play slow with us that I was glad he and Chris could cut loose on a couple. Zac and I had done a few fast numbers along and along—Clinch Mountain Backstep, Crying Holy, Sally Goodwin, Salt Creek—with me taking lead guitar breaks on the last too. I figure I can’t very well ask the students to step out of their comfort zones if I don’t step out of mine occasionally!


After thanking Barbara for doing an excellent job of holding down the bass duties (always nice to thank your bass player!), we parted amid cries of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year!” since we won’t be doing a jam the Wednesday after Christmas. But we will be back in the saddle again the first Wednesday in January, January 2, the first Wednesday in the New Year. We have such a good time and the students are improving so much, I urge you to join us if you can. Please call ahead (800-227-2357) if you are coming from a long distance in case of changes.


Now, on to breakfast and the tasks of the day which include a final trip to Toys R Us to get one more thing for grandson Dalton! Hope your last five days before Christmas aren’t too hectic!


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A banjo in a pear tree


On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Two mandolins and a banjo in a pear tree


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Three guitars and a banjo in a pear tree


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Four fiddle bows and a banjo in a pear tree


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Five bass fiddles......


Not the greatest and I could go on but I will spare you! Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Casey HenryToday we have for you some pictures of the filming of our DVD Picking Up The Pace: More Slow Jamming with Murphy and Casey. We filmed back in August and it seems like ages ago. Here is what took place in our Winchester, VA studio on the first day of filming:

Murphy and Casey

Murphy and Casey's wardrobe and makeup test.

David, Casey, Murphy tuning

David McLaughlin, Casey and Murphy tuning, which is a very important part of filming!

David McLaughlin

Before we even started the first tune, David broke a string. This is him changing it.


Literally behind the scenes..this is Red running the camera, which is what we look at the whole time you think we're smiling happily at you!

Murphy and Murphy

And last but not least, this is Murphy, and yes she is watching her own video! She carefully reviews the breaks to the songs before filming to make sure she plays them the same way that she taught them.

Casey HenryLast weekend we filmed the majority of the new Slow Jam DVD (to be titled Picking Up The Pace: More Slow Jamming with Murphy and Casey) in Winchester. Over the course of two days we recorded eighteen or so songs at tempos ranging from slowish to mediumish (those are the technical terms...). We always mean to prepare more in advance, but the night before found Murphy finalizing the song list, and the morning of the taping found us donning different outfits to see which ones looked best in front of the camera.

David McLaughlin joined us for the first day of taping. The first song always goes the slowest as we try to work out lights, sound, and camera shots. We were rolling along, knocking out song after song in G. When we decided to move to A we ran into a host of equipment problems, which I'm sure Murphy will tell you about tomorrow.

David, Murphy, and Casey

David McLaughlin, Murphy Henry, and Casey Henry on the first day of filming. Photo by Red Henry.

As we worked out each song, the process went something like this: First we'd play the song through a couple of times to make sure we were all on the same page. Then we'd do the arrangement, which was usually banjo kick, verse/chorus, mandolin, verse/chorus, hole for the student to play their break in, verse/chorus, another hole, chorus and out. Or if there were enough verses we'd have two banjo and mandolin breaks as well. We played the arrangement correctly on all but one song, and I'll let you try and figure out which one that is!

On the second day of taping we were joined by Malia Furtado on fiddle, who also played on our first Slow Jam DVD. She was fresh from winning third place in the fiddle contest at the Galax Fiddler's Convention. With Malia we did mostly instrumentals: "Liberty," "Soldier's Joy," "Amazing Grace," "Arkansas Traveler." She has amazing tone and played wonderful simple arrangements of the tunes that will be easy to pick-up even if you haven't learned the songs off of our fiddle videos.

The first song of the day, true to form, was the hardest to get. When we were in the middle of the first take I realized that I had propped my feet on a higher rung of my stool than the day before and that you could now see my bare feet on camera. Murphy thought it was okay, but Red ardently disagreed, so we re-shot the song, with mes pieds again out of the frame.

There are still some things left to shoot, like the introduction for the beginning of the DVD and the guitar left hand, which Murphy will do, for the picture-in-picture, but we got the majority of it done. Red will edit and assemble the footage and we will have them available in time for Christmas!

Murphy HenryTwas the night before the slow jam shoot and all through the house....No, I’m not even going to attempt to finish that parody! Suffice it to say that we start shooting our new slow jam DVD tomorrow! Casey and her banjo have arrived safely in Winchester from Nashville, traveling the highway home in her Ford Ranger with the license plate that says “OJNAB” and bumper stickers that read “Real Women Drive Trucks,” “Women in Bluegrass,” and “Hot Yoga.” We just finished looking over the clothes she brought with her, trying to decide what might look best on screen and what might blend in with the limited selection of choices in my own closet! And like Miggie and Polly and Janis Lewis, we both want to wear something we haven’t worn on screen before. (The Lewis Family sisters keep a record of which dresses they wear at every festival and show they play so they never repeat an outfit. That’s only one of the reasons I admire those women so much!)

As you may or may not know, we’ve always used our own Arrandem Studio to record our Murphy Method projects, including our cassettes and our videos. (Anybody still got any of our cassettes? There was some really good stuff there that hasn’t yet made it to DVD. Like Earl’s second and third breaks to “Earl’s Breakdown.”) Having our own studio makes it extremely convenient to record. We can set our own schedule, work at our own pace, and take as much time as we need. Of course, once we get the camera rolling (after working out all the initial bugs about sound and microphone placement and lightening and does my hair look funny), I like to keep shooting because I think I do better when I get up a full head of steam. So we usually do all the recording in one or two days. Then Red takes a few more days to do all the editing. (He’s also the person behind the camera, the one who says, “Do it over.” And “I think you left out a note.” And “Just start playing.” And “I can cut to a shot of your hands.” And “What you said was ‘The second phrase starts with a slide on the fourth string.’” He’s a very helpful husband to have around!)

So, in short, if all goes as expected, we should have our new DVD “Picking Up the Pace: More Slow Jamming with Murphy and Casey” in not too long a time. We’ll keep you posted!

From the fan mail department, here are a couple of threads on the Banjo Hangout where our students have been discussing their progress with our DVDs:




This is from a student who saw Red at the Florida Folk Festival:

I bought your beginning mandolin DVD from Red at his workshop last November but was so frustrated at that time that I didn't really work with it. I pulled it out when I got home from the festival on Monday and learned more than in over a year of mandolin lessons from a local instructor. ... I would have bought your intermediate mandolin DVD from Red last weekend but I thought I had it, so now I plan to buy it online on your website. Thanks for a super instructional method. ~ JKB

Someone sent this testimonial to us through our website:

To those of you who work so hard to produce these videos, THANK YOU. I had reached a brick wall using tab, when somone suggested I give you a try. What a joy! It is exactly what I needed, and I just ordered the next 2. You have made sure learning the banjo remains more fun than frustration. ~AB

We also received this through our website:

Just want to thank you for your slow jam banjo DVD. I just received it a few days ago, and it is the best DVD I have bought. It lets you play along and keeps you in time. I have bought every banjo DVD you sell, but this one is my favorite. Can't wait for Improvising to come out on DVD and hope you make a slow jam vol. 2 someday...thanks again. ~JM

Here's a review of our Slow Jam DVD from Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

And check this out, here you can actually rent Murphy Method DVDs online. To be clear, I had never heard of these people before a couple days ago, so we know nothing about them and can't necessarily vouch for them, but it's kinda cool that you CAN rent our DVDs.

We are getting ready to start filming a new Slow Jam DVD next month, to be titled Picking Up The Pace: More Slow Jam with Murphy and Casey. We'll have lots of good tunes on it including "Old Home Place," "I Saw the Light," "Salt Creek," and more. We're looking for suggestions for tunes you'd like to see on this new DVD. You can leave ideas as comments here or email them to themurphymethod@gmail.com.