Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Happy February! Only 24 more days till Ralph Stanley’s birthday!

Today, I’m gonna let Martha C. toot the improvising horn again:

I cannot emphasize how thankful I am that I had you to get me started on the banjo. I was a really hopeless case until I started using your teaching methods. I simply could not get away from my classical and traditional music background of reading notes. As I type this email, I am looking at a poster which I bought when I went to the Maryland Banjo Academy in Buckeystown, Maryland in 2000. You and Casey were both there. What I remember most about that experience was that the improvising skills that I had learned from your tape finally clicked. One day, you asked me to try to play a song that I had not played before, using the techniques that you had taught on the improvising tape. I was shocked and thrilled beyond words that I could do it!!! This was real eureka moment for me because I realized that the whole world of improvising was now open to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!

PS: Just back from a trip into the Cit-tay (Washington, D.C.) with Robyn and Logan to see a one-man play about the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. Bluegrass connection: We listened to Reno and Smiley CDs all the way down. Well, Logan and I listened. Robyn tolerated. She’s not quite there yet. The Gusto label has just reissued the 4-CD set of all the Reno and Smiley King Label stuff (with Gary Reid’s fine liner notes) and it is wonderful! I can’t tell you how much fun it is to have Logan into Reno and Smiley! And I only wish that I had studied more Reno so I could show him some stuff. Oh, Casey........

4 thoughts on “Improvising

  1. martha carlton

    I can’t believe you really used what I said. All of it is true and for the first time I felt that I might develop as a banjo player. Thanks again!!!

  2. Arden Peters

    I tried improvising “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” prior to using the “Improvising: The First Stage” video. Imagine my thrill when what I had come up with on my own matched some of what you taught in improvising “Blue Ridge Cabin Home.”

  3. Martin Bacon

    I guess I’m lucky not to have had problems with that old note reading thing. I’m trying to figure out if its a fair trade off for having so much trouble with the rhythm thing. Remarkable that your work meets people at all levels of “Misfit”edness! And I really like that I get your Improvising video. Thanks again, Murphy.

    Martha you fit one of my favorite quotes (he says with a smile on his face), “So, you are a musician and a banjo player!” (from Tom Adams November 2009 – obviously not said about me).


  4. martha carlton

    Martin, that is a wonderful quote from Tom Adams. When I started the banjo after so many years as a classical musician (church oragn and piano), I felt as though I were in another musical world. Nothing worked the way I thought it should. I could not imagine not having notes to read. I thought these banjo players were making it so much harder on themselves by trying to LISTEN rather than just getting out some music and reading it. Thanks to Murphy and now Casey, I am completely converted to listening, and I never even try to read tab.

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