Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Here is comment that I hear a lot:

“I kind of thought a banjo clinic would incorporate a lot of playing the banjo.”

Well, yes, in my perfect world all banjo clinics would involve lots of playing the banjo! But we don’t live there...at least not yet! So I do my little part (and I am sure Bill Monroe is watching...see below for explanation) by making all my classes "hands on.” My first words are usually, “Get out your banjos.” And my second words are, “Now, the first thing we have to do is tune the banjo...” (!)

But most teachers don’t teach that way, so, when you go to a banjo clinic or a banjo camp, you’ve got to realistically look at what you can expect. And nine times out of ten (by my scientific survey!) you are going to be in a class where an instructor talks to you about banjo playing and hands out tab. Now, you can either rant and rail about this and be all mad about what you’re not getting, or you can listen to what you are getting and try to learn something. No way are you going to be able to absorb everything that is thrown at you, so you might try to latch onto one or two particular ideas that seem important to you. Or just sit back and let it all wash over you and then later on you can figure out what stuck.

Admittedly, it’s especially hard if the teacher is talking way above your level of understanding. (And that’s one thing that still makes me really mad, and I don’t have any helpful suggestions about that.) But just by sitting there you are still immersing yourself in all things banjo and that’s gotta be good. You can also be pro-active in a talking class and ask some of those questions that are burning a hole in your pocket (to mix metaphors).

In defense of all the “talking” teachers, I will say it took me a LONG time to figure out how to teach a whole roomful of students who all play at different levels. But I love teaching and love figuring out stuff like that. Besides, when I am teaching a song note-by-note to ten or twenty people, I am in Complete Control and the Center of Attention and that, of course, is my Happy Place!

Besides if everyone taught “hands on” in the course of a day, your brain would explode. There is no way you could absorb that much information. Usually the one or two songs I teach in a week-long camp are plenty for most students to handle. So grab what you can in the classes and try really hard to involve yourself in the jamming. Even if you’re just vamping. That’s where the real learning happens!

Explanation: Obscure reference to a line in Bill Monroe's "Little Georgia Rose": "I watched her do her little part."

One thought on “Expectations

  1. Susan Morrison

    Yes, indeed, folks! Here’s a testimonial! If you are fortunate enough to be in one of Murphy’s camps, you will surely have your banjo on your knee, your pickin’ fingers flying, and your fret’in fingers working out. And best of all, at the end of the week you will have LEARNED something! Amen!

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