Just Because You Can Do it Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy!

Casey Henry

Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and are now ready to get back to the grindstone. To start your 2011 off right, here's a story about giving yourself some well-deserved credit.

When John came to me for lessons he could already play. He’d been playing for years and had lots of banjo knowledge in his head. What he didn’t have was easy access to this store of information. It was rusty and buried under other things. My job was simply to help him take it out and dust it off so he could use it again.

Recently we’ve been working on Man of Constant Sorrow. He really likes the song and had learned the break off of the Murphy Method’s Ralph Stanley Style Banjo DVD. There are two breaks to the song on the disc. The first version is in they key of G. The second version is in the key of F (capoed three and played out of D position) because that’s where Dan Tyminski sings it on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

At the end of the lesson on the DVD I play the break along with Murphy, who sings and plays the guitar. During the singing I do some rolling backup which is not explained in the lesson. John focused right in on that and wanted to know what I was doing.  I honestly had no idea what I had done and didn’t have the DVD handy to look at, so I sang it through a few times and figured out a little backup pattern that made sense. John picked it up quickly and by the end of the hour we were able to put it with the guitar and singing.

The next week we were playing the break in different keys (with the capo) and he was moving smoothly from the lead into the backup and into the lead again. We played it quite a few times through and he made the comment, “That’s not so hard.”

I couldn’t let that remark slip by. I said, “No, actually it IS hard. But you’re a pretty good banjo player.” This sentiment is fairly common among students. As soon as they’ve accomplished something, they immediately discount it by calling it “easy,” blithely forgetting the hours of practice it took them to get to that point. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Give yourself the credit you deserve! You’ve put in lots of hard work to get to where you are in your playing and nowhere along the way has it been “easy”!

4 thoughts on “Just Because You Can Do it Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy!

  1. Mark Heilman

    Thank you for this post Casey. I always focus on the goals I have yet to attain and tend to forget that I have acheived some already.

  2. george

    Hi Casey, I too have learned the Constant Sorrow song in the key of D as you taught it and have been frustrated that I can not pick out the break/backup that you do at the very begining of the DVD with Murphy. I really like what you did! Anyway hopefully you will be able to show me when I get there in March for the M&M banjo camp! thanks

  3. Bobby

    I will never forget a comment my grandmother made (about card playing, nevertheless, but it still applies here). . . “It’s easy, once you know how to do it!”

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