Tag Archives: Rawhide

I was browsing around the Bluegrass Unlimited site today and ran across a couple of reviews they did of our DVDs. (BU is the premier bluegrass magazine. If you don't subscribe already, you should.) I'll post the links as well as the complete text, just in case the link stops working at some point in the future.

141Easy Songs for Banjo
The Murphy Method is the common sense method of learning, used by many folks who don’t want to be hindered by learning too much music theory, but want to be able to play an instrument. In days gone by, young people watched their elders play and imitated them, often when no one was around. In this case, we are looking at banjo. Casey Henry is an accomplished banjo player and, as it turns out, a very good teacher. There is no tablature used here. Learning is by example and, so, we are patiently shown how each tune is played at speed and then painstakingly slowed down, lick by lick.

Murphy Henry, whom the method is named after, supports her daughter on guitar and vocals, so both leads and backup playing can be demonstrated. The lessons are well-organized and well thoughtout, providing clear shots of both hands and an empirical example of how the banjo interacts with the guitar and vocals. This meshing of banjo and guitar lines is at the heart of traditional bluegrass music.

The focus is on five songs, all of them standards: “Old Home Place,” “NinePound Hammer,” “Salty Dog,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Ballad Of Jed Clampett.” Not only will you learn to play clean, concise versions of these tunes, you will be given patient examples that you can return to, until you get each lick. There is an assumption made that the viewer can already play the basic rolls, knows most of the basic licks, and can string them together. There is a chapter, “CGD Songs” that will help with all of this.

If you want to learn to play banjo, but tablature makes you break out in cold sweats, this DVD will open a lot of doors for you, especially, if you don’t want to get bogged down in that labyrinth called music theory. The Henrys will teach you what you need to know without burying you in gobbledygook. RCB (Nov. 2009) (View original. The review is at the bottom of the page.)

15Rawhide and Other Banjo Favorites

You can’t beat experience, especially when it comes to teaching. Murphy Henry is everything I like in a teacher: knowledgeable, thorough, patient, but most of all experienced. She’s confronted just about every problem and question a student might have, and she puts that experience to use in this addition to her extensive DVD banjo instruction series.

The Blistering Banjo Favorites that Murphy teaches on this two-hour DVD are “Rawhide,” “Bluegrass Breakdown,” “Theme Time,” and “Hazel Creek.” All are accessible from several levels of easily navigable menus.

Much has been made of the fact that Murphy doesn’t use tablature, preferring to teach by sight and ear. Proponents and opponents of this method can sometimes overstate their cases. What’s important is the end product and many people have learned banjo (and learned it well) by using The Murphy Method. The benefit of not using tablature is that the lesson goes straight into the cerebellum and you don’t have to wean yourself away from the written page. Frankly, the only downside I see is that you can’t quickly refer to measures on a page and might have to watch the DVD to isolate a particular passage. In the age of instant digital access, this is not a problem.

Murphy is one of the cleanest, most straightforward players around. She teaches more than notes and chords here; she teaches tone, timing, and touch.

Each lesson is divided into an uptempo version of the song, a slowed-down version, followed by a patient teaching of each measure through the song, and then a version played with guitar so the student can get used to following a rhythm instrument. This is an often overlooked aspect of banjo playing that Murphy rightly emphasizes. Recommended for anyone in need of adding some high-octane barnburners to their banjo repertoire. CVS (June 2010) (View original. Review is at the bottom of the page.)

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Portland Patty asked me to elaborate a little bit on those troublesome chords in the bridge of "Rawhide". I will try, but it’s so hard on paper!

"Rawhide" is played in the Key of C. So, let’s take a look at the “bridge” of the song. (For info on what a “bridge” is, see below.)

The chords for the bridge are: 8 beats of E, 8 beats of A, 8 beats of D, and finally 8 beats of G. Then you go back into C chord and the regular part of the song.

Aside: (If you were doing it by the numbers—which are not useful to me in this case—it would be—I’ve got to stop and figure this out now—III, VI, II, V—or in regular numbers: 3, 6, 2, 5.)

I suggest you get your banjo out and find these as vamp chords on the neck. Just get a feel for them. It definitely helps if you’ve heard the song before!

Now, if this is all you had to do, we could stop here. But the banjo normally capoes up to the fifth fret to play Rawhide (unless you are Craig Smith or Casey Henry), playing out the G, C, and D positions. (Five G, as we say in Virginia.) So if you continue to think in “positions” and not “real” chords, the bridge chords will now be: B, E, A, D. (The numbers, of course, stay the same, 3, 6, 2, 5, which is why they can be useful.) These four-finger chords are for vamping. When you take the lead, the chord positions shift slightly so you can get a “seventh chord” sound, just like Rudy Lyle did on the original recording. But for that, I’ll have to refer you to the video!


WHAT IS A BRIDGE? To me, it’s just a part of a song that has a totally different chord pattern than the main or regular part of the song. The dictionary says: “A transitional modulatory passage connecting sections of a musical composition.” My definition is easier!

WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF "RAWHIDE"? The first part (the A part) is played through twice, usually once low and once high, and then comes the “bridge.” After the “bridge” another instrument takes over and plays the same thing, A part twice, then the bridge. When it’s time to end the song, usually the mandolin will take a final A part after the bridge and put an ending on.

WHAT ARE THE CHORDS IN THE A PART?  In the key of C, they are C, F, and G. If you capo up five and play out of G, the positions are G, C, and D. Note: the A part has the same chords as "Lonesome Road Blues" and you can actually use the "Lonesome Road Blues" breaks—low and high—for the A parts of "Rawhide".

But please: check out the Rawhide DVD and listen to the original recording by Bill Monroe! Also, Red has two versions of this song (with moi playing banjo)—live and studio—on his CD Bluegrass Mandolin and Other Trouble. Logan said my break to "Rawhide" was “awesome”!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

For the first time ever here at the Murphy Method we're having a half-price sale on all our banjo DVDs and videos. Those of you who get our newsletter found out about it on Monday and boy oh boy, has the response been great. We never could have predicted how many people would want to stock up on DVDs when given the opportunity. If you're not on our emailing list, you probably just happened by our site and saw the notice on the front page. If you'd like to take a look at what we send out on a monthly basis, here's our August newsletter to check out.

If, after seeing our newsletter, you'd like sign up and get in on sales and new products at the earliest opportunity, you may do so here.

I periodically check out Banjo Hangout to see what they are saying about us. Usually I'm please with what I find, like today, for example. I read in this thread how satisfied people have been with our customer service. That is one thing we consider of #1 importance. We want our customers and students to be completely satisfied and we will do everything in our power to make that happen. If you order our products from a different retailer, there is only so much we can do, but if you order from us we'll pretty much bend over backwards for you.

I'm pausing in the middle of editing a lesson I just taped (Is that still a valid verb to use? "Taped" meaning "recorded on my coumputer.") for "Just Because." A couple students wanted to learn the version that Murphy recorded on her M&M Blues CD, so yesterday I sat down and learned it. I made my student Kyle act as a guinea pig and I taught it to him at his lesson yesterday. The lessons always come out better if I've had a chance to practice them on in-person students first. If anyone else wants a copy, just let me know.

One last item to mention, and that's the fact that we now have our Rawhide video available on DVD!! It is the last of our banjo videos to be converted so we now have every single one of the old videos onto DVD. Finally!! We're doing a little happy dance. And it, too, is on sale for half price, until August 31st.