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The Murphy Method: "Banjo Backup for Fiddle Tunes" Review

Posted by buckholler on Thursday, November 14, 2013

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When I heard that I was picked to review this video, I was very excited to say the least. Like Christmas morning as a kid, I quickly open the package when it arrived a month or 2 ago in the mail. I personally started my banjo journey over 2 years ago with the classic Murphy Method DVD's like: Beginning Banjo Vol 1, Beginning Banjo Vol 2, and Banjo for Misfits, so working with instructional video was very intuitive for me.

Like most of The Murphy Method instructional videos it features Murphy herself. Murphy is one of the co-founders of The Murphy Method, and has a long career in bluegrass. She is a true musician/artist, gives private lessons (not including the volumes of videos), author, and much more. This video also highlights her lovely and talented daughter Casey Henry. Casey has played with many bluegrass and country artists. Along with playing music, Casey has taught several DVDs for The Murphy Method. She gives private lessons, online lessons, as well as teaches at camps around the country. Accompanying them with the lessons on the fiddle is Megan Lynch of Fiddlestar. Megan is a six-time national fiddle champion, touring musician, recording artist, teacher, singer.

Unlike the norm where we think the banjo should be the star of the show and take all the breaks, for these lessons we all take a back seat and help our fellow musicians and fill in the back ground so the fiddle can shine for a while. Like the title says: “Banjo Backup for Fiddle Tunes.” It's not vamping (there is a different video for that) but more of a rolling backup that is taught for these tunes. After going though the video, I think it would be a bit overwhelming for the beginner, but more suitable for the intermediate level + picker.

If you're familiar with the Murphy Method (play by ear) style, this video follows that same style of teaching. They demonstrate the song at full speed with the banjo, fiddle and guitar. Once you have the tune in your head, it'ss broken down to the standard fiddle A and B parts. During these parts you're shown slowly (note for note) the different licks and phrases to “backup the fiddle.” Once you've covered the tune it's played slow so you can play along. As with most Murphy Method lessons, the licks shown are interchangeable, and can be used in many songs, which they are in this video. Once you learn a lick, it's added to the next song to build off of.

Personally I found only one small problem when I tried to play with the video. Half of the songs are in the key of A, and the other key of G. And don't you know it, I didn't have spikes or a 5th string capo. So I just tuned my 5th string to A and capo-ed up when called for.

The lessons covered in the video are:

  • Sally Goodwin, taught by Murphy (Key of A)​
  • Turkey in the Straw, taught by Murphy (Key of G)
  • Old Joe Clark, taught by Casey (Key of A)
  • Leather Britches, taught by Casey (Key of G)

All the lesson were well-presented and demonstrated. I had already learned 2 of the songs previously and found some new licks to play from this video. But it was nice to just play along using my “standard” ways of playing them as well. Megan did an outstanding job playing all the tunes. And as I stated before both Murphy and Casey were great instructors to learn from.

As a bonus there are three more tunes that are played for you, with Megan. They are not broken down part for part or note for note like the lessons, but you can see and hear the same licks shown in the previous tunes, so once you have them under your belt you can apply them to these songs as well.

The tunes are:

  • Sugar in the Gourd, played by Murphy and Megan​
  • Paddy on the Turnpike, played by Murphy and Megan
  • Cherokee Shuffle, played by Casey and Megan

Lastly there is some archived bonus footage featuring Murphy and the (now 82 years young) Chattanooga TN fiddling legend Fletcher Bright. They play three of the same songs covered in the lesson portion of the video (Sally Goodwin, Turkey in the Straw, and Old Joe Clark).

During the closing and credits of this great video Murphy, Casey and Megan play Katy Hill as a send off. Again I really enjoyed the video and found that it was easy to learn the tunes, having previous exposure to this style of instruction. Murphy and Casey did a superb job teaching as usual. Every lesson is taught in that Murphy Method classic style. What you get from these lessons will be that “rolling backup” that we all hear with these tunes, not chopping or vamping as some may have learned.

If you're a Murphy's Misfit or even if you're not, give “Banjo Backup for Fiddle Tunes” a try.

Scott Frennier (buckholler)

5 comments on “The Murphy Method: "Banjo Backup for Fiddle Tunes" Review”

caseyhenry Says:
Monday, November 25, 2013 @10:09:55 AM

Thanks, Scott, for the great review!!

buckholler Says:
Monday, November 25, 2013 @10:44:22 AM

Its well deserved.

Rbuhrman Says:
Monday, November 25, 2013 @11:06:17 AM

I'm just a beginner + and have just become aquainted with this style of learning the banjo.....the way they teach and explain......anyone could be playing songs in a manner of hours! I will look forward to picking up this video before long!

Tam_Zeb Says:
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @6:20:46 AM

If I had anything negative to say about this DVD it would be MORE please. The play along/practice sessions were a little too short for my licking but everything else on the DVD is great.

md7aero Says:
Sunday, December 15, 2013 @9:00:02 AM

I 2nd Tam's comment above for MORE. This has been one of my favorite Murphy DVDs hands down. I wish they had done one or 2 tunes in D since so many fiddle tunes are in D.

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