THE MURPHY METHOD: BANJO BACKUP FOR FIDDLE TUNES

THE MURPHY METHOD: BANJO BACKUP FOR FIDDLE TUNES—TAUGHT BY CASEY HENRY AND MURPHY HENRY WITH MEGAN LYNCH ON FIDDLE—Murphy Method MB30372DVD. 99 mins., $29.99. (Murphy Method, P.O. Box 2498, Winchester, VA 22604, www.murphymethod.com.)

Perhaps the biggest leap a beginning banjo player can take is to go from playing by herself to playing with others. It’s sometimes a shock that all those lead licks only go so far and that, most of the time, the banjo needs to play rhythm and backup. This Murphy Method DVD teaches the banjo backup to four standard fiddle tunes: “Sally Goodwin” and “Turkey In The Straw” (taught by Murphy and Megan), and “Old Joe Clark” and “Leather Britches” (taught by Casey and Megan).

The Murphy Method is so much more than just not using tab. It’s a patient and accessible approach that focuses on the musicality of the instruments—timing, tone, and technique. Each tune is played up to speed first, then played slowly in sections so that the student can learn basic backup rolls and licks. Murphy and Casey are solid and experienced banjo players and know this style thoroughly. And Megan Lynch is one of only a few fiddlers I know who can play these songs as well slowly as up to speed.

“But wait, there’s more!” There’s also a section of Megan Lynch playing fiddle to banjo backup on “Sugar In The Gourd,” “Paddy On The Turnpike,” “Cherokee Shuffle,” and “Grey Eagle.” And a bonus section of the great fiddler Fletcher Bright playing “Sally Goodin,” “Turkey In The Straw,” and “Old Joe Clark,” recorded in 2004 with Murphy on banjo (here she does take some leads).

One of the great pleasures of Scruggs-style banjo is playing backup, especially to a fiddle, whether as a duo or in a band. Those tasty duets of Earl Scruggs and Paul Warren are essential listening, and this DVD is a way into that tastiness, taught by three expert practitioners of the style. Highly recommended for beginning and intermediate banjo players.CVS

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