Rawhide and Other Banjo Favorites (featuring "Hazel Creek," the Murphy Method theme song): Show-off time! Once in a while there comes an occasion when you need to strut your banjo stuff, play as fast as you can, and wow all listeners. (Perhaps after a fiddler has just thrown down the guantlet with “Orange Blossom Special.”) That’s when you open up your bag of tricks and pull out one of these tunes.

“Rawhide” has long been known as a mandolin showpiece but it has a blistering banjo solo. (The bridge also introduces some funky new chord positions.) “Bluegrass Breakdown,” sister to “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” can also be cranked up to maximum velocity with good effect. The slightly calmer “Theme Time” leaves room for inventiveness or hitting it straight on, while “Hazel Creek,” the song you hear at the beginning of most of our banjo DVDs, starts off slow and then kicks into overdrive.

All of these tunes feature advanced up-the-neck playing, giving your hands and mind quite the workout. When you’re ready to astound or if you’re just feeling frisky, hammer down on one of these. No Tab.

Bluegrass Breakdown, Theme Time, Rawhide, and Hazel Creek. (2 hours)

DVD or Digital Download


Bluegrass Unlimited, June, 2010: 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