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Thread: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

  1. #1
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    Default Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I noticed he was doing a new series on the Monroe lineage with both David McLaughlin and Mike Compton participating. The new series also features fewer instrumentals and more breaks for vocal tunes, which I greatly prefer. I paid for his first lesson bundle that he put out last summer and I've found it a really mixed bag. It's worth saying up front that Chris is a hell of a picker and understands this style at a level that only a handful of other people can match. Much like Compton, you get the feel that for Chris, Monroe style is more than just a way to play mandolin...it's really something spiritual. He also seems to be a genuinely decent and thoughtful guy and there are some super powerful common phrases and techniques he introduces that really have added a ton to my playing. However, at least for me, trying to get through the videos has been nothing short of frustrating. It's just Chris playing into, maybe an iPhone or a cheap webcam? The whole thing is unscripted and it shows. A lot of it is just him improvising, playing nearly everything blazingly fast, and then a few minutes later saying something like, "So, it's kind've like that." The speed makes it very dificult to follow, and because he does not believe in transcriptions, this means slowing the video down a lot (often as much as 50%) which slightly changes and garbles the pitch a good bit and thereby kind've undercuts his whole "learn only by ear" system. The fact that the audio is already a little rough certainly doesn't help. I get the idea behind his learn-only-by-ear thing, and I don't agree with it, but it nonetheless strikes me as a technique that works a hell of a lot better when you're sitting across from the guy doing the teaching and are able to say, "Wait...play that again. Can you slow that down? What exactly did you do there, because I didn't quite get it." The limitations that come with the medium of recorded video make learning by ear a really problematic approach if your audio recording is a bit muddy and you're playing so fast that it's hard to seperate many of the notes. That's only compounded if the camera work and lighting is equally rough, making it hard to see what the hands are doing. I can only hope he's improved some of these issues over the course of the 4-5 other lesson modules he's released. Increasingly they were leaning more towards Monroe instrumentals which I really don't have much interest in exploring, however, the new series looks to be right up my alley. Like I said before, the guy has so much to teach...it's a shame that there wasn't some way (at least in the video series I bought) to bring in the professionalism that you find in Peghead Nation courses. God bless him for trying to do these things DIY, but I gotta say, it really does make you appreciate how well produced the Peghead Nation courses are in everything from the sound to the lighting to the camerwork, as well as what I must assume is some direction in the studio, both in terms of telling an instructor when they could explain something better or if they seem to start drifting off topic.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I have been doing the workshops for almost a year now, I guess. The first 12 weeks that you spoke of Chris was really developing the program that is now dialed in. Building the plane as he flew so to speak. It definitely has moments of being disjointed, but to me the content in those first few lessons is very valueable. However, now the program is really dialed in. If you do a Lineage workshop it is over the course of 2 weeks. You get listening material played by Monroe to get it in your ear and try to work it out. Then you get videos of David McClaughlin and Compton playing and discussing the material (currently 1 instrumental and 1 song). Then you get videos of Chris breaking the Monroe breaks down note for note with the video. You also get practice videos and included in the price is a 30 minute private lesson. Finally there is the 2 hour zoom where Chris, David and Mike talk about and play the tunes and answer questions and everyone can play the songs and get feedback. To me that makes a big difference. On top of a mountain of curriculum from some of the experts of Monroe and their examples of their own interpretation you actually have to come prepared. I have done many differently online classes, subscriptions and some are great some not so great but in most cases there is nobody holding my feet to the fire. I want to show up prepared for when it is my turn. I am so grateful for these workshops over the last year and the influence on my playing and ear has been striking.

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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    It sounds like some of the rougher edges of the first bundle of courses have been sanded down, so to speak. Good to hear. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the content - I spent a couple of months just obsessively working through the concepts in the first video alone and it had a noticeable impact on broadening my toolkit of licks as well as opening up new possibilities for me to take when making up a solo. I just wish he was a little more focused and directly explained things a bit more often. I just checked his site and it also looks like he is now offering individual lessons as well as the more expensive bundles, which appeals to me a lot more.

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    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I have the entire series...and I disagree 100% with the OP in terms of video and audio quality. The first series is the beginning and is less polished, less fluff and graphic design than the following, however is packed and I mean packed full of material to improve your playing. It is not for a beginner however, it would frustrate the heck out of a beginner. This stuff has been monumental in my learning of Monroe style and playing by ear. This is a series to learn to improvise, if you want to just learn a song, then I would also recommend another course or some of his individual video lessons where he takes more time slowing down the tunes to short 5-10 note phrases. If you spend the time, if you’re ready, this course will change your playing. Chris is an awesome guy, if you’re displeased with your investment, maybe just talk to him.

    Also, the Compton courses on peghead are no different than his individual lessons.I don’t see all the “difference” in the things you point out with lighting, video etc.

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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I agree with some of what you're saying. For reference, I've been playing about 15 years. Back around 2014 spent a year running through and memorizing the Joe Carr Monroe book and have 3-4 years doing Compton's Monroe lessons on Peghead Nation. They don't all stay in memory, but I don't move on until I've memorized the piece and feel I can improvisde on it as well. I'd say that aplies to about 14-15 of his lessons. Point being, this ain't my first rodeo. Also, I've exchanged a few emails with Chris, and I agree, he is a great guy. That said, he's not going to go back and re-record the second lesson witout the massive echo that distorts the sound in the second video, or other such things, so there are limitations. I wouldn't ask for my money back because I feel that the first 45 minute overview alone was worth the money. It sounds like the videos do get more polished as he's put more of them out, which is really what I was most interested in hearing about. I would hope that would hope to be the case. I do have to ask, you really don't see any difference in the quality of the sound or video between Chris recording lessons on a laptop versus what Peghead Nation produces?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    As stated the quality and format has improved pretty drastically over the last year, although that first group of lessons really lay out nuts and bolts of Chris's interpretation of the Monroe language and how it can be implemented in the catalogue.

    But now having the opportunity to learn and talk Monroe from Chris, David and Mike is something that is a gift of the Covid era. It is like a mini Monroe camp every 2 weeks where you get to learn and interact with some of your heroes with plenty of time to sit and digest the material before performing. Every player came in with different levels of experience and every player made leaps and bounds in their playing. For folks that want to step up their Monroe game there is nothing better.

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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I have just about every video that Christopher has produced and think the quality is fine, anything gets better over time but there is no way to compare what he does as a one man band with PegHead Nation where they have people to help in pre/post production, website administration, etc.

    As for him playing thru something (several times I might add, all the while discussing what is happening) and then saying that's close...well, that's how Monroe style/folk music goes. You listen and listen and then listen some more to get it in your head, then give it a try, one will never get 100% of the notes and he doesn't push that point. It's all about getting into the spirit of Monroe's playing and then using the tools and your own playing experience to develop your own style. This is how others have done it, Mike M. studied Sam Bush but I don't think he sounds like Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs studied Monroe but he has his own sound, etc.

    The instruction is definitely not for beginners, I'd say advanced intermediate at least. It's not something that one can watch and have in a day or so. I spent weeks on the first Monroe style mandolin course video alone (and refer back to it at times) where he discusses the Monroe devices as he calls them. If you're not an ear player then look at other learning options as there are a ton to select from.

    There is an app called Audiostretch that will allow videos to be slowed down. I use that alot to go over areas I have difficulty getting and sometimes I just can't get it at all...that's when my knowledge and experience come into play and I draw on that to do what I think sounds good. I personally don't need to know everything note for note so the ear/improvational style appeals to me. I have spent time learning note for note but after almost a year now I'm finally at the stage to think where/how I can apply this knowledge to make my own style.

    Monroe himself played different things in different ways throughout his career, I like to think he'd like the way I play his music...
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    I do have to ask, you really don't see any difference in the quality of the sound or video between Chris recording lessons on a laptop versus what Peghead Nation produces?
    Compared to Chris's individual song lessons? Have you purchased one of these or just the MSI 1? If not, you should...buy the lesson on Jerusalem Ridge...or Lochwood...they're incredible.

    I just don't understand the hang-up on the quality of the recordings, they're fine. Whom else or where are you going to get this kind of education on the mandolin from?
    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around and play mandolin.”

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    Registered User d18daddy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    I purchased week one of the Improvising course and I was completely overwhelmed at first. He feeds you so much information at a rapid rate that your head spins. Then, a month or so later I went back to the material and tackled bits and pieces of it until I had the concepts down. The scale practice ideas and devices have been super valuable to my playing and the fretboard starts to open up in ways I haven't thought of before. In this one week of the course there are concepts I can work on for a lifetime.
    I agree it's not for beginners and Chris doesn't hold your hand through it all, but if you put the work in it's all there.

  13. #10

    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    There is a very good vibe in Chris’s videos and I have found him to be very friendly. He is a top-shelf player and he has put some thought into the organizing principles he presents. The first video is a lot to take in as others have said, but it changed the way I look at bluegrass improvisation.

  14. #11
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone Else Using Chris Henry's Monroe Video Lessons?

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Revard View Post
    Compared to Chris's individual song lessons? Have you purchased one of these or just the MSI 1? If not, you should...buy the lesson on Jerusalem Ridge...or Lochwood...they're incredible.

    I just don't understand the hang-up on the quality of the recordings, they're fine. Whom else or where are you going to get this kind of education on the mandolin from?
    The Lochwood lesson is really something.

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