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DVD-New Directions For Harmonica-Expanding Your Technique
DVD-New Directions For Harmonica-Expanding Your Technique
Actor: Howard Levy
Director: Happy Traum
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2005     1hr 30min

Harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy has mastered the awesome technique of playing chromatically on a basic ten-hole harmonica. Now he teaches you how he does it through the use of bends, overblows, overdraws and other challengi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Howard Levy
Director: Happy Traum
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Independently Distributed
Studio: Homespun Tapes
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 11/01/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A learning experience for all musicians
Seville | Chicago | 12/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Howard Levy is a freak of nature. Is there anybody else on the face of the planet who can play chromatically (half-steps) on a diatonic (whole-step) harmonica like he does? If there is, I don't know about them. Howard's remarkable technique is probably the biggest physical innovation on any instrument since bottleneck slide guitar or the plunger over the trumpet bell. For now, his discovery that "all the notes" do in fact live inside the diatonic harmonica remains largely unsung. I only hope some young, super-talented musician will someday master this technique, become immensely popular and introduce an entire generation to Howard Levy's spectacular discovery. Maybe that's you??

Even though Howard is a virtuoso, there really is something here for everybody. With humility, patience and a vintage 80's shirt that would make Bill Cosby's sweater collection blush, Howard thoroughly lays out everything you could possibly need to know about how to play every note in the twelve-tone scale in all three octaves of a diatonic harmonica. (Each octave requires a slightly different technique, which is part of what makes Howard's playing so amazing.)

The discussion of ombechure (the shape of the mouth and tongue) for getting different notes is outstanding and thorough, though I would have liked to be shown how to get blow-bends, which is perhaps too basic for this DVD. (Note that this DVD does not deal with the chromatic (button) harmonica, as made famous by Toots Thielmans or Stevie Wonder. Chromatic harmonicas have a button on the side that moves the whole instrument a half-step to get the chromatic notes. Howard relies strictly on ombechure to achieve every note.) However far you get in this admittedly difficult technique is up to you... you don't have to master it to get a lot out of this DVD.

Howard's explanation of modes (and how a harmonica is just "a piano with only white keys") is an outstanding introduction to the subject for ANY musician, although some less esoteric examples of the mixolydian (cross-harp) and aeolian (natural minor) modes might have proven more accessible for beginners. The circle of fifths is also well-presented.

This is not quite an introduction to harmonica. I would recommend you be able to blow/draw single notes up and down at least the bottom two octaves of the harmonica, and bend a note or three in at least the bottom octave, before you dive into this CD. But even for novices, Howard's choice of what to show you when is laid out very thoughtfully. I continue to find it extremely helpful to watch this DVD from the beginning with harmonica in hand and follow along as far as I can with his examples, which get steadily more challenging as he moves up the scale and into more sophisticated (but never arcane) theory.

Howard's enthusiasm for the harmonica throughout this DVD is infectious, and his willingness to serve in stewardship to what I hope will someday be recognized as a remarkable legacy is evident. And of course his playing on "Autumn Leaves" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" is impeccably lyrical, listenable and empathetic to his piano accompaniment. A real treat for all musicians at all levels."
Advanced techniques from a master
Kent A. Russell | Middletown, IN | 07/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While this DVD looks like is was shot in someone's family room with economy video equipment, don't let the absence of glitzy sets and special video effects lead you to think this is a waste of money. Howard Levy drills deep into musicology to explain just why jazz and blues sounds so good. Levy also shows that the harmonica is capable of performing other genres like classical and pieces from Broadway musicals.

I learned more the first time I watched this than I ever expected. Levy takes you step by step on what you have to do to get your playing to the level you want. All through the DVD, he explains a concept, shows how to play it and then say, "Your job is to practice this and learn it." This builds your skills and gets you ready for the next concept.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is truly interested in learning to play the harmonica as the serious instrument that it really is. That being the case, if you want to really learn to play like Howard Levy, you have to pay the price - practice and stay with it. Like all things in life, there are no short-cuts to real achievement. What you get out of this DVD will depend on what you put into it.

Howard C. Marks | 07/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is fantastic. And, the music theory helped my guitar playing. Even if you don not play the harmonica, this is a great lesson in music."