Howard Levy: New Directions for Harmonica [VHS]
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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 challenging techniques. With some harp experience and the desire to move into dynamic new musical territory, you'll soon be playing blues, classical, jazz, pop or Latin tunes while gaining valuable insights into the harmonica's full potential.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Others elsewhere have said it better and more eloquently as to how much this master has contributed and continues to contribute in treating the lowly harmonica as a real musical instrument, so I'll not add to any of those details here.
However, whatever early-stage level you're on or hope to attain with your playing - regardless of style and/or genre on a diatonic harp - you will eventually come across the name Howard Levy.
And this is the 90-minute course that will open up the doors and introduce it all to you.
Wherever you go and take it from that moment onward - well, just remember it's not always the end but rather the journey itself that leaves you awe-inspired and passion-filled in getting there! So please have fun along the way!!
Perhaps the only one good suggestion I can offer you is this:
Howard Levy recommends using Hohner Golden Melodys as "the keys" for being able to learn bends, overbends, and overblows on.
Even if today, even if on his own website, he now prefers to play Filisko hand-made/hand-prepared instruments -- Well, he is, after all, still The Master!!
This DVD tells you all about playing diatonic harmonica : bending, overblows, that offer you to play this instrument chromatically.
This is harmonica Ph.D level, and you'll be in for a long, heady ride.
BTW - Howard explains it all very well. Excellent videography/audio.
At this point in my playing, this is way more than I want/need to know.
However... not all harps are created equal, and this video was also my starting point for researching how harmonicas can be adjusted to be more responsive. Gapping and setting the reeds can make some techniques a bit easier.
If you want to push yourself, this video is well worth it.
A powerful example of one who persists to discover something that has existed yet was hidden and previously undiscovered by others. An inspiration to others to explore frontiers when inclined to do so.