In the endless quest for the best deals in magic, it’s surprising that certain inexpensive foundational DVD sets don’t get recommended enough. This review of Daryl’s Expert Rope Magic Made Easy is the first in a series of reviews aimed at remedying that problem.

The Good

Daryl’s always been very good at offering value when it comes to his educational DVDs. There is so much content in this set. The 3 DVDs can be bought as instant downloads for a ridiculously cheap price (most places are selling this between $40 and $50) considering the benefit offered. You get just about everything you could ask for in terms of effects: false knots, pop-off knots, sliding knots, flourish knots, cut-and-restored effects, linking ropes effects, penetration effects, rope gags, rope gimmicks, methods for escapology or a spirit cabinet, ring-on-rope techniques… honestly, apart from Sefalaljia I have a hard time thinking of any major aspect of rope magic that isn’t covered extensively on this set, with multiple variations offered just in case. (If, for whatever reason, Sefalaljia is your thing, Stewart James’s book, The Encyclopedia of Rope Tricks, would be the requisite purchase).

In addition to this, Daryl offers two of his personal routines. First up is his FISM routine, which includes the Professor’s Nightmare effect and a lot of George Sands-ish type stuff that should appeal to those who’ve seen Richard Sanders’s Fiber Optics. Second is his Jumping Knot of Pakistan, a very offbeat routine that should appeal to those who may be suffering from George Sands fatigue. Both routine offer a richness of magic that is a hallmark of Daryl’s personal performing repertoire, as seen elsewhere in his Ambitious Card Routine, for instance.

One of the real issues with this class of magic is dealing with the topology inherent in a lot of rope techniques, and as such I feel that DVDs offer a natural advantage to books. Daryl’s instruction is solid in this regard — the steps are easy to follow, with close-ups and repetitions when needed. He’s also very good at offering ideas to broaden your imagination, such as demonstrating a list of items that you can use in place of a standard ring for a ring-on-rope routine.

Rope magic is also an interesting branch of magic because of its modularity potential. Frequently, when you do an effect, it puts you in position to do another one. Daryl’s set gives you plenty of options in this regard. The ring-and-rope routine that he does on Fooler Doolers, for instance, has all its individual phases covered here (albeit split up into different parts of the set, more on that in a second). Similarly, given the breadth of material offered, there’s so much potential in coming up with your own combinations of effects, that it would take conscious effort to produce something derivative.

The Not-So-Good

The main downside of ordering something like this as an instant download rather than as a DVD set is that locating specific items might be a bit of a pain, as there’s no menu to skip ahead to certain spots. You’ll want to keep notes on the timestamp of routines or techniques that appeal to you. In any case, some convenience is lost.

Somebody watching this set for the first time might also be surprised at the organization of the material. Rather than grouping all the false knots in one section, all the cut-and-restored effects in another section, etc. they are frequently split up into several areas throughout the set. As such, if you’re trying to find (for example) the best application of the Grandmother’s Necklace Principle, you’ll have to do some hunting, including sometimes swapping DVDs in and out to find all the variations. This issue is compounded by the fact that if you’ve purchased the set via instant download, with the primary purpose of streaming it online, you may have to deal with some annoying buffering or the odd instance of it not being available due to issues with your ISP.

It’s worth mentioning that this is a choice that Daryl has made consciously elsewhere (his sponge ball DVDs have the same organizational philosophy), and one could argue that it means that somebody buying a single DVD out of the three has access to a wider range of effects. From a customer-value aspect, there’s some merit to that, but if the hope was to have something that felt more encyclopedic (such as his Encyclopedia of Card Sleights set), then that philosophy makes researching a bit more cumbersome. That said, Daryl’s instructional style is pleasant enough that sifting through all the material isn’t exactly a chore.

Finally, if for whatever reason you’ve seen Richard Sanders’s Fiber Optics and you’re hoping to find more along those lines, this might not be the set for you. Daryl does have some effects that take advantage of the George Sands’s Sandsational/Ropesational style, but he doesn’t have everything that Sanders does, including a lot of the startling, visual magic contained therein. Not to start a debate on the merits of visual vs. implied magic, I’m just going to say that if you really want the hyper-visual stuff that builds on Sands’s work, Richard Sanders’s Fiber Optics is the way to go. That said, there’s so much that Fiber Optics doesn’t cover (and honestly, by design, wasn’t even intended to cover) that if your hope is to learn the ins and outs of everything possible in rope magic, Daryl’s set is the better purchase, by far.

Final Thoughts

There are a few other magicians who’ve put out rope magic products that aren’t covered here. Special mention was made of Richard Sander’s work simply because it seems like everybody’s doing it, but there’s also Tabary, Flip, and others. If you’re at the point of your education that you feel you know enough of the basics, it’s possible you may want to skip this set in favour of Tabary, Flip, Sanders, etc. However, as somebody who owns all that stuff, the material that I personally return to time and again for inspiration and ideas is Daryl’s.

Basically, if you’re interested in learning rope magic, it’s hard not to recommend this highly enough. People will drop $20 on a trick that they’ll use for a short portion of their magic career. Here is a set that can offer you a lifetime of rope magic options for not much more than that.