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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » How many phases to use in a routine? (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Hakaput
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I am wondering when you do a multiple phase routine, how many phases should you have.
Some examples of what I mean:
How many times to you make the card appear on top of the deck in an ambitious card routine?
How many times do you have a coin disappear from one hand and appear in the other?

I am currently working on a sandwich routine with cards for a talent show. Currently I have 6 phases and I am thinking that it might be too much. Each phase seems to gets more impossible than the next, so my structuring of the routine is fine. But I fear that having so many phases may defeat the build up, as it may get monotonous. One of the phases I could very easily give up, but The others I would have to really think about which one(s) to cut.

As such I am wondering how many phases people normally have for routines with a naturally repetitive nature.

If describing my particular situation and routine would be helpful for answering this question let me know, but I am also looking for a rule of thumb that can be applied to many routines.

I not sure if I worded the title correctly. Other options I was think about was "How many tricks with the same effect in a routine?" or "How may phases in a trick". If there is a proper way to word this question please let me know.
Wilktone
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Hi, Hakaput.

Your question makes perfect sense and I think it's a good one. I don't really have a definitive answer for you, but I do have some thoughts you can consider.

One thing I enjoy about some routines is that they are "modular." The starting and ending points of each of the routines are similar enough that once your are into the trick you can jump ahead and skip a phase or three, depending on how well the audience is reacting to it. If you're getting good reactions and everyone seems to be having fun you can do the most extended version, but if you feel the trick has run its course you can jump right to the ending or end it at a different point.

Restaurant workers deal with having to end routines sometimes early because the food arrives or some such interruption. I'm sure that some of the folks who have experience working restaurants can give you some great advice about this.

Good luck!

Dave
DaveGripenwaldt
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A general "rule of thumb" I work with the "Rule of Three". It is a principle that comes out of the writing/theatrical world that says that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

The principle says three actions or pieces of information are considered easier to follow and remember and there is just something about the pattern of "beginning, middle and end" that just feels right in so many situations. Frankly, staging effects that way will seldom steer you wrong.

That said, art is art and no hard and fast rules always apply. A magical example is the 6 bill repeat or the 11 card trick or Miser's Dream....where the effect/comedy/mystery/reaction builds with repetition. However, on a practical level, after the 3rd phase, ask yourself what another phase truly adds to the over-all effect and audience reaction. Remember, no one in the audience cares about your trick anywhere near as much as you do and simpler may be better for them, even though it might kill you to chop off phase 11 of your routine.

And certainly, as Wilktone suggests, the situation, and venue for you're performance makes a difference too. If your spectators paid to see you, you have a lot more attention and good will to draft off of than if you walk up to a couple at dinner who don't know you exist.

I tend to err on the side, of shorter and anything after 3 phases has to reeeeeeeaaaaly improve the effect.

Hope that helps.
Hakaput
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Thanks Wilktone and DaveGripenwaldt for your replies. I believe my phases are modular or at least can be with slight modification to the previous stage(s). I saw elsewhere in the Café that 3 seems to be the rule of thumb for a multi phase routine, though I also saw that for ambitious card routines that number tends to be a little higher so I am hoping that the same could be true for sandwich routines.

I will be honest I was hoping for more responses even if they just confirmed what has already been said.


With that in mind I thought I would ask more specifically about my routine. As to suggestions of what phases should be kept and what should be cut.


Card selected and general premise/presentation theme is given.

Phase 1) Selected card is place in the center of the deck. One joker is placed towards the top of the deck and the other towards the bottom. The deck is cut revealing that the jokers have narrowed down the selection of possible cards. This smaller section is removed from the deck and cut. One card (the selected card) is now found between the jokers. The remaining cards are revealed to be two sets of four-of-a-kind.

Selected card and the four-of-a-kind cards are shuffled into the deck

Phase 2) Jokers are placed one on top of the deck and one on bottom. The deck is cut only once and it is revealed that they have selected a single card (the selected card).

Phase 3) Selected card is placed in the middle of the deck. Deck is cut a few times. Jokers are placed one on top of the deck one on bottom. The whole deck is dropped. This leaves the jokers and the selected card in the hand separated from the rest deck.

Phase 4) The selected card is placed in the center of the deck. The jokers are handed to the spectator (this is done at every phase for consistency but is only important here). The deck is shuffled. The jokers are said to find the card from afar, but this reviled to be wrong. The Jokers in hand are examined to find the selected card in the spectators hands.

Phase 5) The Jokers are cut into the deck with an indifferent card between them as a distraction for the jokers. The selected card is placed visibly into the middle of the deck (face up in a face up deck). The deck is examined to find the Jokers around a single card (as expected from the start of the phase). But now the card is the selected card.

Phase 6) The selected card is placed in the middle of the deck. One joker is placed towards the top of the deck the other is placed towards the bottom by the spectator. The cards are spread to show that the jokers are this time not surrounding one card but a larger group. The deck is then showed again to see the jokers have now come to a single card (no noticeable change just a spread and then a second spread). The single card is shown as the selected card and it is revealed that the jokers have found again the two four-of-a-kinds that where relieved in phase 1.



My presentation is a game of hid and seek. The jokers are to find the selected card when it hides in the deck. Phase 1 the jokers get distracted due to it being their first time so they take more time than the ought and find extra cards. Phase 2 they are warmed up and ready and show how the game should look. Phase 3 is quick and efficient. Phase 4 finding without touching the deck. Phase 5 finding despite a distraction, which Phase 1 showed they are susceptible to. Phase 6 brings the routine to full circle showing that the four-of-a-kinds may have never been a mistake.

If this does seem like too much I could easily see removing phase 2 because it is nothing special. It is currently there to show how it should normally happen and it seems to me that showing a 'normal' phase makes the unique ones more powerful.

The next one I could see cutting would be phase 5 because while I like it seems less powerful than in the spectators hands (Phase 4) and is not as visual as phase 3.

If I had to cut it down to three phases I would probably cut either phase 1 or phase 6 due to them being the same exact effect and that it would be too redundant with only one other phase in the middle, plus it would make the finding the four-of-a kinds again a lot less powerful.

If I did have to cut it down to three phases I would probably do phase 3 then phase 4 then phase 6. Though I would gladly accept suggestions on which phases to keep and what order they should be in.
Dick Oslund
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Well, the "team" of David, Dick, & David (Wilktone is a David) appear to be your "temporary mentors"! (Perhaps, a few others may join the "team"

To be honest, I didn't read your card routine very "closely". As I think you know, I'm certainly not a "cardician", even though I've known most of the top card men in the past 50 years: Charlie Miller, Ed Marlo, Alex Elmsley, Ricky Jay, Paul LePaul, Jon Racherbaumer, et al, and, enjoy(ed) watching them work, I don't "do cards". (I do all the "standard" flourishes, and fancy "shuffles", and, years ago, I did 6 Card Repeat, and white gloved card fan productions.) So, I won't comment, specifically on your routine. --David & David, and/or someone much more qualified than I will, I hope, add some comments.

I will add a few general thoughts. Circus clowns (I've been one, --Ssh! Don't tell on me!) have long known the principle of "COMEDY THREE", particularly as it relates to "repeat gags". --The first "bit" gets the spectator's attention, the second, gets a chuckle, and the third gets the LAUGH. David ("G") has mentioned "C-3" too, as it applies to the whole area of "theater".

The breakaway wand, or fan, for example, is much stronger if the performer does not "exceed the limit" (3)! OCCASIONALLY, the performer may do a repeat gag more than three times, but, to be effective, there should be a very good reason. I've proved that, to my satisfaction, with my "wands and fan routine". (the fan, which exceeds "3" always gets a BIG LAUGH, and, has gotten me a standing ovation, in several senior high schools.

Now, here's "my definition", or, perhaps better said, "explanation" of "magic":

"Magic" is, 5% sleight of hand technique, 5% sensory illusion, 5% esoteric science princples, and >>>85%<<< PSYCHOLOGY.

I think that David & David will agree to that!

The EFFECT is much more important than the METHOD! --The MAGIC happens o n l y in the mind(s) of the spectator(s).

I learned a very critical acronym when I was a young Boy Scout Leader. "We" were discussing the "scout program", and the discussion leader said: "KIS MIF"! Then, he explained: "Keep It Simple! Make It Fun!" KISMIF has been my motto since. (It "fits" in the presentation of a magic show, too!)

Now, to make a specific suggestion, I would say, "test market" what you have developed. After each performance (at least three) for different spectator(s) do a post mortem. Consider general reactions, the spectator(s) comments, etc. Then, adjust, or rethink your presentations as necessary.

The general rule for adding a new trick to one's repertoire is:

1. Learn how it is DONE.

2. Learn how to DO it.

3. Learn how to DO it, so that it ENTERTAINS!!!

That applies to ROUTINES, as well as TRICKS! Over the years, I've tested many tricks and routines, after much "thinking". A few required a dozen or so, "adjustments". Several were a "hit" the first time!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
DaveGripenwaldt
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Since you asked, I think the routine as it stands is too long and has, in my view, some construction problems. Let me hit those first...

If I am reading this right, in two early phases, you place the jokers in position and cut the deck and then reveal the jokers have "found" the selection. Is that right? If so, the effect is weakened by the cuts. Once the Jokers are in place the deck should NOT be cut. In fact you do a no-cut version in the last phase with is far more amazing than the first go-around. Essentially what you have is duplicate phases with one looking superior.

Also, you have magic happening is the spectators hand in the middle of the routine. To a spectator, that is always the strongest thing to happen in a routine, so your performance does not build to what the spectator sees as the most amazing thing.

The jokers finding 4-of-a-kinds is a violation of the premise and something of a distraction. I'd eliminate that.

As to being long, I would stay with the 3 step structure....Jokers find selection (like at the end - no cutting). Then it grabs the selection more spectacularly (phase 3). Then finds the selection in the spectators hand. Each phase is different....it builds in perceived difficulty...it ends with the strogest element (in spectator's hands)...it is easy to follow and is not complicated by the bunny trail of 4-of-a-kinds.

That would be my thinking on all this, for what it's worth.
Hakaput
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Thanks Dick and Dave

With again the strong emphasis on three being the golden rule I will cut my routine down to three phases.

Dave I agree that especially without showing having control of the four-of-a-kinds throughout the routine they are just an unneeded distraction rather than the extra kicker that I intended them to be. Also without that aspect I total agree that the in the spectators hands is the climax for the spectator.

Before I had the chance to respond I only briefly had time to read your post, Dave, so I simply starting think about my routine in light of what I just said above in this post and I came to the order of phase 6 then phase 3 then phase 4. With the phase 6 losing the 4-of-a-kinds and probably no spectator joker placement for otherwise it may be expected in the latter effects, which phase 3 cannot deal with.

So basically if I read your post more carefully I would have saved myself some more thinking time. So I thank you very much.

So modified phase 6 then phase 3 then phase 4 is my plan.

If you could please let me know if you think the spectator interaction, of placing one joker in the deck, should still be apart of phase 6 (now phase 1). Also if you gave your reason for this opinion it would helpful for future routine building.

Thanks again for all you your great help everyone.
DaveGripenwaldt
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Yes, I would have the spectator be involved at that point. There is no down side. He gets to feel like he is part of the action....it sets the stage for him being given the jokers later for the last phase. It also gives an aura of fairness - that it plays like, "I am not doing anything sneaky....in fact, you go ahead and put the jokers in".

By the way, I don't know if you mean the spectator only puts one joker in the deck and you put the other one in (that's the implication from how your question reads), I'd have the spectator put both jokers in the deck, if the method allows. It would need some justification for why he is only handling one and not both.

So, if he can put both in, do that. If you have to handle one, make sure it is justified - for example you place the joker in as a "do-as-I-do" instruction for the spectator. That said, ideally I think he should handle both.

That's how I would think it through.
bogie
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As far as an AMBITIOUS CARD routine I have always stopped at three but never knew of any rule of three. Thanks for the information!
mlippo
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Quote:
On May 18, 2017, bogie wrote:
As far as an AMBITIOUS CARD routine I have always stopped at three but never knew of any rule of three. Thanks for the information!


I think that 4-5 phases is good. Not more. Followed (optional) by signed card to impossible location (wallet, mouth, pocket, card case ...)

Mark
bogie
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I have finished it with card on ceiling a couple of times.
RobertlewisIR
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The folks above seem to have this well in hand, but I'll offer my $0.02 anyway.

I don't think there's a hard and fast rule about how many phases. Some tricks should be done once and then that's it. Others actually gain their strength from the repetition. The rule of three is a good starting point when you think about these kinds of things because it both allows you to think in terms of an opening phase that's quick and hooks people in, a middle phase where there's a dramatic ebb and flow, and a hard-hitting ending that gets the applause. That's a good dramatic structure, plus for some reason humans seem to find threes psychologically pleasing.

Another way to approach it is: do as many phases as won't bore your audience. If the phases are particularly similar to one another, once you've done it once or twice, they get the idea, and you start to experience diminishing returns.

So consider Ambitious Card as a good example. I don't do it much anymore, but I used to do three phases. The first time, the card just quickly jumped to the top. The second phase was a slower phase that really "proved" the card went into the middle and took its time getting the most out of the magic. But by then they knew what to expect, so my finale changed the rules to make it seem more impossible and hit harder, and then I was done.

Or my three-fly. The first coin goes across on an offbeat to surprise them. The second one seems to be done under fire and I take my time with the presentation. And then I use a hard-hitting finale (I won't say what) for the last coin. I could streamline my method and get it down to two coins if I really wanted to, but I think the rule of three holds strongly here.

On the other hand, my coin through table is usually just two phases. The coin goes down through the table, then it comes back up through the table. Any more would feel wrong. They've got the idea, so why should I bother beating a dead horse?

On the other other hand, my variation of six-card repeat is actually four phases followed by a finale that leads into my next trick because I think the repetition itself is what makes that a strong routine, so I wanted that extra time.

The thing to remember is that one of the strongest things we can do in magic is to surprise our audience. If a routine becomes repetitive, it usually (with very few particular exceptions) loses that element of surprise, and the magic suffers as a result.
~Bob



----------



Last night, I dreamed I ate the world's largest marshmallow. When I woke up, the pillow was gone.
Dick Oslund
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Quote:
On May 19, 2017, mlippo wrote:
Quote:
On May 18, 2017, bogie wrote:
As far as an AMBITIOUS CARD routine I have always stopped at three but never knew of any rule of three. Thanks for the information!


I think that 4-5 phases is good. Not more. Followed (optional) by signed card to impossible location (wallet, mouth, pocket, card case ...)

Mark


"The exception proves the rule". (Cf. my comments about my breakaway fan, above.)
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Harry Lorayne
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I've been doing my Ambitious Card Routine - all over the world - just as I taught it in Close-Up Card Magic almost SIX DECADES ago. And - ready for this? - I never counted the "phases"! Not that it'd matter - I'm much more interested in entertainment value (the "value" that works for me) than in counting phases. If you want to count those phases - go to www.youtube.com/harrylorayneonvideo where you can see me performing the routine.
[email]harrylorayne@earthlink.net[/email]

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Doug Trouten
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Here's my suggestion. See how many phases it takes before your audience begins to lose interest, then do fewer phases than that.

I remember watching a noted card magician perform a truly lengthy ambitious card routine. The audience was with him for quite a while, but by the time the selected card magically made its way to the top of the deck for the 12th or 13th time, the audience's attention had begun to wander. This performer actually chewed out audience members for failing to give his efforts the attention he felt was deserved! I came away thinking that this performer was more interested in showing off his own card handling ability than in entertaining his audience.

I admire somebody who has learned dozens of ways to control a card, but I don't want to see all of them in the same performance.
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
Terry Pratchett
Harry Lorayne
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Obviously the point, Doug. That "point" is the entertainment value as I mentioned. So far as I'm concerned that's the point for any and all effects/routines you - or anyone - does. If, over the decades, I'd noticed even one - of the literally tens of thousands - show any sign of boredom, I would have changed/shortened the routine. So far...
[email]harrylorayne@earthlink.net[/email]

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Dick Oslund
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If anyone is entitled to "break the rule", it's Harry!

As I noted in my first post, 6 months ago, I, too "break the rule" with my very simple breakaway fan routine. I noted early this AM, that, "the exception proves the rule", and, Harry certainly is entitled and qualified!

Hakaput, whom I know through PMs, is/was wise to seek counseling from more experienced performers!

Would that more beginners (and some experts! --cf. Doug Trouten's example, above!) would follow Hakaput's example!!!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Doug Trouten
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In case any clarification is needed, Harry was NOT the noted magician in my story!
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
Terry Pratchett
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