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Topic: A bunch of beginner questions
Message: Posted by: jhudsy (Sep 23, 2009 06:20AM)
Hi All,

I've been lurking in the corner table at the magic Café for the last week or two, watching people coming in and out… Like many of the newcomers, I'm overwhelmed with where to start out. Since so much good advice has already been given, I'll try avoid asking questions that have already been asked ad infinitum (probably without much luck)...

So the short story. After being interested in magic since the age of 5, and dabbling a bit every few years, I've decided to get a little more serious and learn a few things. I'll probably end up performing in front of small groups of friends (and maybe some niece/nephew birthday parties when I've worked up some confidence), so for the moment, I'm trying to focus on cards, coins and elastic bands. Various nice things have been said about sponge on the boards, so I may also try move into that. Following what people have said, I've picked up RRTCM and Bobo's, and have a copy of Mark Wilson's book on my bookshelf. Now for the hard bit, the actual practice…

I've seen a number of study guides to coins and cards out there, and am trying to follow them religiously. However, most say ``do this until you are ready''. Is this a zen phrase? Will I know when I'm ready? I've tried practicing in front of a mirror, and in front of a video camera, but I can always catch myself out, and the moves (especially palms) look fake and unnatural. However, if I try a vanish on my wife (coin vanish rather than wife vanish to be pedantic), she'll say that it looks great. I feel that might just be an attempt to have me stop trying tricks out on her (she's not a big fan of magic). How do others deal with this type of problem? Should I try find/join a club?

My tricks, especially coin and rubber band tricks, currently feel very disjoint. CMH (which I think is one of the most powerful effects I've seen) takes all of 5-10 seconds to do, and even with a relink and elastic vanish, it'll all be over in under a minute. Ditto for coin vanishes. How does one link up a bunch of ``moves'' into a complete effect? I've seen a lot out there on ``routining'', but the way I read it, that seems to be more of how to combine sets of complete tricks into a cohesive act with patter etc. (A question on terminology: would you say a trick or effect is a set of moves; a set of tricks combines into a routine, and a set of routines into an act?)

Finally, any suggestions on how to work out when I'm ready to perform in front of others? As I've mentioned, I bounce small tricks off my wife, but when I even think of performing in front of someone else, I break out into a cold sweat, and am pretty sure that I'll fumble any sleight I attempt (self confidence isn't my strong-point, which is one reason I want to force myself to perform). I could try a self working trick such as Gemini twins, but it feels too obvious. What self workers have you seen that you'd consider good effects? Also, I dread the ``that was cool, do another one'' question. Approximately how many tricks did you know before you started showing them to people? I've seen messages saying that a handful of tricks are enough, but given that I could do all my rubber band tricks in under a minute, this doesn't seem to make sense.

Thanks for reading this far, looking forward to your answers...
Message: Posted by: Irfaan Kahan (Sep 23, 2009 06:51AM)
Hello JHudsy

1) If you're not performing professionally - then just go crazy and learn as many tricks as you like. Perform those tricks for your wife, and some colleagues and friends. You will know you're ready based on there reactions.

2) Join a club

3)To "link a bunch of moves into one effect" would mean you are creating your own effect. first, you need to know in your mind what the effect is. For example, someone picks a card - you lose it into the deck - then you find it in your shoe . . . See this effect in your mind - don't worry about methods just yet. Once you have a clear picture in your mind of exactly how you want this to look when you perform it, then you may start looking at the different sleights / moves and deceptions at your disposal which allow you to accomplish the effect as you saw it in your mind.

4) As far as putting an act together goes, there's a lot one can say. I'll try to mention a few basics:
- What type of magician are you? (Stage / close - up / mentalist / etc)
- What is your performing venue?
- How long is the act?
- Do you prefer a serious presentation, or funny, or what? What fits
your personality?
- Choose a small number of effects that you ENJOY, and that will help you
fill the time requirements.
- Select your opener and closer
- Write a presentation that you enjoy, and helps you to smoothly transition between effects.
- The presentation should include built - in mis-direction (if used)
- Now you almost have a routine.
- You need to detail the routine (body movement, angle to the audience, pauses, etc)
- Get some friends around and try the whole act.

Those are SOME of the basics. I'm sure that other's will list more.

5) Your nerves may be controlled - see http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=330852&forum=41&8

6) Gemini Twins is a fantastic trick. It is not obvious, trust me. Perform it smoothly, and with confidence and you will be fine.

7) I could probably perform my entire 45 minute stage set in about ten minutes (if I rush a little). You need to remember, that time is taken by your presentation. You need time to sell the conditions under which the effect will happen, time to enhance the final effect, and time to for the bits and pieces of your presentation in between. My Razor blade routine will take about 60 seconds to perform. But when I do it within my routine it takes just over 5 minutes!

8) Perform for colleagues, friends, family. You will get better with your confidence, and you will begin to learn how and why some things work better than others.

9) When asked to "do it again" - http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=331527&forum=41&12.

I hope I have been of some help

Regards
Irfaan
Message: Posted by: jhudsy (Sep 23, 2009 07:04AM)
Thanks Irfaan, incredibly useful answers!

Out of curiosity, are you based in Johannesburg? My fear of public performances stems from a bad encounter there many years ago...
Message: Posted by: Irfaan Kahan (Sep 23, 2009 07:06AM)
Yes I am! If you're in town, we should meet for a coffee
Message: Posted by: funsway (Sep 23, 2009 07:12AM)
Adding to IK's insights, stop doing 'tricks' and focus on 'effects'. The first is what comes in the box or the page of a book. In the words of Juan Tamariz they form the Skeleton. You must "flesh out" the Body of the effect by adding style, considerations of setting and audience bias, confidence over the mechanics, garn, character, patter/story. etc.

When will you be ready for "Presentation" -- anothe rlearning cycle? --
when you stop thinking of 'tricks' and 'fooling people' onto how to create an environment where magic can happen.
Message: Posted by: abc (Sep 23, 2009 08:43AM)
For what it is worth, I have been doing magic for many years and although I am performing a lot less now due to business pressures, I still do Gemini twins in my shows. It is one of my favorites. Don't underestimate self working effects.
Message: Posted by: jhudsy (Sep 23, 2009 09:42AM)
I hope my comment about Gemini twins were not seen as me trivializing it. I think the main problem is that at the moment, I don't have the patter to pull it off. I was once told an effect is 5% practice, 5% technique and 90% presentation; I'll have to get working on the 90%

Irfaan, unfortunately, I'm half a world away from Johannesburg these days, but if I'm visiting, I'll drop you a PM...
Message: Posted by: Ed_Millis (Sep 23, 2009 11:31AM)
I too wondered about "what is enough practice"? They all say "until you can do it in your sleep". But I had an epiphany about this the other day - I was going to work, had my mind totally elsewhere, come up to the gate, and my hand reached for my pass. It wasn't concious, I didn't think through every move of pulling the pass out of the holder and handing it over, I didn't worry about dropping it, my brain wasn't even on this planet! But the "move" went over just fine, because I've done it every day for several years. That is a practiced move!

If things are over too fast, then perhaps you simply need to slow down. Give the spectators a chance to absorb what they are seeing before you do something else. Will doing a move slower give it a more visual "melting" appeal? Is there an explanation of why you just did that or where you're going with all of this that can flesh out the routine? Can you involve a spectator in any way?

You might try taking some things with you any time you know you're going to wait. Pull out the elastics or cards in a waiting room or long line. You will soon know how entertaining you are! And if you're "just practicing", then you don't necessarily need to have "just one more" to show.

Just a few thoughts.
Ed
Message: Posted by: Mr. Mystoffelees (Sep 23, 2009 05:59PM)
Well said Ed! Here is something else on the practice front for thinking on:

How much time did you spend at that gate? An Hour? Half hour? Yet I have heard people talk about how they practice for 2 hours an evening.

Not saying that is bad, but if you only have 5 minutes, USE IT. That small amount of time, over a long period, is probably better than a lot of time over a short period. For one thing, when you practice past your attention span, you start to do it (practice it) wrong! Thus, you are getting worse!

Just for some thought...
Message: Posted by: othelo68 (Sep 23, 2009 10:01PM)
I like to practice whenever I'm sitting around doing nothing. watching tv, waiting for my wife, ect. its easy to take a few coins or a deck of cards with you. If your worried about performing for people try toast masters there are clubs in most place and they work great for developing your ability to relax and perform for and audience. granted they are not about magic but about giving speeches but they don't care what you talk about as longs as you give a speech or try doing tricks for people at bars, half the time they are pretty drunk and are willing to be entertained, be careful with this one not everyone is a nice drunk. I had to pick up drunk people at the bars this past weekend as part of some volunteer work so I made them listen to my routine for the cost of the ride
Message: Posted by: solrak29 (Sep 24, 2009 09:32AM)
[quote]
On 2009-09-23 07:20, jhudsy wrote:
I'm overwhelmed with where to start out....

I'm trying to focus on cards, coins and elastic bands. Various nice things have been said about sponge on the boards, so I may also try move into that. Following what people have said, I've picked up RRTCM and Bobo's, and have a copy of Mark Wilson's book on my bookshelf.
[/quote]

RR, Bobo's, and MW is a good start for everything you want to do. Just don't try
to learn it all in one day. This is easier said than done. Don't underestimate MW's stuff.

[quote]
I'll probably end up performing in front of small groups of friends (and maybe some niece/nephew birthday parties when I've worked up some confidence), so for the moment...
[/quote]

You headed in the right direciton, but birthday parties (unless your just doing strolling for fun) is a different ball game. See the "Little Darlings" section.

[quote]
I've seen a number of study guides to coins and cards out there, and am trying to follow them religiously. However, most say ``do this until you are ready''. Is this a zen phrase? Will I know when I'm ready?
[/quote]

You have to remember that magic is a performance art, so even when you think your ready you may not be ready without performing. Hope that makes sense...

[quote]
I've tried practicing in front of a mirror, and in front of a video camera, but I can always catch myself out, and the moves (especially palms) look fake and unnatural.
[/quote]

Keep practicing until you are satisfied, then perform it to someone other than your wife.

[quote]
However, if I try a vanish on my wife (coin vanish rather than wife vanish to be pedantic), she'll say that it looks great. I feel that might just be an attempt to have me stop trying tricks out on her (she's not a big fan of magic). How do others deal with this type of problem? Should I try find/join a club?
[/quote]

Stop performing to your wife so much, as you may be right. The people closest to us (even strangers) tend to be nice so even if they are not impressed they may not tell you. It all comes with the territory, spare your wife :) Yes, join a club.

[quote]
My tricks, especially coin and rubber band tricks, currently feel very disjoint. CMH (which I think is one of the most powerful effects I've seen) takes all of 5-10 seconds to do, and even with a relink and elastic vanish, it'll all be over in under a minute. Ditto for coin vanishes. How does one link up a bunch of ``moves'' into a complete effect?
[/quote]

This is routining which will come with time. Keep watching others perform and read
books on performing. One thing I do with some of the vids is just watch the performance and understand the routining. First master your single routines and get
some performance experience. By that time you will understand the rest.

[quote]
I've seen a lot out there on ``routining'', but the way I read it, that seems to be more of how to combine sets of complete tricks into a cohesive act with patter etc. (A question on terminology: would you say a trick or effect is a set of moves; a set of tricks combines into a routine, and a set of routines into an act?)
[/quote]

I call it effects, yet lay people will call it tricks.

[quote]
Finally, any suggestions on how to work out when I'm ready to perform in front of others?
[/quote]

I believe some people will say practice until its like second nature, but all that goes out the door if you don't have performance experience. If you are that nervous you have to learn to break through that wall. There are tons of books on that and I believe Toastmasters (mentioned above) would help tremendously. Here is good book I can recomend: "Win the Crowd" by Steve Cohen. Plus, you were given a pretty good link above.

[quote]
I could try a self working trick such as Gemini twins, but it feels too obvious. What self workers have you seen that you'd consider good effects? Also, I dread the ``that was cool, do another one'' question. Approximately how many tricks did you know before you started showing them to people?
[/quote]

I wouldn't worry about this at this point, you will discover this once your start performing. If you are performing regularly and still have this quesiton in mind..then come back to this thread...

I hope this helps...
Message: Posted by: MagicHandsJeremyTan (Sep 24, 2009 11:40AM)
Hi guys, I think this will help a lot~!!! I took years to figure all these! but Brad Burt said it all~!!!

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=317392&forum=41
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Sep 24, 2009 04:36PM)
I'll make a suggestion that many may disagree with.
When you new at magic doing your first set of 'tricks' for family and friend, don't claim to be a magician. Don't say, "Want to see some magic?" Call it a 'trick'.
This takes some heat off if you get caught out just say, "Hey, it's a trick!"

I think coins, cards and elastic band are good choices. Learn a couple of tricks with those. Not many and not those that involve a lot of sleights. Keep it simple for now and focus on how you might present them.

Routines are found in many books and on videos.
There are a few fairly easy ones in 'Modern Coin Magic' and Lorayne's work such as 'Close Up Card Magic'.

If you use common coins, can do a couple of decent card tricks with a borrowed deck and with things like pens, finger rings and other commonly available stuff then you will slowly build some prestige and your audiences will slowly honor you with the title 'Magician'.

Take it slow, keep it simple and focus on a couple of tricks and routines at a time. When you think your ready give one trick a try. Later try another trick on them. Then maybe do a 15 minute show of a couple of tricks.
Build slowly and be entertaining.

Good luck,
Jaz
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Sep 28, 2009 02:30PM)
Advice I have read on the Café that was really useful was to find a friend who will be your try-out audience. Perhaps offer to buy him a beer in exchange for his input on your tricks.

Now, to use the magic buddy, don't just show him a few tricks and ask what he thinks. You are looking for help, here! Ask him to watch what you are doing and see if you are giving anything away. Tell him to make note of any sneaky looking moves or anything that really doesn't make sense. Have him tell you everything you did that drew attention when you are done with the trick.

If you have a friend who is being paid (a beer) to help you, he'll spot the places where you messed up or flashed. He'll know the point is to give diagnostic feedback. He'll also know that when you are done with the tricks you want help with you won't pester him with magic anymore. Plan to have him look at three or at most four tricks in a session. Write down what he says. Practice to clean up those parts of your trick.

And work on the routine that gives the trick some interest. One guy can say "pick a card, put it in the deck, here's your card, I'm so smart, your'e an idiot." And nobody really likes it. Another guy does the same exact moves and people are all over him like he's a miracle worker. Why? Presentation.

-Patrick
Message: Posted by: jhudsy (Sep 30, 2009 08:47AM)
Hi all,

I just wanted to say thanks for all the great advice, particularly about the ``magic buddy''... I feel I've been making great strides in the last week, and have the start of a routine, any comments/ideas would be welcome:

1) Topsy Turvy cards
2) Telepathy plus
3) (I don't know the name of this one, I show the spectator 4 aces, hide them, and then get them into a pile, with 3 other piles on the table, I roll a die, and have it identify the pile I need to pick up, which holds the aces).
4) I then say ``let me show you how it was done'', and move onto a poker player's picnic
5) Given that I've still got the 4 aces in my hand, I do a color changing aces routine
6) Design for laughter
7) Ambitious card

I've tried avoiding too many ``pick a card, any card'' type tricks, and have tried going for a nice mix of effects. One question: How do you typically shift between cards and some other medium (e.g. coins, sponges or rubber bands). Do you say ``hold on one second'', put the cards away and pull something else out? Or do you use something like a coin production from the cards?

Thanks for all the advice so far. Now if only I could get my hands bigger so that palming cards would come more easily...

Jhudsy
Message: Posted by: olaf911 (Sep 30, 2009 09:44AM)
For me I use cards as a tool for explaining something else. Presto-Printo e. g. becomes "Copy Cardboards". The good old Chicago Opener becomes some replacement/successor for taking finger prints. ACR tells a story about a baker and his apprentices. And so on. I never use cards for card tricks ("Pick a card. I lose it. I find it."), because I feel (for myself!!!) that people are not very engaged by "pure" card tricks. But if I use them as a means to demonstrate some principle the tricks might become interesting, depending on the story, of course.

Maybe this is true because I am myself not very interested in "pure" card tricks, and this state of mind transfers to the audience. Using the same tricks in a non-card context however can make these tricks fascinating. But maybe that is just me.

Did all that make any sense? :fruity:
Message: Posted by: Johnny Butterfield (Sep 30, 2009 11:36PM)
[quote]
How do you typically shift between cards and some other medium (e.g. coins, sponges or rubber bands). Do you say ``hold on one second'', put the cards away and pull something else out? Or do you use something like a coin production from the cards?
[/quote]

Nothing wrong with putting the cards back in your pocket and bringing the next prop out. I think the patter could be stronger than 'hold on' - even something as simple as "if you liked that, you're going to love this," or "you should have seen your eyes when that card turned into your six of hearts" or a joke if you have one that hits the right note. Say that this next one you saw as a kid, and this got you into magic. Or ask them if they want to see a miracle, an honest to goodness defiance of natural law using only these rubber bands.

A decent bit of patter that works for you will cover this kind of thing nicely.
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Oct 1, 2009 02:55PM)
[quote]How do you typically shift between cards and some other medium? [/quote]

I personally like to find tricks I can segue into.
There are card and dollar bill effects that use elastic bands.
You could do a 'Picking Off the Pip' effect and produce a sponge ball.
Ring and string can lead into a ring flight and then Wilson's 'Florida Keys'.

Seek and you can find.
Message: Posted by: The Big Q (Oct 3, 2009 09:40PM)
I think most of this question has been answered - but I just want to add to Ifraan's first post - try EVERYTHING - I concentrated on card tricks for years and didn't discover the nature affinity I had with sponge and rope tricks until I was almost 40! I wish I'd branched out earlier, you simply don't know your specialty until you try!
Message: Posted by: ottphd (Oct 20, 2009 06:31AM)
I think Jaz hit the nail on the head. Take it slow and learn a few tricks well!!!
Practice until you can do the trick with out thinking. Once you perform for someone with a great response, you will increase your confidence. Practice and enjoy, that's what its all about!
Message: Posted by: ScHeRzO (Oct 20, 2009 09:52AM)
Build a Character, that is very important. A character that has it own personality. That is a huge resourse of creativity.

Scherzo
Message: Posted by: DN777 (Oct 21, 2009 02:44PM)
Go find some people who will really burn your hands like some high school kids or some drunken bar patrons. This will force you to develop the character / personality needed to create the necessary emotional involvement that natural misdirection requires.

Go on stage and don't be afraid to fail. Plan to fail, have some stock lines at the ready and also some comedy bits. You can always rely on comedy as an out as long as you don't take yourself too seriously!
Message: Posted by: The Futurist (Oct 27, 2009 09:02AM)
Thanks to all for your valuable advice. There is some great food for thought in this thread. I myself am extremely new to the serious practice of magic and am at the stage of occasionally venturing out to bug my friends with the odd trick :)

As a musician who used to perform a fair bit, I never got stagefright and was insanely confident. I never thought of 'practising' my instruments though, but just [i]playing[/i] them. So I'm reframing the drills and sleights of magic in the same way. Playing around with a deck of cards, with a thumb tip or a couple of coins... I get the mirror out and just have fun with it. And I don't dwell on any one thing to the point of irritability and exhaustion. I pick things up, put them down, mess about... It was just last night actually that things really began to click for me as a 'bedroom mirror magician' I was really getting 'into the flow'. I hope to be able to get back into that flow again soon. So maybe it is kind of like a Zen thing, Jhudsy. Or in other words, a nice, easy unconscious familiarity and facility with your moves and general approach.

I am also finding having outs and fallbacks to be good, eg) I got myself an Invisible Deck recently like most newbie magicians probably do. Knowing that it is on my person, as a backup in case any of my well-laid card plans go awry, gives a nice sense of security.
Message: Posted by: ico (Oct 27, 2009 09:32AM)
Magician audience's attitude is a bit different from that of a classical pianist - they will me much more critical.
Message: Posted by: Ruldar (Oct 27, 2009 06:49PM)
Good advice guys. Thanks!
Message: Posted by: jhudsy (Oct 28, 2009 05:12AM)
Hi,

Echoing the last few messages, I'd like to thank everyone who answered my original question in such detail. I've now been playing around with cards, coins, ropes, sponges and cups and balls (and IT and a TT to a lesser extent), and am having the time of my life.
Message: Posted by: The Futurist (Oct 29, 2009 03:00PM)
[quote]
And work on the routine that gives the trick some interest. One guy can say "pick a card, put it in the deck, here's your card, I'm so smart, your'e an idiot." And nobody really likes it. Another guy does the same exact moves and people are all over him like he's a miracle worker. Why? Presentation.

-Patrick
[/quote]

I'm really thinking about this aspect myself a lot... I like, for example, the approach to performing mentalism that flatters the spectator and makes them feel like [i]they[/i] have some weird ability that the mentalist helped bring out; essentially, the mentalist as facilitator and not so much the "I'm so smart" guy. One of my recent acquisitions was Robert Smith's Universal Impression, and I love his card presentation on the DVD where the two girls hug each other at the end, they're so delighted with the effect.
Message: Posted by: base851 (Oct 29, 2009 11:20PM)
[quote]
On 2009-10-27 10:02, The Futurist wrote:
As a musician who used to perform a fair bit, I never got stagefright and was insanely confident. I never thought of 'practising' my instruments though, but just [i]playing[/i] them.[/quote]

I believe that's called "Jazz". Jazz magic... I like the sound of that...
Message: Posted by: The Futurist (Oct 30, 2009 04:44AM)
[quote]
On 2009-10-30 00:20, base851 wrote:
[quote]
On 2009-10-27 10:02, The Futurist wrote:
As a musician who used to perform a fair bit, I never got stagefright and was insanely confident. I never thought of 'practising' my instruments though, but just [i]playing[/i] them.[/quote]

I believe that's called "Jazz". Jazz magic... I like the sound of that...
[/quote]

In Simon Aronson's free PDF: http://www.simonaronson.com/Memories%20Are%20Made%20of%20This.pdf he briefly touches upon this possibility of improvised magic with a memorised deck. I hope to be good enough one day to 'jam' like that!

I recall, about 15 years ago, at university, I did actually invent a card trick on the spur of the moment that really impressed my flatmates :) I had dipped my index finger in the ashtray, and I surreptitiously brushed the chosen card as it went back in the fan, leaving a mark on the face. That was well cool, although my reveal could have been more dramatic...