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gdw
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. . . or are most cups and balls routines just way too long?

Now I have never been one who thinks the trick is all about getting to the final loads. I have always felt that the journey to said loads should be as magical and entertaining as possible. Enough so that the magic prior to the final loads would stand as its own effect without the final loads. Of course finding a way to end such a routine without final loads would be a challenge.

Any who. The main topic here is length. I have always had a hard time constructing C&B routines of my own for this very reason. There is so much you can do with the C&B's that it's hard to narrow it all down to just what you will put in your own routine.

That being said, there is also only so much you can do with C&B's. Am I making sense yet, lol?

There are seemingly so many things that can be done, but if you watch most routine, shortly before the final loads, the audience is just not reacting the same. They seem to feel like they're thinking "ok, we get it, the balls do magical things."

Of course they are still impressed, and "fooled," but you can feel when they are reacting, and applauding, only because they recognize the "applause" moments.

Now, I just thought of something, and I want to clarify, I guess. It is not so much an actual "time/length" thing, as anyone who's watched a busker, like Gazzo, or Nick Nicholas do the C&B's, they can make the whole routine last for half of their show, if not more. However, most of this time is spent on entertainment, and not all the different "tricks" that the C&B's do. If you took the "routine" Gazzo uses down to just the magic, it could be done in 30 seconds, but it would be boring, and feel too short.

Then, you can take a routine that your "average" magician does, and it will last 5 minutes, and feel repetitive.

I almost hate to say it, but most of these routines are based off of Vernon's routine.

For me, as far as making the most of the magic, and not being too long, the almost perfect (formal) routine is Ammar's. The only phase that I would add would be the gathering of all three balls under one cup.

Though I've never heard Ammar on the topic, and he may have a reason for not having such phase in his routine, among many other phases that he could have included, but the above is just MHO.

As far as what can be done with C&B's, in a more "traditional" type routine, I would list the following. These are mainly off the top of my head, and are in no way meant to be a definitive or limited list.

Producing the balls.

Magically, ala Ammar, or just presenting them, ala Vernon, there are many ways to go about this. Another popular way is starting with one, a bit of magic with it, then producing all three. This is what I personally prefer, at least at the current time in my magical life.

Balls vanish, and reappear under cups

Usually done vanishing each ball individually, then showing they all reappear under their respective cups.

Ball(s) move to chosen cup(s)

This would be the second "magical" bit in Vernon's routine, if I recall correctly. Where he puts one ball under each cup, and then has a spectator pick a cup, and then either (depending on which cup, crafty old bugger that he was) made the ball vanish from the chosen cup, ad move to a second cup, or, made the ball from another cup vanish andjoin the ball under the chosen cup. This is usually repeated with the ball joining the ball under the third un-chosen cup.

Penetration phase.

Where the balls penetrate the stacked cups one at a time. Ironically, this was always what blew me away when I was a kid watching cups and balls. I say ironically as it is one phase that I seemed intent on NOT including in my own routines when ever I worked on one.

Balls gather under one cup.

One ball placed under each cup, and they all gather under one (usually the middle) cup.

Balls are put away, and repeatedly reappear.

The balls are put in the pocket so as to make things simpler, only to reappear under their respective cups when they are lifted. Often this is done as an expository phase, explaining the false transfer, then falsely explaining the kicking of the ball back under the cup as it is lifted. Again, ala Vernon. This phase is often ended by all three balls again reappearing under one cup. This phase is also usually the cover for loading the final loads.

Final loads.

The cups are lifted to reveal the final loads.


Though many amateurs will try to cram these all into one routine, by the time the balls are returning from the pockets, the audience is in the "auto-react" mode, where they are reacting more because they know they are supposed to react, but they all knew what was going to happen.

Of course, this does "set them up" to be taken by surprise by the final loads, but there is no need to bore them to do that. Much like there is no need for this post to be so long to say what I am saying, but oh well.

As far as the "length"of a C&B routine, I believe you should be aiming for the following right before the final loads.

You want the audience to be still very interested, but just starting to wonder "what else could he possibly do?" NOT "what else is LEFT for him (or her) to do?"

It is the difference between not being able to think of anything more magical than what you have already seen, thus being at a loss for what other magic you could do, and feeling like you've already seen it all with these props.

Not knowing what is next, and not caring what is next.

These two can seem very similar, and are often just one or two magical "effects" apart.

A person in the desired state of not knowing what you could do next, but wanting to find out will easily be put into the not caring state as soon as you do anything else with the little balls and the cups. Unless it is something truly unexpected. Lateral thinking. The ball appears in your mouth rather then a cup.

Either you need your routine to really progress to something new, like the ball to mouth, or some other unexpected idea, or reveal the final loads.

Most routines are structured so that come this point, you HAVE to do more with the little balls and cups before you're even ready to reveal the final loads.

I will use the repeat penetration of the three balls to illustrate/beat this dead horse some more.

The cups are stacked, and a ball placed between two of them, magic "moment," and the cups are lifted to show the ball has passed through the cups.

The audience is baffled. They want to see it again. The magician obliges.

The audience is still baffled. To bring the tension to an appropriate climax, the magician does the exact same thing again.

The audience is less baffled, but still fooled, and slightly frustrated.

When selling a magic kit to a kid, you can use this phase alone as the entire routine, one, as it is amazing, and two, it will be easy for the kid to do when they get home.

However, there is no progression, only repetition. Some magicians attempt to "build" the routine by using different techniques for the "vanishing" of the ball between the cups. Though this can help build it a but, it is the same effect three times with no climax.

Throw this into the middle of a larger routine, and it will feel even more repetitive.

In the structure of a larger routine, a single penetration through stacked cups can be sufficient, particularly if it is part of a larger progression. ie, a ball moves from one cup on the table to another cup on the table, then the cups are stacked, and the cup penetrates, then it is repeated, but with just one cup, ala Charlie Miller's contribution.

Suddenly three different "effects" often done in three different phases in a C&B routine, are now all included, but in just one phase.

That's not to say you should eliminate all repetition, or condense the routine into a series of single moves. However, I personally feel that it is a way of thinking that many C&B routines could benefit from.

Review your own routine, preferably view taped live performance, and just try to feel it. Feel the audience's vibe. You'll feel the genuine astonishment change to obligatory applause.

It becomes hard, but you have to start looking at what "feels" repetitive to an audience. You can only show the balls under the cups so many times, and so many ways, before it all feels the same.

There will be phases you love that may need to be dropped, or even and effect that you DON'T like that will fill the gap left perfectly. This doesn't mean these changes need to be made, just that you are seeing how to make the routine flow. Take the ideas behind that, and try to re-work it so that the phase that "fits" is the phase you "love."

If anyone is still reading, I'll leave you with an example from one of my own C&B routines.

I started with one ball, that turned into three, then would go into the three balls gathering under one cup, then eliminate balls, and cups, do a brief one cup sequence then bring the cups back and finish with the loads.

Though described rather briefly, the routine often felt too long. Part of this was actually due to an over complication of slights in my original handling. After simplifying the handling, but maintaining the same basic structure, I felt a weakness. Several actually.

After I revealed all three balls, it was presented as the moment the effect really began. However, I only did one effect with all three balls before getting rid of them. It felt like, what was the point of introducing them just for one effect in the routine.

I could have added the one by one vanishing, then reappearance of the balls, but that ended up being too much. I never cared for the "ball to chosen cup" phase from Vernon's routine as I found it repetative.

I also found that it fealt abrupt to jump down to one cup and one ball.
The elimination of cups and balls, down to a single cup was inspired by watching Ammar do his routine on WGM. However, I did not do a two cup phase.

Though my routine was missing something, the two seemingly appropriate phases weren't fitting. Also, this meant I was missing out on some nice magic moments that come from one ball going from one cup to another, as in both of the aforementioned phases.

The other phase I could have used would have been the penetration phase. I have already gone over my thoughts on this phase.

Notice that the first two options were similar. The Ammar and Vernon phases. Essentially magic happening between the balls and two cups. Though both presented differently, and both at different points in the routine.

This started to open the door to a possible solution.

I could do a "two cup phase" but I did not want it to be part of the elimination of cups and balls phase. Largely because I did not want my routine to be a clone of Ammar's.

So, where did I put the phase? Well, I also wanted anything done after the three balls were presented to build to the three balls under one cup as a natural climax to effects with all balls and cups.

The natural solution was to do a "two" cup bit after the three balls were shown. However, to present it AS a "two" cup phase would not feel right after having just introduced all three balls for all three cups.

This isn't so hard, considering you just don't present it as such. Seems simple.

I did not want to do just the Vernon phase mentioned either. The "solution" was ironically the inclusion of the penetration phase. Or at least a single penetration.

That is, the balls are placed under the cups, set up the same as Vernon's phase. The center ball "vanishes" to appear under one side cup. Then instead of repeating, you take the ball and place it on top of the other side cup, stack the middle cup on top, and do a single penetration.

Certainly I am not the first to do this, but the thought process was what I wanted to discuss I guess. Oh, in case anyone is interested, "solving" the abrupt drop to one cup came from a brief byplay during the elimination of balls.

I have also toyed with the same magic moments of this "two cup" phase being done before all three balls are even shown, making it part of the one ball, three
cups phase at the start, but the abruptness of the presence of all three balls remains in this case.



Well, I highly doubt anyone will actually read all of that. Sorry for the long winded post. I tend to ramble and just write my whole thought process once I get going.

Gist of it was I find most C&B routines too long and I suggest looking for things that, in the audiences eyes are repetitious. Not just penetrating all three balls through the stacked cups, but getting to the end and still making the balls appear under the cups just because you still have to load your final productions.

What's everyone else think on this?
It's amazing, people will criticize you for "biting the hand that feeds you," while they're busy praising the hand that beats them.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

I won't forget you Robert.
Glenn Watson
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"Magic is like a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. "
If the cheese is still all hot and melty.I strongly agree.
Zack Smith
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GDW, they may seem very long to you and me because we know the extent that this routine can go. Like you said there are only so many moves and effects which can happen. I think that to a lay person these routines are great, in fact, they kill. These are people that have probably never seen this before, so the 3, 5, or even 7 minute routine is SO new and unexpected. For example, Ricky Jay has a GREAT routine where he discusses the history of magic. It is a long routine, but to a layperson it seems that everytime he does something it is more magical and different than before. What do you think?
Father Photius
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I would agree that I have seen some routines that ran way too long with too much repetition. There seems to be a lot of attempt to combine two or three good routines from other magicians into one routine.

A lot has to do with how it is presented. Johnny Thompson does his with a bit of history and differing impressions of past magicians that keeps it interesting.

Another problem seems to be people try to keep doing the same old thing with cups and balls. Everybody is into some sort of "final load" for an ending, sometimes they get carried away with the final "loads" and do way too many.

Yet, I've seen some inventive routines, some very good ones shown at last WMS.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
gdw
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Quote:
On 2009-06-15 23:23, Zack Smith wrote:
GDW, they may seem very long to you and me because we know the extent that this routine can go. Like you said there are only so many moves and effects which can happen. I think that to a lay person these routines are great, in fact, they kill. These are people that have probably never seen this before, so the 3, 5, or even 7 minute routine is SO new and unexpected. For example, Ricky Jay has a GREAT routine where he discusses the history of magic. It is a long routine, but to a layperson it seems that everytime he does something it is more magical and different than before. What do you think?


I would have to disagree, as I have found it to be the exact opposite. Though, the more routines I watch, yes, the more I am bored as I am seeing the same thing over and over, but that is something I find with ANY effect/routine I've seen numerous people do.

So, that never came into my consideration with regards to this. This was all formulated while performing my own routines over the years, and observing the audiences attention.

This was further emphasized watching others perform, and listening to their audiences. You will distinctly feel the change I refer to in the audiences reactions when watching most magicians' C&B routines.

As for someone like Ricky Jay, there is always an exception to the rule. Also, again note when I elaborated on what I meant by "too long" with Gazzo as an example. A routine that can be drawn out to 15 minutes easily, but is always entertaining. This has less to do with C&Bs than it does with presentation.

With Ricky Jay, also, he has a very distinct demographic with his performances. His act is very intellectually presented. The history angle, or the impersonation/history presentation, ala Thompson, can allow for a much longer, time wise, routine, but still an entertaining and progressive (as far as routine structure, not human rights, etc) routine.

You can still make your routine last a long TIME but it wont FEEL long to the audience if they are constantly engaged and surprised.

BUT you can also make 3 minutes drag on and feel like you've been doing the same thing for the last 2 of those minutes and bore an audience, only to wake them bake up with your final loads.
It's amazing, people will criticize you for "biting the hand that feeds you," while they're busy praising the hand that beats them.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

I won't forget you Robert.
Ethan Orr
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I agree that it often has more to do with the presentation and the individual magician than with the length or routine quality. Some magicians are entertainers, some are just technicians.

This is a problem I've found with certain new and inventive routines--while technically they are very interesting and groundbreaking, the presentation lacks and isn't very captivating. Just because it's "new" doesn't mean it's automatically great magic.

Then on the other hand, there are people just regurgitating the same old Vernon/Ammar variations, with the same patter and presentation that you could practically mouth along with, and this is tired and boring, and not good magic either.

This is a problem in all the arts. There's simply a lot of uninspired, mediocre work going on out there. In the end it's the magician's problem and not the routine itself. I think a mediocre magician could take the Vernon routine and make it seem old hat and mediocre; a great magician could take it and find himself in it and make it fresh and compelling--like a great musician covering a classic.

There, I said it.Smile
Tom Bartlett
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As a magic hobbyist, I’ve always like Tommy Wonders approach to magic, as in his cups and balls routine. He tried not to repeat any vanish or move during any of his routines. If you live by that rule, your routines will not be too long or tiresome.

I will also say a comedy magic routine can be longer and still be immensely entertaining, but only because of the patter not more magic moves. But it is after all just one of many ways of doing magic, and your audience is the best judge of what works, they will let you know if you listen.
Our friends don't have to agree with me about everything and some that I hold very dear don't have to agree about anything, except where we are going to meet them for dinner.
kentfgunn
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GDW,

Do you have any footage of your routine you'd like to share. After reading your entire first post I figure you owe me a demonstration of your routine!

We all need to work out our own solutions and worry less about what others have done or are doing.
cupsandballsmagic
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The cups and balls (IMHO) only feels too long when we perform for ourselves and not for the audience.
funsway
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By using alternative type Cups and objects other than Balls, and not telling the audience you are going to do the 'ancient cups and balls', you may find their attention and interest may be different. Neither do you Cups have to look the same, or be stackable. -- try a goblet, bowl and coffee cup or something. I explored these ideas over the years and finally wrote "Ball, Cup & Me", and am now braking up the informaton into dozens of ShareBooks focusing on different approaches. All available to serious performers at No Charge. Think outside of the Cup. You can do a great routine at the breakfast bar with a coffee mug and some of those jelly packets.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

eBooks at https://www.lybrary.com/ken-muller-m-579928.html questions at ken@eversway.com
gdw
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Quote:
On 2009-06-16 01:08, kentfgunn wrote:
GDW,

Do you have any footage of your routine you'd like to share. After reading your entire first post I figure you owe me a demonstration of your routine!

We all need to work out our own solutions and worry less about what others have done or are doing.


Not at the moment. Though I am planning on filming it soon, but I am not sure how many people I want to show it too.
It's amazing, people will criticize you for "biting the hand that feeds you," while they're busy praising the hand that beats them.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

I won't forget you Robert.
fortasse
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There's some interesting history on these marathon C&B routines that gdw is talking about. I think it was the late John Mulholland who researched it and brought it to light in an article he wrote for one of the magic periodicals many years back. C&B routines tended to be lengthy and repetitive for one simple reason : they were designed primarily for outdoor buskers who would have to entertain a constantly changing group of spectators for hours on end. Thus, the variations on a common theme that gdw is talking. The point, then, is that when you read the old routines that laid the groundwork and provided the creative spark for many of the contemporary C&B work, you have to remember that they were never really intended to be performed all at once for a captive audience. Rather, they were intended to provide a repertoire for a full day's work out on the streets for the entertainment of passersby some of whom would linger longer than others........couldn't keep doing the same thing over and over ad nauseam; had to mix it up a bit to keep things going.

Fortasse
Alan Munro
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There's a reason that Don Alan got right to the loads. From what I understand, Don liked Charlie Miller's routine, but Don's wife thought it dragged on too long. So...he came up with a short routine.
Bill Palmer
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The key to an effective cups and balls routine is knowing what to leave out.

The routine that Guyot published was 27 phases long. That's way too long.

You don't need to show the audience everything you can do with the cups and balls. Show them what is effective. Then stop.

And it doesn't matter what cups you use. If your cups fit your style and your hands, and you like them, then use them. You don't need to use a "different" cup to get away from the "ancient cups and balls trick." If you can sell the trick the way you do it, then go for it.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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fortasse
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Amen.......and Amen.
Pete Biro
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Once again, I always say, "It's not the trick." One person can knock 'em dead with a short routine, like Don Alan, another with a lengthier (note: I didn't say LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG) presentation. If they are a bore NOTHING WORKS.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
funsway
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Quote:
On 2009-06-16 15:58, Bill Palmer wrote:
If you can sell the trick the way you do it, then go for it.


Perhaps that is the key element. If you do not find your routine exciting, why should the audience? If you love it, why change? There is tremendous value in a well practiced routine that is entirely new to your audience. If one is called to "do their own thing" then adding a new sleight or story line can work as well as finding different props. If you do wish a physical chnage then visit Bill's Museum for inspiration. "Found Cups" might be just the thing to fit your personal 'comfort zone'.

"Stacking" isnot an important sleight for me in doing Traditonal C&B Routines, but I was pleased to find this set last week.

http://i563.photobucket.com/albums/ss76/funsway/008.jpg
http://i563.photobucket.com/albums/ss76/funsway/009.jpg

the handles allow for many additional sleights and when stacked can hold a 3/4 capcity load. I even have a fourth cup in case I want to swap in a fully loaded cup at the end. Still not sure if I want to polish them.

My favorite Found Cups are:

http://i563.photobucket.com/albums/ss76/funsway/010.jpg

these will stack three sponge balls and are wonderful for flash and flip. With both sets it is important for me to be able to toss and spin the cups and have them always land mouth up. The conical shape also allows for a "Cone-Ball" Routine.

With both, I am reworking by basic routine since I can no longer execute a Steal with my little finger.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

eBooks at https://www.lybrary.com/ken-muller-m-579928.html questions at ken@eversway.com
konjurer
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I tend to agree with GDW. The are a lot of exceptions such as the Tommy Wonder routine, but so many routines have way too many sequences that are basically the Vernon routine on speed.

My problem as a spectator is that I sometimes lose track of what's happening. If I lose track of where the balls are then the effect is nullified. If I can lose track then some laypeople will also lose track of what is happening. Then it just becomes an exercise in balls popping to a fro.

I think long routines can be effective if the routine is motivated with good patter (such as the Ricky Jay routine and Kent's Fun Shop) or the timing is perfect and the sequences are incredibly magical (Wonder).

Someone once stated that card manipulation is just "disembodied effects." I don't completely agree but it can certainly be true and it also applies to many disembodied C&B sequences.
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Joshua Barrett
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Quote:
On 2009-06-16 05:42, funsway wrote:
By using alternative type Cups and objects other than Balls, and not telling the audience you are going to do the 'ancient cups and balls', you may find their attention and interest may be different. Neither do you Cups have to look the same, or be stackable. -- try a goblet, bowl and coffee cup or something. I explored these ideas over the years and finally wrote "Ball, Cup & Me", and am now braking up the informaton into dozens of ShareBooks focusing on different approaches. All available to serious performers at No Charge. Think outside of the Cup. You can do a great routine at the breakfast bar with a coffee mug and some of those jelly packets.


I never seen a cups and balls routine until I started magishing years ago.
therefore the props involved had no effect on interest. I find this true to most people.
mumford
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Less is more.
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