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Hi All,

I am not looking for a list of effects, because no one knows me as well as I do Smile and so it would be nigh impossible for any to suggest suitable effects for me.

I'm more interested in the type of questions you ask yourself when beginning to outline a new set/routine. Who do you consider when asking these questions, yourself or the audience? Do you incorporate different routes through the routine to accomodate different audience profiles? How much does your current skill level influence your thought processes?

All thoughts gratefully received.

PS. Not sure if this is the right forum for this question.


Your Reality Is A Figment Of My Imagination
Philemon Vanderbeck
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One of the most important lessons I ever learned from a professional was: "Each and every audience is a different animal."

What will play for one type of audience, will fall flat for another. And even if you're performing in the same location on a recurring basis, each audience will respond to your material in different ways.

Thus many professionals have 'test lines' that they use to see what kind of audience they're performing for. I recommend that you do the same... the trouble is, I cannot tell you what 'test lines' you should use; it is dependent on your persona and the material you are using. But by practicing through performing, you'll learn which lines to use that will help you to gauge your audience and adjust your routine accordingly.

You won't necessarily have to have completely different routines scripted out, but often it's your presentation of a particular effect that you will change to suit the audience. For some audiences you'll explain the set-up a little more carefully, for others you'll spend less time on the magic, and more on the interaction with the volunteers, and on still others, you'll just try to get through your show as fast as possible!

That being said, when it comes time to create the basic routine itself, I often like to find some sort of 'theme' (or
'message' that I wish to convey) and plan my effects accordingly. For example, I do an entire routine of different effects with locks, using them as a metaphor for the symbolic 'locks' or obstacles we all face throughout life.

Right now, I'm working on developing a routine all focusing on rapid calculation stunts (magic squares, square roots, etc.) and trying to keep it entertaining!

So develop a routine that will be a comfortable part of you and the message you wish to get across. And above all, have fun!
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
That Creepy Magician
"I use my sixth sense to create the illusion of possessing the other five."
David Fogel
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For help in this area, get a copy of the book "Magic and Showmanship" by Henning Nelms. It's a fairly cheep paperback, by Dover publishing. It's worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.

"I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there, Please save me Superman!"

Homer J. Simpson
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What is the venue you will be performing in? What is the age group? Adults? Children? How long a set do you want to put together? Smile Smile
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Many thanks and the book is now sourced and ordered.

Many thanks -- The 'test lines' is a cool idea.

Mr. B
Venues restricted to close-up and parlour/stand-up. Audiences, any apart from kids, as yet. My first venture will be to Adults within the age range of 50 to 90. Set length about 30 minutes, I'll lose interest after that Smile

Many thnaks

Your Reality Is A Figment Of My Imagination
Dennis Michael
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James Alburger. My thoughts bases on the principles in his book.

1. Inventory your Magic
2. Do a Self Evaluation to determine your Personality
3. Determine the type of audience you want to perform for.
4. Determine your on stage character. Comedy-Silent, Manipulation, Bozo, Dr. Death, Amazatron, etc.
5. Review and determine the audience appeals for the trick you are about to perform as listed in "Showmanship for Magicians" by Fritzkee
6. Select the music- easier to build with the music then try to fit the music to the routine
7. Develop the routines
8. Modify the routines, add, update, continuely improve it.
9. Inovate- change it to make it more powerful. (Get rid of cheap swords for real ones in the Flying Carpet...Consider Black Art revisions on the flying Carpet, etc.)
10. Record the Music, Video tape it and review it.
11. Make notes, and record everything, including the patter.
12. Practice-Rehease, and do it again.
13. Evaluate the final product.

Alburger goes into detail on each of the above topics.

Think of being a magician like you would an electrician, or a plumber, carpenter, a computer technician, etc. They all require a base line knowledge level before they can effectively do their job. There are no good instant (overnight) Construction Workers! Magic is no different. There are no good instant (overnight) Magicians

Four Illusions and Eight stage tricks, does not make an Illusionist.

Developing a routine requires several steps:
1. Learn the mechanics of the trick first.
2. Find a reason why that routine should be of interest to your audience.
3. List several additional tricks that can used with it. (Milk Pitcher: Comedy Funnel, Disappearing Glass of Milk, Comedy Ice pick, etc.)
4. List potential props that could be used with the trick.
5. Research, find, and list the potential comedy bits of business that fit the trick(s). View others on VHS tapes on how have done it, making notes on what you like and dislike and how it fits your personality or theme of trick.
6.Find the music, Listen to it, imaging your act with it. Daydream, Brainstorm.
7. Write it down then try it, practice it.

If the above is done for each mini-act you have a routine. Combine the routines and you have an act.
Dennis Michael
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Many, many, many thanks for an excellent post. Lots for me to think about there.

For the record, I design/create software for a living, in particular 3D simulation and I was trying to equate a lot of my thought processes in this area with that in magic. And there seems to be a definite correlation between the two. Once again, thanks for the detail and the book references.


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Dennis Michael
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Here is an extension:
Step 1: Choose the effects (3) that go together.
    A. You perform them well
    B. You are comfortable with them
    C. They are tried and true routines
Step 2:
    A. Note time effects takes to perform
    B. Stagger quick little effects with long effects
    C. Add nice little effects with mind blowing effects. (Combining tricks)
    Open and close with the most spectacular effects
    Select effects that build on each other
    Paper trail each effect. (Write it down)
    Each routine is a mini-play
    Each routine should draw the audience in
    Each routine should ENTERTAINS 1st, mystifies 2nd.
    Each routine should focus to bring out at least 1 emotion.

    Opening: should be fast colorful production act..Startling, change of color every 20 seconds, musical and fancy ending.
    Middle: Vary pace, short routines, variety...Mount Attack...Novelty.. Punch..Closing
    Ending: Mass, Beauty, Motion, Color, Rythmatic Action... Good thoughts..Going away "WOWing them"...
    Success is: Giving them something they can talk about on the way home.
Developing Patter for Kid Shows: Explanatory Patter
    Pick a Theme
    1. Explain what you're going to do
    2. Describe the parts
    3. Add the theme message
    4. Pick a Magical word.
    5. Write the skit down
    6. Research Jokes and Puns
    7. Tie in a Variety of Site Gags

Power Illusion Program:
    Four Illusions
    Eight Powerful Routines

Basic Format: Constructing Your Act

  • Visual Impact, Fast Paced, Audience Grabber (Colorful, Musical, and with Animals)
    Start Show Alone. Connect with the audience in character, costume, and expectations
  • Sucker/Comedy Routine.
  • Audience Participation
  • Impact Production
  • Element of Danger Magic
  • Illusion- Strong Closer
    Close Show Alone and Thank Them
    Leave them wanting more!

Kid's Safety Theme Show (40 Minutes)
You add the tricks.

  • Warm-Up (Fire Book)
  • Strong Opening (Production/Flash paper)
  • Police and Fire Officers Are Friends Message
  • Fire Safety Message
  • Police Safety Message (Guns)
  • Environmental Message
  • Drug Awareness Message
  • Strangers Message
  • Bus Safety Message
  • Sharp Objects can Cut Message (Disecto/Chopper)
  • Poison Message
  • Another Fire Safety Message
  • Patriotic Message: Strong Closer
    Reference: Safety Magic for Children by Karl Wagner

KIDS Variety Magic Show (Example: 40 Min.)

  • Warm-up
  • Strong Opening Magic Routine (Production)
  • Magic Routine
  • Ventriloquist Routine
  • Running Gag #1
  • Two Magic Routines with 1 Kid Assistant
  • Juggling Routine
  • Two Magic Routines with 2 Kid Assistants
  • Running Gag #2
  • Balloon Routine with 3 Kid Assistants
  • Magic Routine with/without Kid Assistants
  • Magic Routine with Kid Assistant (Danger)
  • Running Gag #3
  • Strong Closing Magic Routine

To Convert the Above into a Family Fun Entertaining Fund Raising Illusion Show. Add Four Illusions.

  • 1. Levitation: Broom, Super-X, Mechanical AGA, 3-in-1, Flying Carpet, OR Asrah
  • 2. Danger Trick: Sawing in Half, Head Chopper, Guillotine, Etc.
  • 3. Comedy: Twister, Balloon Sword Body Box, etc.
  • 4. Animal Act: Rabbits, Doves, Lions and Tigers..Oh my.

Add a Running Gag Routine to keep the humor going, using the magician failure premise which finally ends in success.
  • Rabbit from Hat
  • Lota Bowl
  • Gag Egg Bag
  • Himber Flower Wallet
  • Cut and Restored Rope to Professor's Nightmare

Now you have the format, routine, take action, practice, rehearse, and book you show!
Enjoy...Have Fun and Most Importantly, Love What You Do.

Any Comments?
Dennis Michael
Dennis Michael
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What trick(s) would be included in your eight or so choice. Please state if the is stage family show or kids show.

Here are stock items that have always worked for Kid Shows:

  • Warm-up
  • Opening Production Routine
  • Axtel's Drawing Board (Comedy)
  • Temple Screen Production Routine (Colorful/Comedy/Audience Participation)
  • Running Gag #1 (Lota Bowl, Rabbit From Hat, etc.)
  • Rainbow Ropes (Patrotic/Audience Participation)
  • 20th Century Silks Routine (Assistant-Boy)
  • Egg Bag Routine (Audience Participation)
  • Professor's Nightmare Routine (Story Line)
  • Miser's Dream Routine (Assistant-Girl)
  • Flying Carpet Mini-Levitation Routine(Assistant-Girl)
  • Running Gag #2 (Lota Bowl, Rabbit From Hat, etc.)
  • Hippy-Hop-Rabbits or Fraidy Cat Rabbit Routine
    (Sucker Trick)(Audience Participation)
  • Coloring Book, or Stamp Album Routine (Audience Participation)
  • Milk Pitcher/Comedy Funnel Routine (Comedy-Assistants-Girls and Boys)
  • Visable Sawing or Disecto Routine(Danger/Comedy-Assistant-Best Girl or Boy)
  • Running Gag #3 (Lota Bowl, Rabbit From Hat, etc.)
  • Closing Production/Vanish Routine

Stretchers: Juggling Silks, Vern: Ventriloquism Act, Balloons Animals
Dennis Michael
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This is an Adult show for now, something to cut my teeth on (Age 50+, at a local hospital that my wife works at). I've settled on a few general topics; like silks, ropes, maybe jumbo cards (not really convinced of that), probably a levitation (seriously considering Fearson's box) and will probably end with the zombie.

Ropes could well include linking ropes (instead of rings) and 3 ropes and a baby.

Silks would be mainly transformations, vanishes and productions, using TT and DTs. I have a routine with a Silk Wonder Box, short and hopefully funny. Thinking of building a Square Circle or buying a production box/tubes of some sort.

I will be performing all to a video first and then start selecting effects, the real peformance will also be taped, so that I can critique it afterwards.

Thanks again for your help

Your Reality Is A Figment Of My Imagination
Mike Robbins
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That's the way to do it. Videotape your show every chance you get. I've been doing one particular act for several years and I tape it as often as I can. In reviewing the tapes I've found new lines and expressions, movements I can use that are better than what I did previously.

Also, I don't think there's a show where I don't get into the "jazz zone" for a little while and try doing something a little different to see if it works better.

If you can't videotape a show, it's a good idea to audiotape it.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Jason Fleming
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I think this is an excellent point! When I approach a table for close-up, often the only trick I *know* I'm going to perform is the first one... which serves to explore this particular audience and make an informed guess at what other presentations they might enjoy.

Michael Close has written about "Jazz Magic," similar to jazz music where the performer does not have a set plan as to which notes (read: tricks, jokes, etc) to play in what order... he simply "feels the way" so to speak. This strategy has greatly enhanced my own enjoyment of close-up interactions.

That being said, I always plan ahead of time exactly what to do and when (including jokes)
in a stand-up or parlor show. My strategy for ordering the set echoes the previous posts.

:bikes: Smile

Peter Marucci
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Like a stage show or a parlor/cabaret show, a closeup act has to be -- HAS to be --scripted and routined.
A beginning, a middle, and -- most definitely -- an ending.
In fact, the ending is the most difficult part because it must be magical as well as being something that clearly tells the closeup audience that the show is over.
I feel that trying to "wing it" is a recipe for disaster.
Sure, be flexible; but it is critical to have a plan/script/routine.
It's every bit as important to have it in a closeup show as in a stage show.
If you don't know where you're going, then how are you going to get there?
Peter Marucci
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But if you plan your routine with various routes through it, especially in the middle, won't this combine the best of both worlds. In other words, no two performances are exactly the same although the outline remains constant.

Just a thought

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Peter Marucci
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That's what I was trying to say.
Have a plan but be flexible.
Peter Marucci
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Also consider the book "new magic of showbiz" by Simon Lovell, available from Repro magic in London this goes into a lot of finer detail of routining

If this is a larger Parlor show, one thing you will need to consider is spectator managment you do not want people up and down all the time, this creates dead time.
my cabaret/parlor act is structured as follows, all of my act has patter.

Opening effect:
A strong visual effect that I can use to establish my personality

2nd effect:
Routine involving a spectator from their seat
rather than onstage in my case, comedy effect

3rd effect:
rabbit production (no specs)

4th effect:
routine with 2 spectators on stage

5th effect:
Routine with same two spectators as effect 4

6th effect:
Visual strong on my own

7th effect:
effect with helpers in their seats

8th effect:
strong effect with single spectator on stage

9th effect:
strong danger effect with spectator from effect 8

Close with music (Mission Impossible) quick but very strong closer

Notice that only twice during the 45 mins act
do I get people on and off stage and I have my lines in place for this. In fact, I pick my helpers, I have a couple of gag ways of getting them, so actually they have little choice.
Jason Fleming
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Some further thoughts on the "jazz magic" idea...

MikeB and Peter make absolutely terrific comments. I agree 100% with Peter that a plan is essential, and "rehearsal", rather than "practice," leads to success in front of the audience. We should have a strong idea of where we are headed at all times.

The question I am interested in is, how rigid should we be during the performance? I used to carefully script the details of my routines (patter, blocking, etc), how one trick will flow into the next, and had relatively rigid plans for my performances. This was a good experience, because I spent time and energy thinking about the routining aspects of the performance, and through real-world experimentation, learned about audience's reactions to these building and crescendo-ing effects.

During this time, I had a few performing experiences that got me thinking about rigidity versus fluidity and flexibility for my closeup work. I realized that there was an advantage to being able to change my plan mid-flight, and seamlessly move into another phase, routine, or out. This requires knowing and rehearsing the routines very well.

Hoping you don't have to improvise and planning to improvise are not the same thing, but they are not mutually exclusive either. Planning for the change-up is fun, and makes for stronger performances... especially in walk-around or restaurant magic.

Be ready for anything!


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It can be nice too to start the show when people think you don´t start the show - O.K. this will only work when there is no curtain and TADA there is the magic - but otherwise come on stage, start talking to audience in a friendly way, no hint to your show - it will take a few minutes till it will start. Tell them to be relaxed - yeah there is a thing they could do! folding the arms and untying - Copperfield showed it too. Done the right way this is a nice opener! Then begin your show - think the ice will be broken!
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Peter's advice is hitting the proverbial nail on the head. I, too, have experienced performances that magi's try to be extemporaneous with disasterous results. Few of us are skilled at improvisation. The "trick" is to write, practice and rehearse your script so that it feels improvisational.

In close up situations, you are interacting with your audience. If you are working from a honed script, you can react to a spectator's comment and then move back to your script. If you don't have that road map, you will be caught trying to figure out how to react and how to get back to where you were...
"Try to find the humanity in the magic and maybe you'll come up with something of your own. It's the humanity that gets you there, not techniques." Michael Moschen on Creativity
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This has some great advice in it, and It is something I need to work on. I know a lot of card moves for example, and even less tricks, and no routining whatsoever.
I thought I would resurrect this old or just to see if any more thoughts are added and to help others like myself!
Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile

.Smile What do you mean you don't read?

"You cannot BUY a TRICK.
TRICKS, somewhat like music, only exist while they are being PERFORMED.
An EFFECT cannot be BOUGHT either. An EFFECT is what the spectator perceives.
You need to read FITZKEE. --There are only nineteen EFFECTS"
- Dick Oslund, 2019.
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