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Jordan Piper
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British Columbia, Canada
309 Posts

Profile of Jordan Piper
I was just pondering the thought of performing magic with only gimmicked tricks. Does anyone do magic like this and what do you think are the pros and cons.

Would this make you a "phony magician" by saying you don't have the skills to perform tricks that employ sleights? Would it take away from the image that magic is an artform?

Your thoughts are appreciated. Smile
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
27152 Posts

Profile of Jonathan Townsend
There is nothing wrong with using LOTS of gimmicks.

There is a lot wrong with performing in such a way that your audience feels the need to examine the props or is led to believe the props are 'trick' stuff.

There is also a lot wrong when you set up routines so that the props can be examined afterwards. Challenging people to find gaffs takes your work from 'magical' to 'clever'. all the coins I've dropped here
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Boston area
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Profile of rgranville
Get Henry Hay's excellent book, The Amateur Magician's Handbook, and read Chapter 2, "Hard Easy Tricks and Easy Hard Tricks."

Basically, doing tricks with gimmicks is easy. Performing magic, whether with gimmicks or sleights, requires work. Hay points out that there's a temptation, especially with beginners, to skip the work if the mechanics are easy (as in gimmicked). DON'T DO THIS! Practice the trick, even if it's the easiest thing you've ever done. Make sure you can do it smoothly, and everything works the way it's supposed to. Make up your own patter for the trick, and then practice the trick again, with your patter. Actually say it out loud. Make sure there are no breaks in your speech that tip off you're doing a move or engaging a gimmick.
Reis O'Brien
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Inner circle
Seattle, WA
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Profile of Reis O'Brien
There's a prevailing attitude out there that looks down on gimmicks. Don't ask me why. But I think that the "purists" out there tend to put a strong differentiation between "clean" (i.e. regular deck of cards) and "gimmicks" (packet card tricks).

But, IMHO, magic is truly magic when you perform it as so. Your personal presentation is going to be the clincher when it comes down to it, gimmicks or not. Yes, it would be nice if all of your tricks can be examined by the specs, but there are ways to skirt this. You can switch out things or come up with witty lines to steer the specs away from wanting to examine the trick.

Personally, I love gimmicks. I'll buy a gimmick, even if I never plan to use it live, simply to study the innovativeness of the method or design. Some seem absolutely genius to me.

I suppose you need to ask yourself WHY you want to use only gimmicks. Do you appreciate the methods? Or do you want to learn something quick and somewhat easy? Maybe it's a little of both.

But even though you're using a gimmick, you still need to practice it again and again. And keep in mind that just because it's a gimmick trick, doesn't mean it's going to be easy to set up or perform. And for what it's worth, don't buy the cheap gimmicks. I mean cheaply made. The best gimmicks don't look like gimmicks and when performed right, don't let the spec think they're gimmicks at all.

Best of luck to you, from a fellow gimmick-junkie!
Homo vult decipi; decipiatur
Steve Friedberg
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Inner circle
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Profile of Steve Friedberg with another point of view...

I try to travel as light as I can; I don't have the pockets or the inclination to carry multiple gimmicks with me. Ergo, it makes sense for me to work without gimmicks as much as possible.

Now, as I write this, I'm looking up at my shelf and seeing my ID, Svengali deck, et al. In addition, I've just ordered a dozen gaffed decks from Haines for an effect that I devised. (Yes, I'll be selling the effect soon, but that's another post, another thread.) So, you won't be getting a "purist" attitude from me.

Bottom line: if you feel comfortable using gimmicks and gaffs, go for it. But please don't rely on them to do all of your work; be the kind of magician who uses gaffs because he wants to, not because he has to.

"A trick does not fool the eyes, but fools the brain." -- John Mulholland
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Profile of Aus
I have to say there might be a few tech problems in a full gimmick act. First you will need to find a way to switch the gaffs in and out with out arising the spectators suspicion. Work out where to place effects. This can help because some gaff effects can't be handed out for expectation, and if the heat is on a item that can't be handed out you have to work a way around it.


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Bucks County, PA
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Profile of blindbo
On 2003-08-17 12:15, Firedice27 wrote:
"... and "gimmicks" (packet card tricks)."

So as not to confuse some people, packet card tricks are a category of card tricks. They are not defined by the lack of, nor use of, gimmicks and gaffs.
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Profile of didgemagic

This is a very interesting question. I have never heard anyone ask about ONLY using gimmicked effects; since I think that most magicians probably use a combination of gimmicked and ungimmicked effects that they like and it therefore never enters the mind.

I do not think that the mere fact that someone uses only gimmicked effects makes anyone a "phony magician". I also think that solely using gimmicked effects would not take away from magic as an art form, because whether an effect is gimmicked or ungimmicked, or even considering ones overall magic technical ability, is only one part of what makes magic an art form.

Just because someone can recite the lines of a play, does that make him an actor? Because he does it on a stage with props, does that make theatre an art?. I do not think so, but if it does, then those things alone certainly do not make it GREAT art.

Sorry, here I go an a little tangent to argue the position I am taking above: Very over-simplistically (and not all-inclusive), magic also contains the structure of the effect itself, all the points of presentation and misdirection, and your own creativity and self expression through the craft(typically describing the human condition through drama, suspense, comedy, etc.). These are the MAJOR parts that make magic an art; these are the things that can put magic on par with some of the most respected arts like music, dance, painting, etc.

These parts are not to be taken as assumed because some performers take it upon themselves to display effects without the described parts and call it the Art of Magic, when, in fact, the effects have been reduced by the performer to mere puzzles for the audience who then feels challenged to solve it.

This begs the question: Because someone uses a trick and merely fools the audience, does that make him a magician or (as thekernal puts it) a "phony magician"?

Sorry again about the tangent, but bigger questions of art form were asked and required bigger answers.

As to pros and cons, I feel that sticking only to gimmicked effects can be limiting to a magician, especially one who wants to study the art and become "well-rounded". However, I am a big proponent of a person doing effects that interest him. If gimmicked effects interest you, then let gimmicks abound in your practice, rehearsal, and performance areas.

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Profile of rgranville
One of the (potential) drawbacks of gimmicks only has been discussed by several people, including me. Don't fall into the trap of not practicing enough because the mechanics of the tricks are easy.

A second was hinted at by one or two people. If you have a gimmick a trick, you have to carry around an awful lot for a show. And if a gimmick breaks, there goes that trick.

Here's a third. As your reputation as a masterful magician grows among your family and friends, someone will inevitably ask you to do some magic when you weren't expecting it. If you use nothing but gimmicks, you either have to carry gimmicks with you at all times, or be prepared to say no. If you know some tricks that use an ungimmicked, unprepared deck of cards, or some coins (for instance), you're always ready, whether you're ready or not.
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Profile of adrianbent
... As your reputation as a masterful magician grows among your family and friends, someone will inevitably ask you to do some magic when you weren't expecting it.

I have often heard this line as a positive motivator to learn sleights. "Anytime, Anywhere". This is my perspective: There are lots of amateur magicians out there who entertain their family and friends. I pride myself in following principles of magic such as never show the same audience the same effect twice. With that in mind, often gimmicks are the best way for the amateur magician to go about doing his entertaining. I have never gotten, "Hey, Adrian, show us something". It has always been "Hey Adrian, show John that trick you showed me yesterday". I usually will decline, and find an opportunity to show "John" outside of the presence of the previously-viewed party. This means I rarely perform when requested to, but instead perform on my terms... when I am ready, practiced and prepared. So, between sleight or gimmick, all things being equal, the gimmick is often held as the preferred choice. Smile
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Profile of richull
I do not think it should be about gimmicks or non-gimmicks. It should be about the trick, I find a trick I like, learn it and practice what needs to be done to perform it. And if I can not do it? I will work on something else, then go back to it. Smile
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Profile of hokeypokey
To me, magic is about entertaining the audience and creating an effect that lets the audience believe in the illusion of magic. It doesn't matter whether this is done with gimmicks or sleights. It's the performance -- and the end result -- that matters.

I agree with some of drawbacks of using only gimmicks that were identified in the previous posts. Those drawbacks may be very good reasons for not using gimmicks, but I don't think using gimmicks makes a magician "phony."

For a beginner like me, there are also some advantages to using gimmicks. Using gimmicks has enabled me to start performing magic much sooner than I would have been able to do so without gimmicks. Being able to perform sooner has enabled me to sustain my interest in magic and to start developing my presentation skills, which I think are far more important than technical skill. This doesn't mean that I rush into my performances and don't spend time practicing. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

With that said, I am personally working to expand my skills so that I don't have to rely solely on gimmicks for many of the reasons described above.
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Profile of vootrage
I used to do all gaffs but then some friends would ask me to do magic with their pack and I only new one trick. Learn some real magic it will do you well in those situations. I did!
Emily Belleranti
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I do tend to feel that the person who avoids sleight of hand is unnecessarily limiting himself. However, I also feel that the those so-called "purists" who avoid gaffs are also limiting themselves. I do think that the thing of overall importance is the effect in the spectator's mind; the impact you have on your audience.

There is something nice to being able to do sleight of hand, as you don't always need special props. I think that sleight of hand is a very self-gratifying thing. It's very rewarding and satisfying to look at the progress you make in this area.

But there are some effects that can only be produced with the help of gaffs. (And not all gaffs make things technically easier.) However, I don't think that one should rely entirely on gaffs. They might serve as an adequate starting place for the beginner, but I think that one should eventually expand their skills to include sleight of hand.

I don't think one should rely entirely on gaffs or entirely on sleight of hand.

Remember, gaffs and sleights are simply the tools we use to create an effect. In the end, I think it is our job as magicians to choose the path that is most effective and has the greatest impact on our audiences.
"If you achieve success, you will get applause, and if you get applause, you will hear it. My advice to you concerning applause is this: Enjoy it, but never quite believe it."

-Robert Montgomery
Leon of PrimRose
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mayfield, new york
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Profile of Leon of PrimRose
Gimmicks are good. I use them sometimes, but always work and practice with ungimmicked cards. a lot of times using sleights brings out an effect better than only gimmicks. still use some gimmicks though. Gimmicks can do what normal cards cant, so use them to spruce up your magic act.
Being forgotten is worse than death

There was never anything but and death...Good...Evil...It all depends on how you look at life... and death. The strong, the weak. It's all just a concept.

Believe the unbe
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Waterbury, CT
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Profile of DanielGreenWolf
Balance is necessary in life. We need bad weather to have good weather, we need good and bad, we need comedy and drama. If magic is supposed to be an exaggeration of life, shouldn't that balance occur between gimmicked effects and ungimmicked effects?

Both are needed for a structured show. I've seen one or two unbalanced shows and they just don't work. Even if it is a small gimmick in a largely "skill-based" show or vice versa, you need balance.

Besides, if you cant perform magic, then why bother worrying about the "tricks"?

-Much love,
Daniel GreenWolf
Celtic Magician
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