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I'm sure you have seen tapes of Michael Ammar, Jay Sankey and all the greats. If you watch those tapes, then you would think they all know at least a thousand effects, but I wonder if they can really do ALL those tricks at any time?

My point is this: I am trying to build a large working repertoire, and have been trying for many years. I know many say you should only know a half dozen tricks, but know them WELL. I think that is a half truth. At least for me, because I happen to like the idea of knowing scads of tricks.

But here's the problem. I practice the effects I like until I can do them in my sleep. Sometimes for months at a time to perfect a single item. I literally overlearn these effects. And I mean I get the patter, the moves, the gestures, the sleights all down to a science. The routine becomes a part of me, like breathing.

But then, despite that, as I go on to learn newer effects, the old ones that I have practiced a million times STILL have a way of fading in my head, until I am no longer sharp on them, and can not perform them because I have lost the confidence I once had.

So what I am saying is that it becomes a daunting task to build that illusive large repertoire, as I seem to be able to retain the details of only a limited number of effects at one time. My efforts to build it are frustrated by that seemingly ever fallible human memory.

Am I alone here, or are there others in this same boat? And is there someone who has found a way to surmount this problem?

You see, I don't mind the initial work that goes into learning and perfecting a new effect to add to my repertoire, I just hate having to relearn it every few weeks or so. Seems that once should be enough to last so that I could go on to other effects.

What say ye?
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
Gary Dayton
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That’s an interesting problem. Are you (over)learning these and then never using them? Or using them only once or twice, or do you just forget them completely after you’ve learned them? (I hope it’s the former, as the latter could be a serious problem!)

If I have learned a trick (or anything), even intensely learned it, but then not use it for a while, then I won’t remember it. I think it is analogous to studying for an exam in school. You may study for days (or not!) and cram, etc., but within a few weeks, forget most of the material simply from lack of use.

One idea you might find helpful would be to take one of your practice sessions and devote it to a review of all your tricks. Just run through the list. Try this maybe once a week. I find this helpful. I often think that magic in some ways is like performing a professional sport. If you were a tennis player, for example, you would practice nearly every day. And, you may work on a particular stroke or shot and put intensive effort into developing it, but you would also every day practice your forehand, backhand, serve, and all of the other strokes you’ve worked on to keep them sharp.

Just a few thoughts…

Jonathan Townsend
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It's tough to "know" a routine till you've done it for real people enough that everything that could go wrong in performance has. That means all the fun from toddlers spilling on you to dealing with a spectator who has an hysterical moment. It also helps to know WHY YOU like a routine.

In more direct answer to your question, it is a living process that directly relates to audience feedback. all the coins I've dropped here
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I think the light is starting to go on here! My frustration though, is with my fallible human memory. I would give anything to have a photographic mind.

Of note, I've learned and studied Lorayne's memory system, but find little that is applicable to permanent memory. It all feels kind of contrived, if you know what I mean.
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
Rob Johnston
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I have had the same problem. I keep a list of what I do know, however, so that I don't forget that I know them. You never forget the actual trick...but you do forget that you know them.
"Genius is another word for magic, and the whole point of magic is that it is inexplicable." - Margot Fonteyn
A C Spectre
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I have several different "shows" that I practice. When learning a new trick, I will concentrate on it for a few weeks until I get comfortable with it, however, I am still practicing my other shows as well. Once I'm ready I will add the trick to one of my shows and see how it fits. I find that practicing whole shows not only helps me remember a number of individual tricks, it helps me keep my timing and patter sharp. It also gives me a better feel as to where a new trick will fit in so it maintains the flow of a certain show and doesn't look like I'm just standing there doing tricks in whatever order they happen to come out of my case.

When I first got into magic I was someone who had to buy as many tricks as I could get my hands on. I ended up with some tricks that I would use in shows but a larger percentage of stuff that I couldn't get comfortable with or didn't fit my performance style. I have since tried to become a more discerning buyer, but I must confess to going on buying binges every now and then.

A C Spectre
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Ah yes! The old buying binge syndrome! Been there done that! In fact, I'm still really there! I see it, I want it!

It is kind of like a drug. You know, there is a certain rush in getting a new magic trick through the mail. Then you play with it for a while, and soon it gets old, and before you know it, you need another fix.

Am I the only one in this boat? Or are there others out there who will fess up to a similar addiction?
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
A C Spectre
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Guilty as charged daffydoug. For me it's a combination of factors, I love buying magic and I love getting things in the mail. Don't get me wrong, the times that I go to the city and visit Tannen's are just as deadly to my bank account. However, I still buy the majority of my magic through the mail, and the internet makes it sooo easy!

Hey, maybe we can start our own 12-step program to combat this evil addiction "Magic Binge Buyers Anonymous".

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Sorry I'm late in seeing this thread but I third that opinion. Maybe this should be an entire thread in itself: Has the ease of buying on the internet made your magic addition much, much worse?

The ability to find almost ANY effect, to compare prices so you convince yourself that you're being thrifty, then just typing in a few credit card numbers (hey, it's not really MONEY, is it?). Then a few days later, there's a box of treasure delivered to your door.

Now how to sneak it in past the wife, that's where the magic begins.

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before I agree with everyone can I go back to the original question.-
Just because someone performs a trick on a video tape it does not mean it is part of his repertoire.
The six trick comment is credited to David Devant, who, as the top man of his generation must of known it was not true. Either it was a leg-pull or a mis-quotation.

Regarding keeping tricks up to standard. I find that even if I haven't performed something for a year, several run throughs and rechecking a couple of set ups I'm at a reasonal standard. Still needs rehersal and practice, but close.

I have a list which I get out every week or so and run through out of favour tricks. I run through some sleights most days.

One thing I have found is that if I'm learning something new and leave it for a week when it's coming together, I return much more relaxed and things flow smoother.

I have routines which I learned two or three years ago, which I've never used but keep in practice.
Roth's Portable hole I've performed once in six years but I still practice it now and again.

Unlike some of the above posts I don't buy tricks very often and only learn ones I know I can use. I take them slowly now and work out misdirection and outs more carefully.

Bill Hegbli
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To answer your original question. I have had the pleasure of seeing Harry Lorayne, and he used notes, placed out on the table. Just titles and hints, but could also answer any question thrown at him.

I also seen Paul Harris in person. He did not have any notes visible and had to think between tricks, but his interaction with the participants was very enjoyable. I was shocked when he was asked to perform something from one of his books that was published early in his career. He did it with no problem.

You must go through all your material that you intend to use at least once a week. This will keep it fresh in your mind and the handling up to date.

I don't think you want to go through all your notes or books before you go out and perform a magic presentation. It does no good to take a case full of magic and cannot remember how to present most of them. I know, been there.

You will forget anything if never used.
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Although I have a working repetoire that I am sure is much smaller than many others; I just switch things in and out. I find that I mostly like my newest tricks best, so it is refreshing to go back and perform my older tricks, and rediscover what I liked about them when I learned them. Often, they come back fresher and feel good. Admittedly, I am at the point where the older tricks considerably less skill and are relatively easy to pick up again. What's more, my confidence in presentation is much greater and my ability to misdirect covers any rough handling.

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Big Daddy Cool
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The large repetoire is just illusion. Sure, there are going to be exceptions, but very, very few. And even fewer among WORKERS.
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On 2004-02-14 21:07, wmhegbli wrote:
I have had the pleasure of seeing Harry Lorayne, and he used notes, placed out on the table. Just titles and hints, but could also answer any question thrown at him.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that Mr. Memory Expert himself uses a list?

That's not a shot at old Harry. Just an observation that brought a smile to my face.


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Alan Munro
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I think, in most cases, a large repertoire is an illusion. Most performers learn new material and stop performing some of their old routines, just rotating the material. I only have a 35 minute kid show, a 35 minute banquet show, and about 40 minutes of walk-around material. The standup shows share much of their material for about an hour-and-a-half of material total, in my repertoire.

However, some bar and restaurant performers have been known to have a mastery of 4 hours or more of material. But, the material is probably performed on a weekly basis.
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I was talking to a Magician a while back about Table hopping in restaurants. I asked him how many tricks he rotates when table hopping and he said about 6 or 7. When he listed out a couple of them it was astounding, Most of them would be considered Beginner magic, some of them aren't even magic they would be more correctly called practical jokes.

But the guy makes a very good living.

I'm starting to realise that the majority of people being fooled by magic nowadays are the people who go into magic shops with full wallets and leave with empty wallet's and a bag of "NEW" tricks.

Scott F. Guinn
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On the other side of that coin, there are plenty of workers who know a and use a great deal of material. I know the old addage about six tricks, and there's some truth to that--if your audience is always changing. But if you work in a local restaurant, for instance, with lots of repeat customers, six tricks isn't going to get you far. You don't necessarily need to know hundreds, but you need to know more than six!

My "magical mentors" have been Aldo Colombini, Paul Green, Dan Fleshman, David Roth and Ray Grismer. All of these guys know and use a LOT more than six tricks, as do I. THE icon of large repertoires would have to be Michael Skinner--he knew (and used and performed) TONS of tricks! And he was one of the best all time. While I am not anywhere in that league, when I was working 5-6 restaurants per week plus private shows, I probably had at least 50-60 routines that I could do at any given moment. About 35 of those would have been card routines, but they were STRONG card routines. In addition, I do parlor/platform shows for both adults and kids. I have two kids shows and three adult shows, so there's another 30-40 routines. I do all of these shows for pay, and almost all of my business is repeat or referral, so I have to know that material cold.

So, yes, it is doable, but you have to be working a lot and using the material regularly. I took a year where I tapered way back on performances, and I had to do a LOT of review to get all but the most-performed stuff back into check.

"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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This is an interesting topic and something that I find myself continually returning to when I think about my own magic. I personally feel that I would rather have a small repertoire of effects that I have really mastered and added my own ideas to than a large repertoire of effects that I know to only an 80% standard.

When I look at all the magicians that I think are great, they all have a high degree of mastery over their magic. They know the effect inside and out and they have addressed every single detail. This attention to detail seems to be a common trait among great performers. Look at the work of Tommy Wonder, Eugene Burger, Jamy Ian Swiss. They say "success leaves clues." I wonder what they would say?

I agree that when you work in a restaurant where there are a lot of repeat customers it is good to be able to show the customers something that they haven't seen before. However, the hope is that they are coming back to see you and bringing their friends to see you, so their friends can experience the same experience they first had.

I know a lot of magicians with large repertoires, but I don't really think anyone of them is "great". They are all doing the same stuff the same way and constantly buying more magic. It is this constant cycle that doesn't really lead to any great improvement in our magic. If you really want to set youself apart from everyone else than I think quality over quantity is the way to go. I am convinced that this is the direction I want to go with my own magic.

Let's face it though, this is not easy, it is really difficult! Why? Because buying magic can be fun. The adverts at the magic shops are very inticing indeed. The desire for instant gratification makes it hard not to buy a new trick or video. But once you have the new trick or video, what next? On the internet again seeking out your next purchase? I know from my own experience that this is what can happen and I am sure many others have had similar experiences. Where does it all end?

I am now trying to think long term. Where do I want to be with my magic ten years from now? I am pretty sure I don't want to be on the internet contemplating my next purchase. I have had enough! Pick one effect and master it, polish it, and reap the rewards!

These are my thoughts. This has been a good opportunity to motivate myself. I would like to here what others have to say?

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A very good point, Aussie... And when you really believe that and start to behave accordingly, you will become a magician instead of a trick collector (not that there is anything wrong with that... It just another path than that of the performer...)
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Basically, I agree with the concept of perfecting a small active repertoire but also agree with Scott that your active repertoire needs to be large enough to meet the demands of the venues you play.

That said, I find revisiting routines that have fallen into disuse can lead to new discoveries. Also, studying variations of a plot deepens my appreciation for its deep structure.

I think there has to be a balance between refining what you already think you know and what might still be discovered. There is some overlap here. Finding that balance is elusive.
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