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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » On covering up slights with un-natural movements (8 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Nate The Magician
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We all do it- that one really odd action to cover up that one slight. Maybe it's adding some strange hand position to our top deal so that our second deal is less noticeable, maybe it's that we hyper-extend our hands when we're "clean" so that we seem more natural doing it when we're palming a ball (have a problem with that too but that's a subject for another time), maybe we handle EVERYTHING with our fingertips so (to us) we seem like we are acting free and open with the audience.

No matter what your particular "un-natural action to cover up a future un-natural action" is, do you/ how do you go about trying to rectify such bad habits & attempt to make your movements look more like an actual human being is doing them and less like your hands are rentals that you can't get dirt on?

Thanks,
-Nate
Matthew Crabtree
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I broke those habbits early on. The opening of the Dai Vernon book really helped. Also my mentor made me work on the false actions by doing it for real over and over and over so the dirty work looked as clean as the real deal.
SmileAndNod
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I've been slowly working my way through them. The shoulders are the hardest. Honestly the way to fix these issues is through self-awareness, as in the kind practiced in mindful meditation. You need to learn to observe what your body naturally does throughout the day without influencing it. What does your left arm do when you pull something out of your right pocket? You never really pay attention to it because by definition these movements are what you do when your attention is somewhere else. (Does that sentence make any sense?) You're focusing on the right hand reaching into the pocket. (Actually that's not true, your focusing on the item in your pocket that you're reaching for) so it's hard to notice what the left hand is doing. If you focus on the left hand while taking something out of your right pocket it won't behave the same way as before because now your focus is on it. Also the right hand will look different because your focus isn't on it. I think this is the biggest weakness in coin magic because most of the time the magician's focus is at least partially on the dirty hand which means that hand is acting different than it would if it was empty. So you need to learn to emulate the movements the hand would do if you weren't paying attention to it, but how do you find out what the movements are if you can't pay attention to them. Well, that's for mindful meditation, which teaches both mental exploration of the body as well as becoming a witness to your thoughts without interacting with them.

This sounds a bit new-agey, doesn't it? You don't really need to start meditating to start paying attention to what your body does when you're not paying attention, it just helps.

The most interesting thing to me about this is the closer I got to mimicking these natural actions, the easier it is to actually forget that the hand is dirty. Slydini talked about the need to believe your own magic, and it makes sense that he would be the master of natural actions to help him believe his own magic. I see a lot of people say the way to do natural actions is to believe, with all your might, that you're doing what you're pretending to do (ie put a coin in a hand). I think this, more often than not, leads to the magician mostly fooling himself. I've found it's much easier to fool the body first, then fool the mind. Learn to watch your own natural actions and try mimicking them with an object in your hand. You can eventually start to feel the motions simply because they are usually the motions that use up the least amount of energy. (eg when we drop an arm to our side - we just let it go and it falls until it hits the body with a slight bounce. We then briefly tense the arm to stop the momentum before letting it hang completely at the side).
Dick Oslund
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Sorry Nate, but, your first sentence turned me off. You should not ASSUME how I, or anyone else, works.
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bigfoot
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I am not sure that this idea is quite correct. If we look at body language as a whole we may find that we all have "odd" ways that we move, not just in magic, in real life. I'll admit that I have at least one quirk that sticks out as "different" though not worth mentioning some may find it incongruous to thier own movements.
Perhaps some of what you call "odd" is not always so all the time. Not intending any disrespect but I do get what your saying but I don't think EVERYONE does it; much more so those that are thee less initiated maybe. Certainly the new trick of the day people that never get the long term experience with one thing before moving on.
gowenmagic
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There's a few ways around it. #1 as Gregory Wilson says "if you can't hide it, highlight it" make the move work in with the patter. Greg does this all of the time and so do I.
#2 When practicing a trick, first do it in your imagination without hiding the props, and how you would really do it if you could really do magic, that's what you want to emulate and get close to.
#3 if you can't make it look natural then make it natural for you. I recently went to a Kainoa Harbottle lecture. That guys hands look like they're always palming coins, even when they're not. It's something that's not natural, but he made it natural and people don't question it because it's now natural for him.
#4 film yourself and your routines and watch yourself a lot, I'm lucky enough to have a significant other that is brutally honest with me when something doesn't look right. Every magician needs someone like that.
#5 If you can't do any of those, then shelve the trick and come back it. I've been working on my own version of 3 fly for 2 years off and on because of issues. I'll get an idea and comeback to it.

unnatural magic isn't magic. You're specs aren't stupid, they know they saw something, even if they don't know what. At that point it's turned into just a bad puzzle.
Matthew Crabtree
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Charlie Miller use to sit outside of a library and as people to pick a card up off of a deck, or turn a card over off of the deck. He would work on moves as non magicians would do the actions. Like I said my mentor made me work on the moves by really doing them. Putting the coin in my hand. Taking the coin. Placing the ball under the cup. picking up the cups. All of these actions over and over, Then work on the dirty side of it. Not everyone has the bad habits. If you put the work in early one you skip trying to go back later and fix it.
Dick Oslund
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BIG FOOT! Are you responding to MY post or the OP's post????????????????????????????
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Nate The Magician
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Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Dick Oslund wrote:
Sorry Nate, but, your first sentence turned me off. You should not ASSUME how I, or anyone else, works.


Yeah, I get that- I didn't mean it as any kind of personal SLEIGHT. (pardon the pun)
I merely was referring to how a very good number of moves require awkward or un-natural hand positions to accomplish (for example, when was the last time a normal human being held a deck of cards in the position for a "S.W.E. Shift" or the like? When was the last time that someone took a ball from one hand to another in a highly showy and ostentatious manner, as a number of people doing the billiard balls tend to do?)
Mostly what I'm asking is how everyone handles making un-natural moves seem natural and my original post asked that in possibly the worst way I could. I am sorry if I caused offence.
Matthew Crabtree
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Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Nate The Magician wrote:

Mostly what I'm asking is how everyone handles making un-natural moves seem natural


Simple, you don't do unnatural moves. Need to put the ball in your hand? Place the ball in you hand over and over and over so you know how it feels and then to the move til it feels like the real thing. Vernon covers this in the Dai Vernon book of magic in the first few pages. If you watch working magicians, the guys and gals who make 50% or more of their income from magic, who do the same effects night after night for years. Or the amateurs (and there is nothing wrong with being an amateur) who spends time working on one move or one effect over and over til it is just right. The best way to make your sleight of hand look like magic is to cut out the things that do not look natural. Sure it is nice to know flashy moves for the magicians at the club meetings, but the person who is paying you for your time doesn't care how the card got to the top of the deck, or how that coin ended up in the nest of boxes. What they care about and will remember is that it happened and you didn't do any funny stuff.
55Hudson
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Agreed. Don't make unnatural movements. There are many resources on this topic.
bigfoot
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Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Dick Oslund wrote:
BIG FOOT! Are you responding to MY post or the OP's post????????????????????????????


Sorry Dick it was the OP that I was just adding a tangent to. My thinking was just that body movement is individual and that even "odd" motion can be accepted if it is "your" usual way. Much like an accent your not used to hearing may get your attention at first but quickly is accepted as you hear that person talk. "It was just a thought".
Dick Oslund
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Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, bigfoot wrote:
Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Dick Oslund wrote:
BIG FOOT! Are you responding to MY post or the OP's post????????????????????????????


Sorry Dick it was the OP that I was just adding a tangent to. My thinking was just that body movement is individual and that even "odd" motion can be accepted if it is "your" usual way. Much like an accent your not used to hearing may get your attention at first but quickly is accepted as you hear that person talk. "It was just a thought".


Right! Thanks!
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Dick Oslund
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Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Nate The Magician wrote:
Quote:
On Apr 2, 2016, Dick Oslund wrote:
Sorry Nate, but, your first sentence turned me off. You should not ASSUME how I, or anyone else, works.


Yeah, I get that- I didn't mean it as any kind of personal SLEIGHT. (pardon the pun)
I merely was referring to how a very good number of moves require awkward or un-natural hand positions to accomplish (for example, when was the last time a normal human being held a deck of cards in the position for a "S.W.E. Shift" or the like? When was the last time that someone took a ball from one hand to another in a highly showy and ostentatious manner, as a number of people doing the billiard balls tend to do?)
Mostly what I'm asking is how everyone handles making un-natural moves seem natural and my original post asked that in possibly the worst way I could. I am sorry if I caused offence.


I like good puns! --And, I think yours was good.

Cold print can sometimes be misconstrued! I'll accept your apology, and give you the benefit of the doubt.

Dai Vernon was a friend, and his "thinking" was mentioned above!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Al Schneider
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About natural moves:

I did a lecture in Ireland long ago (Love to go back) wherein I presented the Pop Up Move. Someone there went into a rage that I claimed to use natural moves and this person screamed that the Pop Up was not natural.

Where’s the beef.

I have yet to see a magician perform a double lift and handle the card like a layman would. Worse, look at how we transfer a coin from hand to hand. I, personally, have spent a lifetime learning how to do it naturally. I have gotten real good at it. However, it is still not natural. We magicians put a coin into the other hand and close the hand around the coin. Laymen rarely do that. If they had an intention to hold a coin in their hand, they would pick it up and hold it in the same hand.

So, here is the skinny.

The things that can be done naturally can be studied and done naturally. Studying the disposition of a shoulder is a wise thing to do.

However, many moves do not have a natural counter part. The trick here is to master the move and understand what the awkward part of it is. Then practice the awkwardness without doing the move. That is, incorporate that awkwardness into your body language landscape.

Here is a great example. Often during lapping, magicians never go near the edge. Than at the end of some coin routine, they have a sudden desire to slide their hand off the table. That motion should be executed even before performing the coin routine. Then the action would more than likely be accepted by the audience.
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
Michael Baker
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I was waiting for Mr. Schneider to chime in here, because he is one person who can fool the pants off most anyone, almost in spite of what actions he makes.

The term I would use for one of his points (and certainly the direction that I think bigfoot was going) is "conditioning". The audience is trained to accept certain things as natural... within the framework of the routine, if not totally as belonging to the magician himself.

Here is an example, albeit extreme. I have heard this attributed to Chung Ling Soo, although any number of Chinese magicians (and imitators) could have used... Whether true or merely anecdotal, he adopted an odd shuffling gait as he walked, regardless of whether he was seen onstage or anywhere else he was in public view as the character he created. The purpose of this was two-fold. First, it gave him a uniqueness through this idiosyncrasy. It made him an interesting character and made his magic seem to have an authentic source, as someone who should be different than most other people.

Secondly, this built-in, fabricated quirk had an ulterior motive... to disguise the method to an outstanding trick he used in his show. The production of a very large, heavy bowl filled with water was secretly brought to the place of production, carried between his legs under his colorful robe.

Of course audiences are more sophisticated today, the same idea applies, so long as the context is plausible. Johnny Carson said, "If they buy the premise, they'll buy the bit."

As soon as the audience accepts the premise and the character, they will become highly receptive to what is plausibly natural to that situation and that person. Today, the trend is to perform magic that is far less character-driven. It seems that most performers want to be the normal guy who does wonderful and magical things. This presents a challenge and a deeper level of thinking in regard to the magic. The mere performance of magic in most cases is a highly contrived event. It is a demonstration.

Don't bother me with a discussion of how some magicians allow magic to just happen as if they are not doing anything. I know this. But, if the magician takes credit for the magic in any form, it immediately becomes a contrivance. Therefore, any action required to make the proposed demonstration take place can at times include actions that are not exactly what one might expect to see in everyday life. Magic is not normal. Ironically, it seems the only people who cannot accept that are the magicians.

The key is to surround these actions with a plot that is far more interesting than any single action. Unusual actions can be disguised, often with very simple tactics. A repetitive action, even when not required to perform a sleight becomes accepted. So, when the sleight is actually done, it flies under the radar. The odd things that magicians also do, such as waving their hand over a deck of cards, snapping their fingers to highlight the "magic moment", blowing on the hand right before a silk vanishes shadow other actions because of their own odd nature. These and other techniques are all forms of camouflage that serve to conceal our methods.

Unnatural moves have their place. It is too limiting to say that they must never be used. Using them simply takes more thought than doing without them.
~michael baker
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SmileAndNod
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I generally disagree with what most magicians call conditioning the audience (not in the above post though). It seems most magicians think conditioning the audience is doing the move for real a couple of times before doing the sleight (eg actually putting a coin in the other hand, calling out the audience for thinking it was a false move, showing the coin really is there, picking it up again and doing the move again, this time for real). A suspicious move will look suspicious no matter how many times you do it and that whole sequence just calls attention to the move which should be avoided anyways. The move isn't what is important, in fact it should be forgotten. The audience shouldn't remember the coin being put in the hand, it should just know where the coin is, it's in the hand.

I was recently reading a book on the methods of professional storytelling and one point that was focused on is that the point of storytelling is to make the audience forget that they are being told a story. They should be completely focused on the story, not the story teller. The same is true for magic. The spectators should be focused on the effect, not the magician and any move that is unnatural pulls the spectators out of the effect and brings attention to the magician, regardless of how many times you do it.

Which I think is part of the point Michael Baker was making. "Unnatural" actions can be fine, as long as they fit the story being told.
55Hudson
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My go-to vanish is the Al Schneider Technique. Even though Al has indicated above it may not be total natural, with proper motivation I've found it to appear very natural. (I.e., motivation for transfer of the object)

I highly recommend Al's DVD, The Al Schneider Technique, especially vol 1

Thanks Al, for a technique I use in every performance!

Hudson
Al Schneider
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Actually, I never realized that most transfers are unnatural until I put together a Little Cup and Ball Routine. My goal was to be as natural as possible. I then realized that most people do not cup their hand around the ball or object received. My solution was to begin the routine by saying I would hold the three balls in my cupped hand to do the magic. That "explained" to the audience what was going on. From that point forward, in my thinking, the action was normal or natural. It seems to have worked out well because magicians and laymen alike love the routine.
Magic Al. Say it fast and it is magical.
funsway
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Quote:
On Apr 6, 2016, Al Schneider wrote:
That "explained" to the audience what was going on.


That was one of the revelations that got me reading all of your material years ago.

I had never liked Spellbound moves since one "real person" ever holds a coin that way. So, I developed new sleights to accomplish the same results.

Then I say a woman pick up a small make-up container in a Spellbound finger grip and turn it over to read the label on the bottom.

By adding the "coin inspection" early in a routine with quizical expression I found that the audiences is trained to think the handling normal and even accept that the other side of a coin as "inspected."
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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