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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » The challenge of sleight of hand. (13 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

TeddyBoy
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Hi All, the 60+ yo newbie here. I have recently come to the conclusion that trying to become decent at sleight of hand is the most difficult task I have ever inflicted on myself.

How about you? Is achieving e.g., a performance-appropriate level of competency in your sleight specialty the most difficult task you've undertaken? Of course this does not include dealing with financial or health problems of your own or someone close to you, but merely meant to encompass tasks with which you challenged yourself to learn/do something. I expect those of you that have been doing magic since your days in the womb will have a perspective different from those who caught the magic bug as adults. But I'd be interested in reading about how difficult it was to reach even a minimal performance-level.

Thanks for listening.
So many sleights...so little time.
Cheers,

Ted
ActionJack
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Teddy, I came across this thread and had to laugh at the phrase you used, (most difficult task I have ever inflicted on myself.) I laugh because I am sharing your misery. I am in my late forties and have been concentrating on card and coin manipulations. Just this evening I had sort of an epiphany. I have been working on my hand dexterity by practicing a one handed shuffle when for some reason I decided to try it with my opposite hand and voila it worked much easier. I still need to work up my non dominant hand strength and dexterity but I think by using my dominant hand it gave me the feel for what I should be doing with my other hand. It is late and maybe I am just rambling and not getting my point across very well.
funsway
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Mthinks you are confusing the "knuckle buster" types of physical handling with the general concept of "sleights."

Most do not require any dexterity of fingers, but do require a disciple of timing, focused attention and apparently natural hand movements.

The key to any sleight is "never happened" in the mind or attention of the observer. For example, hundreds of coin effects can be accomplished
with 5-6 basic sleights that do not require any real dexterity (such as a Utility Pass/Switch). These require practice to automaticity - and advanced age can be an advantage Smile

As I passed 60 arthritis set in and I had to change some of the handlings for others, and no longer perform some favorite effects.
In return, I have mastered others and created many more. "Sleights" is not the limitation. Presentation is. Presence is. Audience engagement is.

Your goal should never be to "become decent at sleight of hand," but to be able to produce astonishment for a variety of audiences using various techniques (one of which is sleights)

write me ken@eversway.com if you wish.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
Bob G
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Hi TeddyBoy,


I started magic about 2 and a half years ago, at the age of sixty. I pretty quickly focused on card magic because I wanted to learn all of magic all at once, and that wasn't working! Once I have a reasonable repertoire of card tricks (eight?? twelve??? -- right now I have about three), I'll move into other areas. (With a different temperament I could have learned more tricks by this time, but I'm something of a perfectionist.)


Funsway is right, of course, magic isn't just about sleights. He's probably right that sleights are the least of it, though I personally don't have the experience to say one way or another. He's been a tremendous help to me, and I urge you to take him up on his offer.



As a fellow "late" learner of magic, I'd like to offer you a word of encouragement. Sleight of hand *is* difficult. It's a long-term investment of time, and it's only worthwhile if you enjoy it. I happen to love learning sleights, so I'm happy to put in the time (job and other things permitting). But you have to look at it as analogous to learning a musical instrument. I started piano lessons about seven years ago (though I'd had other musical experience earlier in my life). In piano you don't start with concertos (and I don't expect to ever be able to play one.) You work your way up to harder pieces with steady daily practice. It's the same with sleights. Even the simplest sleights are difficult at first; to master them requires lots of practice over a period of time -- weeks, months... Sleights that seem impossible, and which you give up on, may come easily if you try again a year later.



One of the happiest days of my life was when my piano teacher said, "You don't have to be a master to play simple pieces beautifully." The same is true of magic: there are fun tricks that require only the most basic of sleights, and with a good performance, you can make them very effective.



So, in a word, you're not alone in finding sleight-of-hand hard, but if you enjoy the journey, keep at it.



Best wishes,




Bob
will lane
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I'll agree with above posts stating that the actual mechanics behind a sleight are only part of what makes a sleight effective. But really, that is just a matter of semantics. If performance comes naturally to you, the mechanics will be your biggest struggle. And if the mechanics come naturally, the performance will be your biggest struggle. If you're like me, both performance and mechanics I struggle with so magic is a hard game to play. But yes, a good performance and misdirection will make any sleight seem like it never happened.

For the most part, the tricks I perform regularly require as few sleights as possible. I try to think through the effect I want to achieve and I find the easiest, cleanest, most "risk-free" method of getting there. The 3 Fly routine I have developed and am working on is the most complicated and sleight-full routine I have, despite me trying to engineer it so it is a simple and sleight-free as possible.

I started magic in my tween years and I was not very good. I stopped working on magic for a while in my later teens, and have picked it pack up at 23. I've just now developed a convincing double lift. Part of that was just working on the mechanics over and over, the other part was thinking about what was said above, make it look like it "never happened". What would it look like if I actually did this with real magic- and then make your effect look like that. Sometimes, it doesn't need sleights.
MGordonB
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Hi
I too started late about 5 years ago at age 52. I tried different things, learned the cups and balls and went back and forth between cards and coins never really “getting it” but I kept at it, until suddenly this year, card sleights just started coming. Now I have a roster of about 20 card tricks all involving at least one sleight. None are knuckle buster moves but they’re decent enough. And the more card tricks I learn the easier they are to master. Still not getting coins though, although I do have an ok knuckle roll.
Bob G
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Will,


You make a good point, one I hadn't heard before, about the balance between sleights and performance skills. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that my natural talent in the two areas are adequate for entertaining friends and family. Strangers? -- I don't know for sure. Ultimately each of us to find his/her own route through the art and figure out what we enjoy doing.
Signet
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I'm endeavouring to learn sleight of hand with coins in my late forties. Yes, it is the hardest physical thing I have ever tried. I like that. It takes every bit of concentration I've got, which takes my brain away from worry. I need it to be hard. Many of the things I'm trying to learn can be done with gimmick coins. I do them using the gimmicks. This is so I have something to show after two years. I get pretty good reactions doing coins across, transpositions, ect.. I still want to know how to do it with real coins. This is the challenge that excites me and makes me crazy at the same time. If it was easy, it wouldn't do it for me. When you know how hard it is and then you finally get it, that's the greatest feeling. That's what you're after, that feeling of accomplishment.
krowboom
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I started magic in my 60's and am still doing it now in my 70's. I found that with cards you only need a few basic sleights to be able to do 100's of tricks. Elmsley count, glide, double lift, a few card controls, and that's all you need. Sponge balls are great and relatively easy to do. Together with a few coin and rope tricks you have a whole routine that does not require a lot of skill yet still is entertaining and baffling. Let's face it, if you want to be like Bill Malone or his ilk you need to start young, practice for endless hours, and have talent. Since I have none of those requirements I stick to easy tricks that allow me to concentrate on my performance.
Dick Oslund
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Hey Teddy...

I started in my early teens. I didn't have a mentor. (I lived so far north in Upper Michigan, that I could drive 350 miles south, and enter Canada (at Detroit). I began, making simple props like boxes. tubes, cans, and pans, from a library book in the children's section. It was my only source of information.

In '46. I was 14, and, had done a school show at the Jr. High School. It was a very simple show! But, it played very well, and, I made $26,00!!! (Grown men were working all week for THAT!

In April, Stuart Ross, a professional magician played my school. He did mostly tricks that needed sleights. (He was a Tarbell "student".) His show was WONDERFUL. I invited him (with mom's OK) home for dinner. I learned later, that traveling magicians LOVED a home cooked meal!

Stuart became my unofficial mentor! He showed me how to do tricks, that he made a living with!!!!!! --THAT, was an epiphany!!! It took a couple years, but, one by one, I got rid of the cans, pans, tubes, and boxes!!! (I was young, eager, and had "good hands".) I learned to use those hands.

There was no TV, or internet, in "those days", but, slowly my show became 98% sleight of hand, I learned all of the flourishes with cards, from ERDNASE, but, I didn't much care to do card tricks! Coins, balls, rope, silks, etc. became my props. I have known most of the top card men, over the years, and, ENJOY watching them work, but, I only do the flourishes. In the Navy, I carried my act in a "cigar box"! I could work ANYWHERE, and, an agent kept me working.

A "few" props were added, to the sleights, and I worked school shows, "coast to coast and border to border", for almost 50 years! The props fit in a case, 13" X 20" X 8". and, I could "set" it in 2 minutes, and leave 2 minutes after the curtain closed. I was never "out of work".

Along the way, I had learned that magic happens, not on the stage, but in the spectators' minds!!!!!!!!

Now, I'm 86, almost 87, and, do only an occasional show. ARTHRITIS, (ETC.) have slowed me down. Some "manipulations" are "difficult". Just standing, for a half hour, is a challenge.

So! Don't lose patience! As others above have advised, learn tricks that "look" like sleight of hand! (The "magic" happens in the MINDS of the spectators!!!)

The IMPORTANT THING is, to realize that, "It aint WHAT ya do, its HOW ya do it! (PRESENTATION IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN METHOD!)

Dick
Sneaky, underhanded, devious, and surreptitious, itinerant mountebanc
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Bob G
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Krowboom and Dick,


I *love* your messages! Very inspiring. They have a common theme: you can do a lot with a little. As someone who's been doing magic for just a couple of years, in his sixties, I find both your messages encouraging. And Dick, your personal history was really interesting.


Thanks, guys.


Bob
Mb217
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Yes, quite a lot of inspiring messages here...So happy to happen upon them, and to see a few friends so far away from the coin forum. Smile It's wonderful to find such great suggestions and fine encouragement. Like my buddy Dick here, I too had no mentors along my way, but lucky it just takes desire and a willingness to practice to develop good SOH.

Like many here, it's always good to start at the beginning and with some diligence you'll get it, cards, coins, whatever! Smile I loved magic since I was a boy, but didn't develop decent SOH until I matured some and was able to better hold a thought and stay with it. It first came in the way of coins for me, but even the better development of that came a'ways down a good journey for me.

So with all the other good direction here, I agree to come to better understand the "Multum In Parvo" rule (More in Little), or as I like to say around here, "Less is More." And it really is. Smile Different ages here run the race differently upon perspective and respect for the journey, but we're all going along the same ways as you.


In the meantime, just stay after it, keep practicing, and come back here regularly so we can all happily help you along and admire your sure to happen progress. Smile

Good journey to you and us all because really, we're still all traveling in this stuff with you. Smile
*Check out my latest: MBs Morgan w/ BONUS: Destiny, Copper Silver INC, Double Trouble, FlySki, Crimp Change - REDUX!, and other fine magic at www.VinnyMarini.com Smile

"Believe in YOU, and you will see the greatest magic that ever was." -Mb Smile
EvilClown
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As someone who essentially started over again this year at age 48, after having put magic aside for over a decade (and was no great shakes then), I sympathize with where the OP is coming from. All I can do is practice each day. Focus on what is achievable and not worry about mastering every last thing--just what I need to know to do the effects I really want to master, so I can then focus on polishing performance and routining.
Mb217
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Quote:
On Aug 15, 2018, TeddyBoy wrote:
Hi All, the 60+ yo newbie here. I have recently come to the conclusion that trying to become decent at sleight of hand is the most difficult task I have ever inflicted on myself.

How about you? Is achieving e.g., a performance-appropriate level of competency in your sleight specialty the most difficult task you've undertaken? Of course this does not include dealing with financial or health problems of your own or someone close to you, but merely meant to encompass tasks with which you challenged yourself to learn/do something. I expect those of you that have been doing magic since your days in the womb will have a perspective different from those who caught the magic bug as adults. But I'd be interested in reading about how difficult it was to reach even a minimal performance-level.

Thanks for listening.


Just realizing that I maybe I didn't respond to TeddyBoy's OP as I could or perhaps should have, so here goes...

To be honest, I didn't become decent at magic until I was an adult, though I had loved it since a boy growing up in NYC. As a young buck, I guess I didn't have the discipline & sticktuitiveness to better endeavor into the art. Plus, I wasn't lucky enough to have a mentor to help me along...Heck, I was just about the only kid in my neighborhood that was into magic. Every time I borrowed the only book from our little neighborhood library on magic, I was also the last person listed on the card in the back of it to take it out, time & time again. Smile

After going in & out of magic over the years, I happened back to it more than a decade or so ago and I guess I finally developed a better knack as to it as well. Of course I was much older now and could focus better, concentrate better, and stick to things much better. I guess you might just call it maturity. Smile Anyway, all of the sudden, a lot of the stuff that eluded me early on began to make better sense, and everything just got better behind better practice and understanding. And it all led to some amazing stuff for me too, even to the point of creating a thing-or-two out there of my own. Smile

Was it difficult? Yeah, at times it seems like you'll never get there, as some of the moves can be tricky to get the hang of. Not to mention, it all has to also work with other elements of deception and overall presentation. So yes, trying to nail all these things down can be challenging. But if you stay after it, as I came better to do, it comes. Some things are a bit more difficult than others, but it comes if you give it the deserved practice. See, I know that now and better understand that there is nothing I can't do even if I feel like maybe I can't. Now, there's some things I don't particularly care to do, but the things I really like I can do pretty much. So, I better realize now that not to always expect instant gratification, I know I may not get the hang of the thing right away, but I also know that if I keep after it, it typically gets accomplished and even polished to a nice shine to it. Smile

I first dealt with all this in closeup and coins, but later got back to an interest in cards. It was my better knowledge from what I came to do with coins that made me know that I could do a bit of the card stuff too...at least eventually. So, whenever it wasn't easy, I just kept going...Whenever I wanted to let it go as unimportant, I just kept playing with it. And eventually, I had it and was then able to figure out all sorts of other stuff as to it on my own. Smile

And y'know, life keeps happening while you're perhaps trying to get better in magic, so you just have to handle it. For me, it was always a respite from the rigors of the day to play some with magic, but I always got around to it, and most happily so most days. Now, with all that, I'm still no great & powerful OZ or anything...just a decent-at-best coin guy mostly. I have of late, over the past year or so really made an effort as to cards and have seen some real improvement, the best I've seen in my whole life. Smile For me, this is success. I guess there's a good-better-best in cards too, and I would say again that I am perhaps decent now...maybe. Smile I can do quite a few card tricks but prefer the simpler gems out there. My overall better knowledge of presentation helps me here too in delivering a good experience for the specs. Plus my little repertoire in cards helps to break up all the coin stuff, and has ultimately helped me to become an even better closeup guy, which is what I always preferred to be, someone that could do a good mixture of things. I guess my specialty will always be coin magic, but It feels good to be somewhat better well-rounded now.

Finally here, as you have probably heard, "Practice" is the key...Just stick with it! And now with internet access to the Café any time you want, well, you got the mentor I never had, and also the best reference place in the world as to the art. You can track down just about anything in magic from here...anything! Smile
Also, remember the "Multum in Parvo" rule (Much in Little), or as I like to put it...Less is more. Smile Came to better understand this too from the journey of it all. You can pick up a thousand things along the way, but you can manage to carry but a few very far...Better to practice those few well and instead present them to thousands. Smile

Welcome here, and good journey to you. Smile
*Check out my latest: MBs Morgan w/ BONUS: Destiny, Copper Silver INC, Double Trouble, FlySki, Crimp Change - REDUX!, and other fine magic at www.VinnyMarini.com Smile

"Believe in YOU, and you will see the greatest magic that ever was." -Mb Smile
funsway
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Expanding on Mb's "practice"thoughts, keep in mind the "never happened" flavor of any sleight. Perfection in the mechanics in not enough - in fact may even draw attention to the move.
For example, if you do a trick with a half dollar, put it away and fetch a different half dollar form another pocket, you are announcing there is something special about the coins.
No amount of practiced skill in extracting the coin or quality of your jacket is going to change that. Similarly, if you normally pick up coins from the table with both hands, the sudden shift to picking up with the right and placing in the left will create attention. Your practiced skill in the best fake transfer possible will be diluted by the discordant flow of "normal." Instead of "never happened," you have called attention to the event. The ideal result is that the observer does not even remember that you changed hands ot even what coin you used.

Yes - practice a variety of techniques to the point of automaticity - but, the "sleight" comes from having every movement of hand and body be the same whether you are doing something sneaky or not. Fortunately, you can change what is normal for you and later teach an audience what is normal for the setting and anticipated events. Practice being you.

To paraphrase the Godfather, "Do not try to convince a spectator that a coin is in a particular place. Understand where they know it must be and follow."
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
HenryleTregetour
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Thanks for this thread.

I have been in hiatus for the past several months, partly because of being so busy with other things, and partly because I lack a local mentor or other partner in crime. The latter has been difficult because you don't get feedback or guidance. And no, there are no local magic stores or clubs. Except for cups and balls, I have found it hard to get into the right mindset without someone present.

As for me, I am 55 and have been doing magic tricks mostly the past couple of years, with mostly not since June a year ago. It is encouraging to hear about people who have successfully started their magic "careers" later in life than I did, and I find it very encouraging.

If I could only overcome lack of inspiration and dexterity!

Henry

P.S. Hi Dick!
HenryleTregetour
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Yeah, "encouraging" and "encouraging"!!!!

I meant, "encouraging" and "inspiring".
Roberto Juan
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Quote:
On Oct 29, 2018, funsway wrote:
Mthinks you are confusing the "knuckle buster" types of physical handling with the general concept of "sleights."

Most do not require any dexterity of fingers, but do require a disciple of timing, focused attention and apparently natural hand movements.


It took me a while to understand something as fairly simple as a finger palm and a utility switch can be used to do some very impressive magic!

Like you say, then you focus on other things, such as timing, natural movements, and the presentation.
danaruns
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I do a bad pass. It will probably always be bad. I just suck at it. But a mentor (who posts on this forum and goes by the unlikely moniker of Pop Haydn, and also claims -- fraudulently -- to do a bad pass) taught me that I can get away with it by body positioning and focusing attention elsewhere. I didn't believe it. But once I had the courage to try and the guts to do it shamelessly, I found out that such an approach actually works and can cover a multitude of sins.

Johnny Ace Palmer has a bit in his routine where he tells a really stupid joke at the same time that he does a pass. And then he actually says out loud, "That's a bad joke, but it covers a pass." He gets away with it because he has the balls to put it right out there in front of people and make no excuses.

I agree that timing, focused attention, patter, and other non-sleight moves can cover some pretty major flaws.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
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