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Profile of MikeDVx
OK, I've been at it for four days now, and getting very discouraged.... not really. Got RRCM and working (all four days worth) on the beginning manipulations.

My question - especially for other relative newbies - is: how long has it taken you to get a comfort level with the basics? Like most folks, played cards on and off over the years. Got an eight year old grandson, and in the interest of developing something to entertain and engage him - he's got some interest in magic stuff - I decided to take up card magic. Obviously, four days is a ridiculous amount of time to expect any kind of skill level at almost anything. I can see at least six months of regular practice to become reasonably adept. Is that overly optimistic, or...? Some people have more dexterity than others, and that would account for some differences. I've played guitar for the majority of my life, so I feel like I've got at least a minimum of ability to use my hands. There seems to be plenty of tricks that can be learned with a minimum of skills, but this seems like a fun challenge as well.

So - just wondering what has been the experience of others. Willing to be patient and put in the work, just asking.
Mr. Woolery
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Profile of Mr. Woolery
Pick a trick. One. Learn that trick. If I were to suggest one, it would be Color Monte. It has several sleights in it, but they are fairly basic. The big thing is it is a great little story, which will be far more entertaining to a kid than any "pick a card" trick.

Another great one is Card Through Handkerchief, if you want to use the whole deck. But do try to think of what would make it entertaining instead of just a puzzle.

The point is that if you are trying to learn a toolbox, it is sort of like trying to learn every G chord inversion above the 12th fret before you learn to strum and sing a song. Too much of the theory and not enough of the actual thing you wanted to learn in the first place will make it feel rather overwhelming and lame. This seems true of almost everything I have learned for the pleasure of learning.

Learn one trick, especially one with a story, and you can entertain a kid several times with the same trick. Sort of like if you know how to connect with people when you play your guitar and sing a song, they will want you to do it again, where if it is all about you when you play and sing, they get tired of it pretty fast.

I'm really not a card guy. I mean, I love watching good card magic, but it doesn't really thrill me to do it. I like stuff with ropes and balls, personally. But I think it still applies. There are some tricks you can learn and be performing the same day. There are others that take months to learn well enough to actually perform them. Magic and music actually have a lot in common, I think. They are both skills that are used to entertain, but that take time to get good at. And the people who are really entertaining are not necessarily the best technicians, but the best at making human connections.

How can you connect with people through magic? Figure that out and I think you will be on your way to a very rewarding hobby.

Dick Oslund
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Profile of Dick Oslund
I believe that Patrick has given you some EXCELLENT advice.

I got interested in magic at 8 years of age. From a book at the public library (there were relatively few books on magic, especially for an 8 year old, then. I almost memorized them! I "put together a little "show" which I did at family gatherings. (The "usual boxes, tubes, and cans) but also a basic knot trick with my father's bathrobe cord, and some simple card trick, long forgotten.

About 13, I had a "repertoire"! I had seen several magicians (school assemblies) and circus sideshows--TV didn't "exist" yet,) A school pal loaned me a copy of ERDNASE! I read (studied) it, and learned to do card fans, and fancy shuffles, but realized that I was not motivated to do all those card sleights.

At almost 14 (October 1845) the principal of the Junior High School "booked" me for a school show. We charged 10 cents! I made $26.00! (grown men were working all week for that!) I became a part time professional!!! I was making $10.00 for a half hour "club date", while my pals were making 50 cents an hour, mowing lawns, and, bagging groceries!

I've been performing for about 70 years (full time for about 50 years, traveling coast to coast, and, border to border.)

I have known many, if not most, of the top cardicians, I love watching them work, but have little interest in "doing" cards!

I would suggest that you listen to Patrick, but I would add a few more thoughts!

Pick up a good "kids' book (there are "gezillions" available today) and, diversify your interests! Simple GENERIC PROPS, like a few coins, a piece of rope, a handkerchief, etc. will make your little casual "shows" more interesting.

I'll add a few basic thoughts to Patrick's comments regarding ENTERTAINING.

FIRST! Realize that magic is NOT intrinsically ENTERTAINING! You, the performer's "task", is to make it entertaining, by the way that your PRESENT the trick.

My mentors always told me: "It aint WHAT ya do, it's HOW ya do it!"

You cannot "buy" a TRICK! You can buy a SECRET (in a book or dvd) or a a PROP. Using the PROP, and/or SECRET, you can PERFORM a TRICK. (TRICKS, like music, only "exist" while they are being performed.)

If you perform it well, with a good PRESENTATION, you MAY ENTERTAIN someone.

To add a trick to your REPERTOIRE, 3 "things" are NECESSARY.

1. Learn how it is DONE,

2. Learn how to DO it.

3. Learn how to do it, so that it ENTERTAINS people! (#3 is the "biggie"!!!)

When I joined the Navy in '51, at 19, I had my 30 minute act in a cigar box. Props: rope, silks, a pack of cards (for the "fancy" shuffles, and George McAthy's "insurance policy card trick". (I HAD learned to f*rce a card!!!) and the classic "silk to egg" routine. I did add, later, the egg bag.) I got an agent, and he kept me booked enough that I could buy a late model used car, rent a small place, in town, and SEND MY NAVY PAYCHECKS HOME TO THE BANK FOR 3 1/2 YEARS!

You don't need to be a full time pro. to enjoy performing! Magic is a fine hobby!
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Profile of MikeDVx
Great replies, thanks for those thoughts and enjoy the personal stories and outlook - but off my actual topic.

Considered most of that stuff, and is rolling around in my head.

This is actually a mechanical/skill question. What's they typical experience of gaining skills? The mental aspect, desire to perform, interest in other areas is pretty much settled right now. Willing to learn, practice, perfect, perform for at least one (probably others)- and know how to go about leaning in a way that suits my tiny brain. The comparisons to guitar playing are good ones I could give an informed answer to someone asking me what to expect as a beginning guitarist (I'm far past the 10,000 hour mark). That answer wouldn't include how to use delay pedals, performance, band dynamics, gig expectations, the wisdom of trying other stringed instruments. It would be - get used to pain (it will pass), develop good habits now, don't get discouraged (seems those apply to card mechanics) - and in about six months of diligent work, expect to be able to strum basic chords smoothly and have the skills to start learning more and more songs. The bell curve would allow for the savants and the musically impaired that would exist in radically different time zones. That's my observation of other beginners, as seen by someone who has played for 40+ years. Want to hear about all that other stuff as well? OK, no problem. On the original question, I would suggest asking other recent beginners and players how long it took them... - what is the typical time it takes folks to feel smooth with the various shuffles and card control? My learning curve will be different, but interested in other's experiences. After (now) six long days, I'm dropping and flinging fewer cards when actually using proven techniques. Seems there are lots of "I just got into magic" posts here, along with the two responses here that generously shared their stories and experiences.
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Profile of 55Hudson
Mike- learning skills will be measured in months, not days. Especially when you are just starting out. Skills will build on one another, but still think in terms of 20 minutes a day for a couple months before that skill is good enough to use in a performance.

Patrick's advice of learning one trick is a good one. I would recommend that each trick you learn requires new, or additional, slights. If you have three or four tricks, that each require one or two different slights, now you are ready to start adding tricks that won't require me slights.

Good luck!

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Profile of professortango
Muscle memory takes awhile to develop. Keep at it and don't give up hope.
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Profile of MikeDVx
OK, a couple of weeks in now. Handling improving incrementally, so it seems my six month guesstimate to be "reasonably" skillful appears accurate.

Good replies, especially the most recent one above. Developing the new angles of muscle memory is a challenge and satisfying as it develops. Eyeballing tricks, but my personal approach at new stuff is to get a baseline of skill - my interest is still high. It seems easy to build a library, and for me, that part's fun too - but not necessary at all. RRCM, Card College, etc. all have their approaches - seem that if you take any one of them seriously and work diligently at it you can get started successfully. 20 different books could make it seem all the more daunting. Depends on the individual.

I'm beginning to realize that the really old books are not only informative, but have a little bit of a time travel vibe, imagining the entertainers from the 40's & 50's, and backwards in time. There are some interesting cultural references in some. All before YouTube, etc. Adds some interesting depth to "just" throwing cards/items about (not denigrating that part at all), and some historical context to the craft.
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Profile of wulfiesmith
In my opinion (for what it is worth) perhaps you have set your goals too high.
Or perhaps I have miss-interpreted your thread.

For a performer who wants to display straight card manipulative skills, your competition goalposts are extremely high. But for a performer who wants to give the impression of card manipulative skills (using the concept of mentalism) the goalposts are closer.

I have spent the last 40 years as a performer, utilising basic card skills.
And no-one has ever come close to the fact that these basic card sleights have deceived them.

Hope that makes sense to you ...
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Profile of MikeDVx
Wulfiesmith - not sure I understand re: goalposts. My initial goal is to become reasonably adept, and be able to accomplish basic tricks without embarrassing myself for the very few people I may do them for. Competent amateur hobbyist, that's what I'm going for. Since starting, I've gotten a greater appreciation for just how difficult this can be, and the depth needed to become exceptional. That alone is a good thing, for me. Many things in life are much more complex and difficult than they appear, and that realization is really emphasized when you try to do that thing - whether it's controlling the top cards (anyone can do it, but not allowing others to see or even be aware of it), or throwing a football accurately.

I would never imagine that I would come anywhere near the skill level of someone with your history. I'm a believer in the 10,000 hour benchmark (give or take, given natural skills, or lack thereof) for expert status in just about any activity. Doubt I have 10,000 hours in me for any new skill, but who knows? Each group of hours makes my injog just a tiny bit better...
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Profile of kShepher

I am going to offer advice that many here will disagree with.

Forget about Royal Road and buy two books.

Harry Lorayne's "The Magic Book", and Roberto Giobbi's Card College One.

In my opinion...on every level... they are FAR superior to the dated Royal Road.

You will be doing magic in an hour.
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Profile of paulalpha

Lots of great advice given to you so far, and I appreciate your dedication to wanting to learn complicated sleights. But you also need to get some self working tricks that are not knuckle busters under your belt, and start performing them for real people. You'll be surprised at how much mileage you can get out of simple tricks, and that can keep your interest in magic going while you develop your knuckle busters.
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Profile of ActionJack
Mike I will give my advice and I am a newbie. Keep practicing your card skills as others have mentioned above but at the same time learn a self working card trick or two. This is what I have been doing and it keeps me interested and focused while I continue to train my hands to do what at first seems impossible. The added benefit of learning and practicing the self working tricks while working on your sleights is it gives you a little something to perform and you can work on entertaining and coming up with your presentation skillls which will help you as your sleight of hand skills come about.
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Profile of MikeDVx
One month - and something! Slowly getting comfortable with breaks, injogs, shuffling - progressing as I expected for myself. Also got Card College #1, but find I prefer the excruciating detail in RRCM. CC good as adjunct reference. I'm thinking my original estimate of six months to reasonably skillful beginner is about right. I looked at the tricks to try, but find I don't need those to continue to pique my interest. What the described tricks do is provide context, and that is a prerequisite for many learning scenarios. But as I practice I find that, for me, breaking down the needed moves and sequences into tiny parts for practice is effective - oddly, exactly as I learn difficult passages for guitar.

Anyhow, thanks to all who responded, always good to hear/learn from those who preceded you.
Bob G
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Like MikeDVx, I'd like to hear more about your "goalposts." It would be interesting to hear what basic skills you were referring to.


Bill Thompson
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On Oct 6, 2018, Dick Oslund wrote:

At almost 14 (October 1845)

Ok... Lol, I know you are old but not 187 years old! Smile
"To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment.
Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven." - Chuang Tse
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Profile of HenryleTregetour
"Mike I will give my advice and I am a newbie. Keep practicing your card skills as others have mentioned above but at the same time learn a self working card trick or two. This is what I have been doing and it keeps me interested and focused while I continue to train my hands to do what at first seems impossible. The added benefit of learning and practicing the self working tricks while working on your sleights is it gives you a little something to perform and you can work on entertaining and coming up with your presentation skillls which will help you as your sleight of hand skills come about."

"Pick a trick. One. Learn that trick. . . . "

Thanks guys,

It's been about a year and a half since I have really done magic beyond learning coin manipulation, which is coming along painfully slow. Basically I cause the coin to vanish, and then "What do I do?" I hope to use your comments to help me refocus on something that "works" and is more "fun."

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Profile of Ravenspur
I've been practicing (not intensively) for a little less than three months. I work at it for minutes, not hours at a time. I've also immersed myself in Magic podcasts (Discourse in Magic is my favorite), which has helped me learn the names of tricks and some concepts (though no secrets).

For a while, I thought I was getting the overhand shuffle down, and then, after watching some videos and reading RRCTM and Giobbi's CC Vol. 1, I learned I wasn't actually doing it correctly. I was basically throwing the cards from my right to my left hand instead of pulling them off with my left thumb. To the untrained eye, that's what the overhand shuffle looks like. Based on RRCTM, I have been practicing running the cards as well, though I can't always get them one at a time. It helps if I work with only half the deck. I have been working on controlling the top card, though I need to start doing it in front of a mirror. I'm also starting to be able to pick out moves made by amateurs on YouTube and Instagram.

Based on advice here, I've ordered John Bannon's Move Zero and hope to learn some self-working tricks. I'm not even sure I want to focus on card magic, but it seems like an important area for learning the basics.
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Profile of HeronsHorse
I don't understand. Why the need to count the days. Are you in a hurry?
I open the books, spend some hours at it and as the weeks go by I get better and better. You will too. And the royal road is old but it is not a bad book. It taught me a hell of a lot and still does. I recommend it over anything.
Good luck!

PS. Avoid amateurs on YouTube. It is toxic learning!
And ... I don't even know what I'm talking about.
But I've practiced magic for two years.
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Profile of Joeni
I'd recommend to get the videos as well as the books. Royal Road by R.Paul Wilson and Card College by Roberto Giobbi himself. The videos help you to see if you understood the book correctly. This helps to learn faster (at least I heard so, for I am at that same point as a beginner)
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Profile of Mindpro
On Jan 15, 2019, HeronsHorse wrote:
PS. Avoid amateurs on YouTube. It is toxic learning!

The best advice you'll get all day,
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