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 Post subject: Sleights vs Gimmicks (revised essay by sirbrad)
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:36 am 
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Well with all the talk about how gimmicks are supposedly inferior to sleights, I thought it was time for another essay. Being I have not submitted one for a little awhile, I decided to resubmit a 'revised' older one for the newer members here to digest. Although I have a few new ones in the works, they are not yet complete. So lets just take a look at the comparisons between two things that should not even be compared.

Some magicians, and even better yet "magic hobbyists," may feel as though they are too 'advanced' to deceive, or entertain an audience with 'simple' methods. They assume they must all be "advanced" in their magical workings, or possibly able to fool magicians in order to prove their interest is legitimate, such as wanting to be able to perform 'the pass' simply because they want to impress their magic colleagues. Although proficiency in sleights are in integral part of any serious magi's arsenal, I also have found that simple methods can accomplish "simply amazing" results.

Is the personal gratification of pulling off a difficult sleight more important to you, than doing so by any means necessary regardless of the difficulty of the method? For anyone serious in their study of this art, both sleights and gimmicks have their place in magic, and they both can be beneficial to all skill levels. Yes a strong foundation in sleights is important, but why should it have to be 'extremely difficult' so to speak to amaze, or entertain an audience?

Personally I use whatever works, or will best fit the present scenario. Maybe I will even mold a gimmick, or gaff to fit the current situation at hand, should the need to be impromptu arise. In the end, the method is not what the audience will be talking about, at least we hope not, but the magic that happened before their eyes. For one to think that very difficult sleights are a necessity to fool, or entertain someone, I believe it is them who are actually being fooled. I say this after 24 years of experience in having consistent success utilizing both sleights, and gimmicks, not one or the other.

If one passes off another due to pre-conceived speculations that one is superior over the other, due to it's method or the skill level of the performer, thus actually taking the harder route when not necessary, just how advanced is this performer? Sometimes gaffs do provide results that are not easily replicated with sleight of hand, or are impossible to accomplish with sleights altogether.

I believe most budding performers all start with a gimmick in a sense, that of a magic set. What this set of 'gimmicks' can allow is, a beginner to have some instant success with the handling of magic items, and providing him with a little confidence to continue on his magic journey, and incorporate some basic sleights into his arsenal.

If most beginners start out this way, I believe they can make the gradual progression needed in order to learn more difficult sleights, and develop more magic knowledge in the long run. It is true, the title of 'magician' requires the utmost desire of one's dedication to the art in it's entirety, not just trying to find the easiest ways around advanced technique, or all the other facets of magic as a whole.

Now after I received my first magic sets, and worked with them some, I personally strived for more knowledge later on than just a few gimmicks. I wanted to absorb as much magic knowledge as possible, regardless of the method used to achieve the results. I began searching out knowledge on magic with books with a passion. I wanted to be sure I was well grounded in all the basics before I ordered any apparatus, or too much magic equipment from a magic shop.

Mark Wilson's complete course followed shortly afterward, along with Harry Lorayne's 'The Magic Book,' and many of Bill Severn's books after that. I then purchased the expensive Tarbell series, which quickly became one of my most prized magic possessions. I guess a longer term question is, does the magic enthusiast want to do the required work to become a great magician, or do they simply want to be tricksters who only know a few tricks?

Examinability may be a plus, but is rarely ever a problem with my magic, as I do mostly small stage/parlor shows. However I do some close-up also, and hand out stuff from time to time, or rely on audience assistance, so they assume all is legitimate. I guess it all depends on how much we practice our "methods" and how well we can switch out gaffs, or make transitions to non gaffs in a flowing routine. Sometimes a "visual examination" is all that is needed, or even a few examinations of non gimmicked items will usually be enough to convince the skeptical that there is no 'foul play.'


Last edited by sirbrad on Thu Jul 07, 2005 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:37 am 
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As I stated before from a previous experience, I once handed out a few objects at the audience's request which were luckily ungimmicked. Later on I took a big risk, and floored them with a gimmicked effect, and followed by asking them if they wanted to examine that too. They simply said no, and that they 'would not find anything' regardless. It is important not how we amazed the audience, but DID we amaze, and entertain them?

Close-up workers seem to be expected to hand out their items often, whether the expectations are by audiences, or even the performer themselves. But just how far do we need to go in order to prove we are truly doing 'real magic?' What is next, stripping down naked to prove we have no concealed pockets, vests, or pulls? I think constant examination actually throws a hindrance into many acts, and tends to stagnate it, more so than make a routine flow. Are we entertaining, or are we just presenting puzzles to the audience, and asking them to try and solve them?

True, method does 'affect' effect (something Jamy Ian Swiss said to me during an email conversation) and may also even affect the performer's total confidence while performing. Also sometimes there is an added assurance at the end of an effect that was accomplished with sleights, that you are "clean," and there is nothing to find. However I don't think we should be limited to just that type of magic skill, as there are some great gaffs/gimmicks out there that simply just cannot be recreated with sleights. Again, BOTH are an invaluable asset to me as a magician/entertainer.

As I also stated previously, sleight of hand is indeed an 'integral part' of a magician's arsenal. In fact during my teenage years I too thought that sleights were the 'only way to go.' I got so caught up in the self-gratification of being able to astound people with pure sleight of hand that I simply excluded gimmicks from my arsenal for a long time. However later on in my magic journey/career, I felt something was missing. I found that neither sleights, nor gimmicks could fully replace the other, and they should not be expected to.

I matured as an individual, as a performer, and my magic also matured. I realized that to simply disregard what was seemingly a powerful effect solely because it involves some gimmick, or hidden contraption if you will, was actually placing a lot of limitations on my magic's full potential. In fact one could even argue that your hands themselves are gimmicks, being they are being used for covering, misdirecting, and pantomime to just name a few.

I have found in my experiences that the combination of gimmicks, and sleights tend to be the most powerful overall, as opposed to utilizing them separately. Whatever "gets the job done," and is able to bring the magic I am creating in my audience's mind to the most stunning, and astonishing conclusion, is all that really matters, not HOW I was able to do so. To only do sleights because they do not utilize any type of physical gimmick so speak, is doing nothing more than inhibiting your magic's growth.

Basically you are engaging in 'magical masturbation,' and stroking your own misguided ego. If one can obtain the same results with a certain method, gimmick, or gaff without having to execute a difficult sleight, what other reason would they have besides self-admiration? The audience is unknowing regardless, and why run if your not being chased? Also I consider the TT more a universal utility, than a gimmick as it has many more uses than a stand alone gimmick would. However being it is never seen, or known to the audience, I assume it could be characterized as a gimmick.

I been through the whole "sleight geek" stage many years of my life, and although I do find the practice, and performance of sleights to be quite pleasurable from a technical, and emotional perspective, I no longer feel the need to limit myself to just sleights. There is no shame whatsoever in deceiving, entertaining, amusing, or baffling a spectator by "any means necessary" to get the job done.

This is not to question the importance of sleights, but more so the importance of implicating whatever tools that make the magic work the most effectively, not just the most "naturally." If a magician believes that only sleights are the ultimate answer, and completely disregards gimmicks based on the fact that they have some type of concealed mechanism within them, I believe they are doing themselves a true injustice in the long run, as well as all of those they will be performing for in the future.

The only ones being fooled are themselves, by believing in this delusional misconception that great magic cannot be achieved through anything but 'knuckle busting' prestidigitation. I strongly believe, and base my statements from my experience that combining both is almost as close to real magic as one can get. Not to say that each individually cannot hold their own the majority of the time, but this factor is also based on the ability, and overall skill of the performer.

I don't think that sleight of hand is the 'final stage' as many would make it to be, but only the foundation of the magic house, and the beginning of a better, and fuller understanding of magic, and one should continue to build upon that foundation, not stop before the construction has been fully completed. To do so would only leave you with an unstable, unfinished building project, and the same can be said about the type of performer you will be as well...


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 9:33 am 
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A very thoughtful essay, sirbrad, and I mostly agree with you. I do have a couple of comments to add to the mix:

I'm currently reading Henry Hay's "The Amateur Magician's Handbook", and he has what seems like a sound rationale behind presenting material the way he does - with the sleights first, then self-workers; the complete opposite to most magic books. He maintains that the temptation for beginners who have self-working tricks is to show them too soon, before the performer has worked properly on the presentation. By the time a beginner has mastered a sleight, they will have practiced the trick so many times that hopefully the presentation will have been polished up too.

The flip side of this is that, free of the burden of getting a sleight looking and sounding convincing, the performer can concentrate on the entertainment value of the effect.

Thoughts?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 10:12 am 
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Great essay. I don't like using gaffs and gimmicks because I want my magic to be able to be performed at any time. That's with cards though. Other than that, I don't mind them. I don't like videos that go over nothing but gimmicks because I hate having to carry tape and double facers with me. The other problem with gimmicks is that they will wear out. Other than that, use whatever makes the magic easier to do.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:36 pm 
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foucault wrote:
A very thoughtful essay, sirbrad, and I mostly agree with you. I do have a couple of comments to add to the mix:

I'm currently reading Henry Hay's "The Amateur Magician's Handbook", and he has what seems like a sound rationale behind presenting material the way he does - with the sleights first, then self-workers; the complete opposite to most magic books. He maintains that the temptation for beginners who have self-working tricks is to show them too soon, before the performer has worked properly on the presentation. By the time a beginner has mastered a sleight, they will have practiced the trick so many times that hopefully the presentation will have been polished up too.

The flip side of this is that, free of the burden of getting a sleight looking and sounding convincing, the performer can concentrate on the entertainment value of the effect.

Thoughts?


Yea, the The Amateur Magician's Handbook was also my very first magic book among those others which followed later. Although I do agree one should begin with the easier sleights, not everyone is able to do that right away regardless of how easy they may seem to others who are able to learn them a lot faster.

I do believe by starting out with a few gimmicks it allows the beginner to experience some instant satisfaction/gratification, which in this particular stage is actually a good thing, as the student will not get discouraged as quickly, and possibly just flat out quit magic altogether after being unable to get a firm grasp on them right away. Everyone learns differently, and at different speed levels, so one should always do what is best for them as an individual.

I know that the instant success that my old magic sets gave me were a great psychological boost, and of course by instant I mean "first presentation" not performed 'just out of the box' without the necessary work. I then later on decided to invest my time with sleights exclusively, and of course it was worth it. So I believe that no one way is actually correct per se, just the one that works best for you.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:35 pm 
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sirbrad - I knew that Hay's book was your introduction to magic literature, which was why I mentioned it.

Another point here is that it's really handy to know some effects which are completely impromptu, so that even if you're stuck without a TT, or some other utility piece, you can perform something at a moment's notice.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:08 pm 
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foucault wrote:
sirbrad - I knew that Hay's book was your introduction to magic literature, which was why I mentioned it.

Another point here is that it's really handy to know some effects which are completely impromptu, so that even if you're stuck without a TT, or some other utility piece, you can perform something at a moment's notice.


Ah glad to see someone actually pays attention around here. :) Yes impromptu magic goes a long way, and I do believe it should also be incorporated into the beginner's overall repertoire. Although I disagree with the term "self-working" for various reasons, there are some very strong effects out there labeled as such, and if presented properly can be magic masterpieces.

The major point of this essay is to try and pound some sense into those who do not use gimmicks just due to the fact they are such, and not unnecessarily difficult. I have been an avid practitioner of sleights for over two decades, but if I find a gimmick that is seemingly ingenious, and can save me some 'knuckle-busting,' thus allowing even more focus on presentation and showmanship, I will not hesitate to incorporate into my routine. No pride here, just logical reasoning and rationalization.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:42 pm 
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you have a lot of time on your hands sirbrad.

but anyway. THat was very helpful. i use gimmicks to amuse my spectator. It is not what i want but what they want.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:45 pm 
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exodus wrote:
Great essay. I don't like using gaffs and gimmicks because I want my magic to be able to be performed at any time. That's with cards though. Other than that, I don't mind them. I don't like videos that go over nothing but gimmicks because I hate having to carry tape and double facers with me. The other problem with gimmicks is that they will wear out. Other than that, use whatever makes the magic easier to do.


I feel the same way because I like to be able to be to do tricks without gimmicks. You are in a pretty sticky situation when someone requests "that trick where the entire deck turns to one card" (svengali). Before when I use to use the svengali as my regular deck, I was very handycapped when it came to using a regular deck. Now all I use a is a regular deck. It is okay to use gimmicks here and there, but to depend on them is not the way to go. I wouldn't say "gimmicks vs sleight of hand", these 2 go together. It is just good practice to learn sleight of hand tricks. Espicially with cards and coins. Most everyone has cards at their house and everyone usually has a coin on them. If all you use is gaffed coins & cards then you are screwed.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 3:41 pm 
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One problem that you brought up without realizing it is the "do the trick where they all become one card" thing. A girl came in the magic shop and asked the owner to do the trick where the ones become one hundreds. It's a different type of problem, but when the spec tells everyone the effect and then asks you to do it, you're at a disadvantage.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 6:27 pm 
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wizardmagiciankyle wrote:
you have a lot of time on your hands sirbrad.



Not really, that essay was formulated over a period of a few weeks. I base my opinions on gimmicks due to the results of my own personal experience, and that of others. There is a few magicians here, and ones that I know in real life that actually do use practically ALL gimmicks in their act, and are very successful. So the argument that a magician cannot use all gimmicks is faulty, because I see it happening a lot. Even at kid's shows of all shows, where they can get especially grabby.

Sleight of hand just wasn't for them, so they found a way that worked. I am sure one of those magicians I know would post here now if he was not so busy performing full-time with all his "gimmicks." Personally I don't recommend using all gimmicks, but he and many others do, and very successfully mind you.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 7:55 pm 
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The best bet, if you want to use gimmicks, is to learn sleight of hand to add to it. Look at the Chop Cup. Paul Daniels does an amazing routine that combines sleight of hand with the gimmick. Many effects are like that if you think hard enough.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 8:26 pm 
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That is also what I stated above, the combination of both "is as close to real magic as one can get." In fact that is the heart of my essay, to express the importance of not "favoring" one over the other merely for the sake of self-gratification, not because the method chosen best fit the circumstance.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 10:33 pm 
I am personally into the sleight of hand... I see magicians who cary around make-up cases full of little packet tricks, weird cards, and other devices that do the job of what sleight of hand can easily accomplish. If I have to do a trick with a double facer, I try to find a way that I can accomplish the effect with 2 cards face to face. I feel that there are many effects that can be accomplished with duplicates of 4 or 5 cards, but palming is more practical. I also feel that if gimmicks make the effect so much easier, what is stopping everyone from doing it? I chose sleight of hand, to eliminate 90% of magicians from even attempting the same effects as me.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 10:46 pm 
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If gimmicks create the best effect, then gimmicks should be used. If sleight of hand creates the best effect, sleight of hand should be used. It is as simple as that.


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