Practicing Your Magic Effectively
This essay has been designed with the purpose to help people practice the proper way and actually get something out of their practice.
Thru-out the years I have been doing magic, I have always been changing my "practicing habits". Either you want to accept it or not practice is a must in the journey of magic, not only on your next great effect or the next cool sleight you've learned, but gaining experiences performing your magic and knowing what works and what doesn't work. So here are a few tips that will help you practice more effectively.
A very very important note that you should bear in mind while practicing, practice correctly, practicing the proper techniques. How many times has it happened to us that we were practicing and trying to master a new sleight, and then when we would read again the mechanics of the specific sleight we were trying to learn, then we have found out something new that we weren't doing all along? We would find out that we were practicing it with the wrong mechanics, and we had to start all over again, the next time practicing with the proper techniques. That happening, though, our hands have been used to the specific sleight with the wrong mechanics, and then it would be hard trying to learn the sleight with the proper mechanics. So, do make sure that doesn't happen, make sure that when you learn a new effect or a sleight that you are practicing it with the right mechanics. Otherwise, the practice will be useless.
"How long do I need to practice?":
This is a very common question being asked from the new people starting off in magic. Practice has no amount of time in particular, all of the people on this planet are different, others learn quicker others learn slowly, in other words we have fast learners and learners that take their time. For example, someone might take hours to master something, others may take days and others might take months, I would even say years but I chose not to over react. After a sleight or an effect has been "mastered" practice some more, practice practice practice. Even when something has been mastered, I still do advise that you keep on practicing until you go out and perform out to the real world for real people. You will find out new things and may make some adjustments.
On a side note, regarding to that comment; a thing to remember is the fact that it isn't how a trick is done, but the effect you create in the spectators' mind, to do this obviously practice is needed, do I have a point?... The more you practice the better your performance will be.
Some people seem to underistimate the power of pattering while performing an effect. Why is patter needed? With patter you are able to guide your audience thru the entire effect, or a patter might be used as a short story about a certain effect. Secontly patter helps the "nerves problem", that many people seem to have problem with. Remember those days when you were trying to perform to strangers or even people you are familiar with, trying to show them a trick but you would just lose your words? Your voice shaking, "chewing" your words, in other words! Now, imagine if you'd have a patter for each of your effects, you'd always have a story-line, patter mixed up with the effect. Each effect that a book or a DVD includes, most of the time has a patter included along with the effect, take that patter and practice it. While you practice an effect in front of the mirror, patter out loud, and look at yourself in the mirror, act like there really is an audience in front of you and patter. That is called practicing your patter, NEVER think that *only* your magic tricks or sleights should be practiced, everything has to be practiced including the patter, it isn't the magic tricks that makes a magician what he is, that's only 50% of a magician's art, his art is to entertain by performing, having showmanship, being a real entertainer. Practice by performing, in which is called experience
You may believe the fact that a lot of tricks don't need to be practiced due to the fact that they're self-working, and their method seems way too easy. Not true. Everything does needs practice, this a lot of times happens with gimmicks, let's take the rising card deck as an example. The people who own a rising card deck, are aware that most of it, is self-working, thanks to its gimmick, you simply put the deck away from you and the card will rise out by itself. That doesn't mean in any way that practice isn't needed, in gimmicks you may find ways how to hold something, the grip, the speed, how to handle it, that too takes practice, or actually getting used to a gimmick or get used to performing a self-working effect, play around with it. Another example is the legendary invisible deck, which is one of my favourite gimmicks, don't you believe that is easy? Many people believe that all they have to do is a little memory work, memorize the invisible deck order and then perform it. I advise that you still practice it, how to hold the deck, finding out exactly how much pressure you need to apply on the cards, how much pressure you need to apply in order to seperate a stack and so on. There are many examples, I have written two of them, remember, however, that if you see a magic dealer stating, "no practice is needed - completely self working - the gimmick does all the work!", don't fall for that, everything needs practice, and as stated above, the patter has to be practiced too, as well as your motion your gestures etc.
Practice your magic over and over and over again, even if you have mastered it, still play with the effect, the sleight or move. You might discover things that work best for you, you might even change the positions where your fingers are held or make a few adjustments, changing the effect, the patter, the mechanics etc. You can change everything as long as it works best for you, no one ever said to do a sleight/ effect exactly how the book/ DVD instructs, it's what works best for you and how you are more comftorable with. Remember that it isn't how a trick is accomplished, only you know how it is accomplished, its method, it's how it looks in the spectators' view. Always remember that and bear it in mind, that's how gimmicks work, don't consider gimmicks as a toy, it's how the magic looks to the spectators' eyes. You only want to achieve the "look" of an effect, a method doesn't matter as long as only you are aware of it and are comftorable with it.
Practice one trick/sleight each time:
This is my personal suggestion I can give, when learning something new, I don't advise to over load yourself with new sleights or tricks. Practice each effect or sleight one at a time until you've mastered it, then move on to the next. I wouldn't recommend learning more than two sleights/effects at a time.
Identify Weak Points:
Try rehearsing your effects, see how they look in front of the mirror, think what you can do to make something even better, and even more impossibe, think outside the box! See where some moves will flash, how the spectators will think, how to avoid exposure, and the list goes on... whatever you can do to "fix" the mistakes or the weak points and adjust the effect to make it even beter. Practice makes perfect!
Practice your magic regularly, practice half an hour a day or even more, just as much as you need, just so your hands don't "forget" the mechanics and lose their skill. However, you may still take a break, if needed. Take a break from magic if you need it, don't practice for a week, no harm will be done, sometimes we need a break off magic, then we can start again fresh and relaxed, ready to learn new magic.
Practice when you are in a good mood:
When you practice while being happy and not in a bad mood, not only your magic is being trained but you also train your mind with those emotions, as strange as it may sound ( and it may be an original tip), that is how it works, that is what I have personally discovered, at least for me. If that is done, then when you perform those effects to your audiences, those feelings when you were practicing will stay in your mind and you will have a great time yourself performing your magic, that happening, your audience will, too. Always remember that, if you're having fun then your audience will, as well.
Never show a trick before mastered completely:
Another very important tip that you should bear in mind is, never perform a trick unless you are confident with it. There is no rush what so ever to go out and perform your magic before it's been mastered. Take your time, take the tips I've posted above, by rehearsing your magic, making it better, being careful on which parts you "flash", and so on. Unless you are completely confident with a trick, NEVER perform it, be confident with it, and your performance should go fine.
Try using a camera:
Sometimes your webcam or your video camera at home may come handy when practicing your magic. Instead of the mirror, you could always use a camera, tape yourself doing magic and then watch closely your performance and see what goes wrong, what looks good and what doesn't, where you flash during the performance, where do you give exposure; you can discover many different things.
You can also post your vids on a magic forum and ask for advice by other fellow magicians, that is always a great way, and always accept criticism, as it criticism that will help you improve most of the times.
Well, I am done with the essay, I honestly do hope this has helped and made even more advanced magicians learn a few things or refreshed their memory, after all, essays aren't only for beginners in magic, but to even help more advanced magicians consider about some stuff, as well. All feedback is welcome, and feel free to add to the essay, it will be greatly appreciated. Criticism is welcome, also.
Last Updated 6/21/2005