How do you start to learn sleight of hand tricks in a structured and focused way? That's a question that gets overlooked by many beginners as they race from magic trick to magic trick, soaking in as many new techniques as they can.
The key to focused practice is to choose a group of core techniques that you plan to work on, then create a structured practice schedule.
Let's look at the process:
Step 1: Choosing the technique
Start by creating a list of core moves that you would like to develop. This should be quite short, as each move will be the subject of a long period of focused work. Scale your list down to 5 or 6 key techniques that you REALLY want to master. For example:
- The Double Lift
- The Elmsley Count
- The Cull
- The Double Under Cut
- The Classic Palm
These will be the foundation for your practice over the next 6 months of magic training.
Once you have a core list pick one of the techniques to start your training.
Step 2 : Creating a Timetable
Now we have selected a sleight, we can build an effective program to give structure and a pace to our training.
At this point, it's easy to rush in and start practicing every moment you can. For some people this works fine, but it can lead to 'burn out' from boredom or impatience to move on to something new. If you find that you struggle to commit to serious practice, and skip from technique to technique without mastering anything, you may find that a structured practice schedule will greatly help you.
We recommend daily practice, in short sessions.
10 minutes practice in the morning
10 minutes practice in the evening.
Choose the first technique that you will work on, and focus on only that move for the next 2 weeks. Drill the move SLOWLY for 10 minutes every morning and 10 minutes every evening. Practice slowly, just focusing on performing the move accuratly and smoothly.
Your practice should be SLOW. The goal is on perfect technique rather than speed. If you rush the moves, assuming that faster is better, you will be making small errors, which become reinforced by repetition.
Speed is a side effect of good technique, not part of the technique itself.
Why short practice sessions
This allows you time for consolidation of the information you have learned, and the muscle memory to become embedded.
British “memory champion” Ed Cooke ( who can memorise a full deck of playing cards in under 2 minutes) agree's that short practice sessions are more effective:
Learning in short bursts, testing yourself on the technique over several weeks, and making sure that there are sufficient intervals between each practice session.
"The best thing to do is break up your studying of a subject – 10 minutes, test yourself, then again on day two, then day seven and day 14. The biggest mistake you can make is just to keep practicing it over and over to yourself.”
Step 3: Assessment
After 2 weeks, video your performance of the technique and watch it back. Have a critical eye and make note of:
- Mistakes in your technique.
- Unconciouse 'tells' that you might not have been aware of.
- How the flow of your actions look natural.
If you are completely happy with the technique, you can now move on to put it in action. If not, repeat the drill program for another week.
Step 4: Application and rehearsal
Once a technique has been practiced, you can't rest there. You need to keep it fresh and familiar over time.
Any move you learn is a waste of time, if you don't have an application for it. You need a magic trick that you WANT to perform that uses the technique. As you start rehearsing the full trick, you also reinforce your performance of the techniques within it. This keeps your skills active over time. Repeat the practice drill for the WHOLE magic trick, repeating it a few times each day.
Once you are happy with your progress through rehearsal, you are ready to start again at step 1 with the next technique you wish to master.
This 4 step training makes up part of foundation process that The Merchant of Magic uses for personal tuition sessions. It's also part of the training system within The Sleight of Hand for Beginners 3 month course. The process aims to slow down the learning process, focus the student on a few core techniques and progress learning through a drill program. Once a techinique is mastered, it is set to work within the context of several magic tricks that use the move, giving the student a range of tricks, that entertain, and reinforce their new skills at the same time.