Patrick writes: How many magic tricks should I learn? For some time now I have been learning a lot of new magic tricks mainly because I like the trick. Just lately, I feel like I have been learning too much.
I know how to do a lot of different tricks but in reality I don't know how to perform them really well. How many do you perform really well, whether at a gig or just socially to family and friends and how many is the right amount you should perform?
I have a list of tricks I would like to do set out in "sets" because one day I would like to do magic for a living.
These are the sets:
– Bag 4 Life
– Copper Silver Transpo (Pat Page Coin Magic).
– Forced Card Mind Read/Business Sandwich (JD4)
– Two In The Hand (Spongeballs/Coins)
– Card Change
– Card to Mouth
– Off The Cuff
– Coin Through Handkerchief
– Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere (Goshman)
– Linking Bands
– Ace Shake
– Vital Statistics
I also have a list of impromptu tricks I like and would like to show people seperate from the sets:
- Magnetic Coins (Bamboozlers 1)
- Gemini Twins
- Smiling queen
- Linking paper clips and band.
- Ring thing
- Napkin Rose.
- Chicken impression
- Static-charge match. (Scamschool:Smoke)
- 242 Poker Deal (Talk about tricks dvd)
Then there is a list of bar bets/betchas I like:
- Rubber band release. (M. Wilson)
- The next card I turn over
- Bent match toss
- Impossible knot do as I do (rope).
- Fingers, nose do as I do
- Arm twist do as I do
- Cork penetration
- Tricky 5's. (Bar Bets DVD)
- Heist 3. (Scamschool:Fire)
Is this too many to know?
I am really struggling with this as I don't like to leave any of these tricks out. I don't know if that's normal but since I have put effort into learning the trick it's hard for me to stop wanting to keep any of these tricks.
What are your thoughts on this?
Hi Patrick, it's good that you have put in this work to plan out both your learning and performing material. You raise a lot of issues:
- How many tricks should I learn?
- How many tricks should I perform?
- Knowing a lot of magic tricks, but not performing them well
- Leaving magic tricks out
- Maintaining working material
- Putting effort into learning tricks
- How many magic tricks should a magician perform?
Let's work through some of these:
So many magicians don't do this. Taking the time to look beyond the desire to learn more and more magic tricks is a vital stage to developing a professional approach to your magic. There's nothing wrong with continuing to learn as much as you can about magic. The more you find out, the more little bits and bobs can piece together to give you new ideas and presentations for your magic. Learning new magic is RESEARCH.
Research is not magic practice
A pitfall that many magicians can fall into is thinking that research is practice. Studying new magic tricks and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in the field is important but it should only take up a proportion of your time. The key is to split your 'magic time' into three parts
Stage 1) Research
Study and read magic books, watch magicians perform, talk on magic forums, and attend conventions. Share ideas and learn new magic secrets. There is no need ever to stop doing this; it's all part of the fun of magic, and will keep you fresh and at the cutting edge of what's possible. However, don't stop there! Use the research section of your time to find out the types of magic and the specific tricks you want to take with you to the next stage. It's at this point that you are spot on to make a list like the one above.
Watch out for this: Spending all your free time searching for new tricks, chatting about magic, and watching magicians perform. The aim of research is to find the small selection of magic that you will master.
Stage 2) Practice
Through research, you build a feel for the magic tricks that would suit you, fit your style, and work well together. Slowly building up a list of magic that you will master and perform. As you acquire tricks that you know suit you, you begin to work on them through consistent, structured practice. There is only so much time in each day, so the research you have done should have narrowed down the tricks that make it to this stage.
Watch out for this: Resist the temptation to spend time practicing every magic trick or move you discover, jumping from trick to trick without mastering any. Without a plan or set goals you will just spend years learning bits and bobs without building up a set of core tricks that are performance ready.
Stage 3) Performance
The whole point of magic is for it to be seen by an audience. Your research time and structured practice should result in you having a range of magic tricks that are performance ready. A few at first, but slowly growing as you continue to research, select, and practice tricks to build your working sets. Performance is the end goal, but it is also a form of research and practice. Through performance we learn new aspects of presentation and technique, we reinforce our practice and maintain our skills.
Watch out for this: Without structured research your performance will be limited because you need to discover the perfect tricks to build an entertaining act. Without practice, your performance will be terrible as you will not have the skills to entertain your audience. Performance is the last stage in the process because it is the product of the earlier stages. Resist the urge to perform a magic trick before you have taken it through the first two stages fully.
Why stages stop magic problems
Here at the magic shop, we get questions from magicians every day. Almost every one of these magic problems seem to stem from the magician either getting stuck or fixated in one of the stages for too long or as a result of the magician skipping a stage.
- The magician skips the magic practice stage and rushes into performing too quickly
- The magician skips the research stage and just buys and performs the latest greatest releases with no constant theme or direction.
- The magician skips the research stage and reinvents a poor version of an established method.
- The magician skips the practice stage and fails to master the mechanics of a technique
- etc etc
Patrick, you have built a plan of the material you want to perform, which is the goal of the research stage. Now you can now focus your practice time on the material in that list. That will help you move forward. It's fine to continue the research as well, but only as a small proportion of your time. The bulk of your time should now be spent drilling, practicing and rehearsing the material on your list.
It's fine to learn more tricks, just don't spend 'practice time' on them unless you decide that your core list needs to be changed by adding the new trick or using it to replace a trick from the list that is not working for you.
Your list is the core of your work as you move forward from this point. This is my suggested plan for moving forward from this point, and the way I apply structure to how I develop my working material:
1) You practice the material keeping it developing and your skills sharp.
2)You perform the material that keeps it fresh and also helps you research how it can be improved or tweaked.
3) You continue to learn new magic tricks as research only to see how they could change or adapt your list.
How many magic tricks should be on the list?
It depends. Your list looks fine, and the quantity seems great. You have several sets to rotate, with a range of additional tricks that you can add when needed. The size of your list depends on how much practice or performance time you can give it. Magic tricks are like plants. Plants need to be watered, or they wither and die. If you don't often perform, your list will need to be smaller because you won't be able to keep it 'watered' with performance. A small list of tricks often performed, is far better than a large list of tricks that are half forgotten.
Size doesn't matter; it's how often you get to use it that counts.