Beginners starting magic training are often frustrated with the progress they make. Here’s 7 things that they need to fix right away
I work with a lot of magicians that come to me because they are frustrated with the progress they have made. It’s often because of some simple things that they should have started doing right at the beginning of their journey into magic. Here’s 7 things that I most often recommend:
Avoid the magic binge
I’m going to make an assumption about you… Your excitement about magic means that you practice for hours at a time in huge ‘all evening’ practice sessions. These tend to be unstructured with no set goal in mind. Does this sound familiar to you? The results tend to be disappointing as you either get ‘burned out’ and stop practicing for a while, decide you just don’t have enough time to commit to regular practice, or you get bored and jump for one trick to the next, so no real progress is made. These binge sessions slowly transform into browsing the internet for new tricks, watching magic DVD’s, reading books, or browsing the internet magic forums. That’s valuable research, but it’s not PRACTICE.
To fast track your progress, you need to have a structured program of practice you can do every day. Working on JUST ONE trick or technique at a time. Frequent short sessions are much better than long binges because of the way our brains process information.
Choose effects before moves
Studying just moves, controls, and sleights endlessly is like a painter, spending years learning how to perfectly mix the oil paints to every shade of colour… They end up with a huge palette of paints, but no paintings…. Choose tricks and effects FIRST, and then master the controls, moves and sleights you need in order to perform those tricks. Doing that will mean you improve your skills with a goal at the end.
Use an effective practice drill
The key to any skill is repetition. It’s the difference between a beginner and a master. You could argue that natural ability is also a factor, but I firmly believe that this only plays a very small part in what makes a magician technically perfect. Natural ability only determines the quantity of practice required to master the moves
The difference between a beginner and a master is usually just the number of times they have performed the task.
In my book Approaching Magic Practice, I recommend that magicians establish a regular drill to practice the moves and condition them as motor responses. In just the same way that you would learn the piano, it is the constant repetition which will make you a master of any move.
The 20 – 20 – 20 Drill Method
A professional practice drill would be to perform the complete trick 20 times in the morning and 20 times in the evening. Repeat this every day for 20 days. Don’t attempt to speed up, just go through the whole routine as a slow drill.
You will find that the speed increases naturally over time, but don’t rush this process happening. It’s vital that you focus on the quality of the moves you perform and not the speed, so that you don’t reinforce bad habits as they occur. After the three weeks, assess your progress. If you don’t feel it’s 100% ready yet, repeat the drill for a few more weeks. It’s a slow and painful process, but you are conditioning yourself in just the same way a professional magician performs a trick in their act when working. The difference is that you are doing this in private and being mindful of each and every step in the process.
View magic tricks like the courses of a meal
Mastering the performance of a trick is your first goal, but the process does not stop there. It’s important that you don’t look at each trick you do as an island. They are better viewed as stepping stones that need to be aligned with each other to work effectively. It’s important to group the tricks you know into ‘sets’. These are collections of tricks that work well together and naturally flow, much like a meal:
Aperitif – Your Introduction
Starter – Your strong visual opener
Palette cleanser – A ‘middle’ trick, story or joke as a ‘bridge’
Main course – Your main effect building to a good climax
Dessert – A stunning closer – Memorable and high impact
Coffee’s – Your farewell
The example above is a three trick set. It has an opener, a main trick and a closer. The three tricks are helped to run smoothly together by their context and your charm (The Palette cleaner) and they sit inside bookends of a professional introduction and a good conclusion.
Make sure you don’t become a clone.
It is very easy to watch a performance that you enjoy and to believe that is the only way to perform that effect. Do not fall into this trap! You can learn much from someone else’s performance and experiences such as points of finesse and timing, sleights and even some jokes. However, if you clone another magician’s performance it will seem unnatural and even forced to your spectators.
Discover who YOU are
When starting out, your main goal should be to have fun. Try out all the areas of magic that you can. Find out what you really like to perform. I usually recommend self-working tricks when you begin. ‘Easy to perform’, means you start performing as quickly as possible! Performance is the best way to learn about the type of magician you should become. Will you have a dry presentation? Maybe you will be edgy? Will your delivery be slow and stylish? Will you be sinister or mysterious? To practice the presentation of a trick, you first need to understand WHO will be performing it? Once you know that, can you start to be selective by getting this next thing right:
Think before you buy something new to learn
When you are new to magic, it’s very easy to get carried away collecting more and more new trick. It’s important to slow this down, and much of it is the fun of shopping, rather than the serious job of becoming a better magician. If the only reason you picked a new trick was because it fooled you, chances are it’s probably not the right trick to learn next. You need to choose your magic by more than just your ability to ‘work it out’. Before you invest any more time on learning the trick, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Will it fit my style?
- Can I make it entertaining?
- Where would it fit into my ‘set’ of tricks?
If the answer to these questions is positive, then it’s worth starting the process of learning the trick and building it into a working performance ready routine. Sometimes you may buy a trick just to find out how it works, but remember that is best looked upon as research rather than act building.
If you would like to learn more about topic. You are welcome to download a free copy of my book Approaching Magic Practice.
Best wishes and good luck with your magic
Originally published in MagicSeen Magazine (July 2016)