The following conversation about learning card magic tricks, is a transcription from from the Merchant of Magic Podcast Episode 3. Dominic Reyes, Ben Williams and Paul Knight discuss a problem that one of the customers is having trouble solving.
The transcription is abridged and cleaned up (to some extent). If you prefer, you can listen to the full Merchant of Magic Podcast
Dominic Reyes: We’ve had a question from Conner:
‘I’m struggling with the Pass; everyone sees it, what can I do about this?’
Ben Williams: Learning card magic tricks like this is something every magician tries to do at some point.
Dominic Reyes: But how many magicians actually bother to perform the pass? Have you ever actually used it in a routine?
Ben Williams: This is the cold truth… It’s just hard core magic for other magician.
Paul Knight: I do perform the pass, but I don’t perform it like you see on Youtube videos and in an invisible manner. My technique is out in the open, but it’s covered with some body gestures.
Ben Williams: Conner, I don’t know if you’re a hardcore card magician, a Dan and Dave fan or one of those flourishing guys. If you are fine, you know, great, crack on, try and perfect card magic tricks like the pass. If you’re performing for spectators in the real world, essentially all focus should not be on your technical skill; it should be on your performing skills. That’s what their actually interested in. Your spectators don’t care at all what sleights or card magic tricks you use. The public just wants to see the magic happen and be entertained on their journey.
Sometimes I do use the pass. I’m not great at it at all. When I started learning it, I was so focused on what was happening with the cards in my hands, and watching videos of cards in people’s hands. I was getting so frustrated trying to perfect it.
Then it dawned on me; I realized that actually, the pass doesn’t matter. It’s just one of many choices. So I stopped practicing, and now I use the turnover pass in performance.
I prefer the turn over pass because I’m turning the deck over and could move my arm towards the table to place the deck down. That way I get plenty of cover for any flashes that may happen.
Dominic Reyes: A large action hides a smaller action.
Ben Williams: Connor, crack on, try and perfect the pass. If you’re performing for the public, there are better card magic tricks to spend your valuable practice time.
Paul Knight: Yes, that’s right. Also, it depends whom you want to learn the pass for. Is it for yourself? Is it for magicians, or is it for spectators? If it’s for spectators, I would suggest that you don’t beat yourself up over it. There are so many card controls out there and to be honest with you, whichever card control you use, the spectator should be unaware that you are controlling the cards.
Dominic Reyes: You’re doing it at an offbeat moment anyway. Whilst making eye contact.
Ben Williams: This was something I was going to mention. The pass, when it was first originally taught, was never meant to be looked at. Card magic tricks like this were never meant to be invisible. It was meant to be done under the cover of misdirection. I don’t know why people worry so much about palming cards. No one should be looking at your hands when you palm a card anyway.
The classic way to make somebody look away from the deck in your hands is to look at their eyes and ask them a question.
What you might be finding Connor, is that you’re putting too much focus on the cards at the time when you need to do the pass.
Dominic Reyes: That’s what people are looking at. They’re looking at where your attention is focused. Act like there’s nothing happen.
Ben Williams: I’ve stood there, before needing to do a move with cards, and everyone is looking at the cards. I couldn’t do the move without pointing it out. So I just sat there; relaxed, and said
“Well, I’m not gonna do anything if you look that close.”
That’s kind of a funny thing to say, but that gives you ample time to do the move under the laughs and the misdirection.
Paul Knight: The only people I’ve ever come across who say to me, “Hey how am I doing with my pass, how does this look, have I perfected it?” are non performing hobbyists.
Admittedly, a lot of the time, they’re brilliant at it. No professional magician has ever come up to me and said, “Look at me! I’ve perfected my pass.” Because they know, in reality, as I’ve just said, it doesn’t actually matter which techniques you use for your card magic tricks, if you’re performing for spectators.
Dominic Reyes: There’s a pleasure in perfection.
Paul Knight: There’s a great reward in trying to really master a move. Yes, definitely.
Dominic Reyes: But not if it’s causing you to feel worried about it because it doesn’t matter. You only need to perfect a pass for your own personal satisfaction. If it’s stressing you, just take a step away from it, for a while.
Ben Williams: Think about this as well Conner, if you’ve seen some videos on Youtube or on the internet, of people doing really invisible passes. Imagine if there was more than one camera set up on them. You are only seeing one angle. If you had 8 or 9 of those cameras chances are, you would see a massive flash of what’s going on.
Dominic Reyes: You usually only see one take. You don’t see all the rejected takes.
Paul Knight: One thing I will quickly say, is don’t try to be too textbook. Don’t follow every single nuance that is put in writing or on DVD. If a sleight is not working for you, stop looking at what your hands are doing. What can you do to cover up the moments that it flashes? Could you tilt the top part of the deck forward slightly to give you a better angle? Find out what YOU need to tweak, for your own style and pace. You don’t need to create a carbon copy of another magicians card trick technique.
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