Interview with Dominic Reyes, conducted by Sune Alexandersen and published in MAGIENS VERDEN Magazine November 2015
– Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been into magic and how did your interest start?
Hello everyone! I’m Dominic Reyes and I’m lucky enough to get to do something I would quite happily do for free, as a career. For the past 20 years, I’ve been a professional close-up magician, and I also own a bricks and mortar magic shop called The Merchant of Magic (www.MagicShop.co.uk)
I became fascinated by magic as a kid. I loved watching it on TV, but never though it would be something I would do. I played with magic sets given to me at Christmas, but then I discovered ‘girls’ and life got in the way… It wasn’t until my first term at university studying for a Psychology Degree that I discovered my first trick. It’s odd, but it happened because I was trying to buy a unicycle…
The guys in my student house were into juggling/circus skills for a laugh that summer. I got the bug and headed into town to buy a unicycle. You know how it is when you are prepared to do ANYTHING as a distraction from study and revision… The small shop also had a stand of magic tricks, and I picked up a Vernet Thumb Tip and silk. Just the thing to freak out everyone that evening in the house! It did, and at that moment I discovered my first important lesson in magic:
If you show people something magical and cool, they are going to say ‘Show us more…’ you better have something to follow it up..
I only had one trick! The next day, I was back at the shop waiting for it to open. I slowly brought every trick they sold. The shop only stocked ten items, but it was enough for me to discover I simply loved performing magic more than anything else. I was hooked for life.
You’ve written an excellent ebook on the art of practicing magic, and you’ve even made it freely available. Tell us how did the project start and why did you choose to give it away for free?
Thank you, that’s nice of you to say. The project came about through playing with ‘big data’. The magic shop has been going online for the past 16 years. That’s a lot of data about magicians buying habits. I noticed something interesting in the data. The life cycle of a beginner is roughly six months. After half a year, most people with a casual interest in close-up magic tricks move on to their next new hobby. If they continue past six months, there is a second drop off point after two years. Every day, hundreds of people discover magic, and hundreds forget about it. It’s a constant renewing cycle, and, on the whole, is a good thing. Out of this ‘churn’ rises a handful of magicians that continue to develop and become excellent. It’s just like panning for gold. The more full pans of sand, the more nuggets of gold get found. The sand will simply drop back into the river.
So, why the drop-off? The data showed me a lot more things. It’s a sample over 16 years of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The most significant factor that influenced this drop-off rate was how magicians approach magic practice.
Keeping a magic shop’s customers in love with magic long enough for it to become a lifelong passion, is pretty important to a magic shop. It’s also important to magic as an art. There’s so little taught on the subject. Most magic tricks deal with WHAT to learn, rather than how to approach learning it. How many magic tricks have you brought that come with a study plan?
That’s why I wrote Approaching Magic Practice. It’s my small attempt try to stop people getting frustrated with the lack of progress they often experience in the first few months of learning to become a magician.
I’m getting loads of thank you emails about the book. Almost everyone seems surprised that I’ve made it free. It’s simple really.. I don’t want to SELL it. I don’t want to have to persuade people to read it. I already sell over 20,000 magic tricks through Merchant of Magic. Approaching Magic Practice isn’t a ‘product’. The book is paying something forward and trying to stop people from dropping out of the hobby because they don’t feel they can become as good as they should be.
In the first month of release, the book has already been downloaded many thousands of times from readers all over the world. If I charged for the book, many of them simply wouldn’t spend their ‘magic bucks’ on it. Magicians who don’t have a systematic program of practice tend to focus on buying new magic tricks constantly. They tend to jump from trick to trick, never really mastering any of them. Most magicians want to purchase ‘tricks’ rather than something about practice.. Those people are exactly who the book has been geared to help the most, so making it free, means more people will read it.
– Tell us a little bit about the project?
The book is 102 pages of advice I give to magicians that come to the magic shop for personal tuition, or that contact me through my blog. There’s a systematic method of daily practice that you can apply to every magic trick you want to master. I teach the 20/20/20 practice drill method. It’s a tried and tested system that’s ideal for people that don’t have a lot of time on their hands. I’ve tried hard to make it light and easy to read and it’s peppered with questions and answers from magicians that have contacted the shop over the years to ask about learning a technique.
Why magicians waste so much time getting little result
How to avoid the ‘pitfall of choice’
A structured, focused practice program
Ways to stay motivated
How to judge your progress
The psychology of practice techniques
How to spot and correct errors
Example study programs
Ways to Improve your existing material
How to build presentation into your practice
The 20/20/20 method of practice
Techniques to avoid performance drift
How to set practice goals
The best way to remove a practice plateau
What are some common pitfalls magicians fall into when practising?
There’s quite a few, but the good news is that they are all easy to fix. The most common pitfall is the ‘magic binge’. 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. 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 magic 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. Frequent short sessions are much better than long binges because of the way our brains process information. In the book, I discuss some of the psychology behind this, and how to use that to your advantage.
Is there such a thing as negative training?
Yes. Very much so. I open the book with a quote from Michael Ammar:
‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.’
If you are not mindful of your technique when you practice, you make small mistakes. These become ingrained through repetition. It’s vital that your technique is as perfect as you can make it as you drill the moves. The key here is to go SLOWLY. Don’t try to build up speed as you practice. Speed happens naturally over time as you progress. Slow everything down as much as possible Aim for perfect technique. Going slow is also a good corrective method if you are trying to remove a bad habit that has developed over time.
– Any advice for new magicians? How can they establish good habits early on and is this important?
When someone is just starting out, it’s just important to have fun. Try out all the areas of magic that you can. Find out what you really like to perform. I always recommend going for super easy self-working tricks when you begin. Easy to perform, means that it will be easy to get you performing! Performance is the best way to learn about the type of magician you should become. Will you be fast paced and edgy? Will you be slow and stylish? Will you be dark and mysterious? Serious or comical? How can you begin to practice the presentation of any trick, until you understand WHO the magician is that will be performing it? Once you decide that you are serious about mastering magic, it’s important to become selective…
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. Now you have improved your skills with a goal at the end.
Which move should you learn next? Start researching effects that you can build into sets of tricks to form an act. Be selective. Pick tricks that amaze you, but that will also entertain an audience. They need to be perfect for the type of venue you will perform within, and the type of people that will be there.
Once you have selected your tricks, start on JUST ONE, and work on the controls, moves, and sleight of hand that is required to fully master it.
Any advice for seasoned magicians? How can old (bad) habits be changed or adjusted?
We get a lot of working professionals coming to the shop for some coaching. It’s usually because they have a growing sense that they are not getting the same reactions that they used to get from their material, but don’t know why. I usually recommend that we record them performing at one of their gigs. If they can set it up, it gives them an invaluable insight that can sometime be quite unsettling. Bad habits sneak into everyone’s performance over time, and then become ingrained through repetition. Luckily, they can easily be removed or adjusted once they have been identified. Approaching Magic Practice focuses on creating good habits right from the start by slowing the repetition of a tricks moves right down during a ‘drill process’. That makes sure that bad habits don’t become ingrained. However, once you are aware of a bad habit, you can slow things down again and start to correct the error through repetition.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long you have been performing. Using a structured, focuses, and regular practice system will greatly improve the results you get over time.
– Are magicians learning too much?
I think we constantly feel the need to learn new tricks and techniques to stay up to date. This desire to stay at the forefront of what is happening in the world of magic can be the biggest distraction from your magic practice. We’ve all experienced the feeling of excitement when a new trick comes out, we can’t wait to try it out, and we drop everything to do so. If you are in the middle of magic practice on another technique or trick, you’ve dropped it before you have mastered it. Often, by the time that you resume your practice on that particular skill, it is almost like you have never even looked at it before. I don’t think magicians learn too much; we should all be constantly learning. The problem is trying to learn too many tricks at once.
It’s a pleasure! I’m really pleased with the reception that the book has had. Your readers can download a free copy at:
I’d love some feedback from your readers about the book. Did they find it useful? What else should I have included?
I can be contacted directly at http://www.dominicreyes.me
Best wishes and good luck with your magic