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RayJ

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So I was looking at various quotes attributed to magicians and found one by Doug Henning that I felt was insightful.

"The hard must become habit. The habit must become easy. The easy must become beautiful."

To me, this sums up performance, particularly sleight of hand performance.

When you first learn a difficult sleight the effort is palpable.  You tense up and whether you know it or not, the audience can see it, sense it, feel it.

When you can perform that sleight without even a thought, you will be able to do it undetected.

Jeff McBride had a quote, paraphrasing "If your sleight of hand forces you to lose eye contact with the audience, it is too advanced for your skill level."

I am a big believer in that.  When I used to do a manipulation act, I did literally hundreds of sleights but tried my best to never lose eye contact, except very briefly and usually when I WANTED the audience to look at something.  For example, drawing their attention to billiard balls in my right hand as I stole one from my waistcoat with the left.  Then it was back to looking at them.

But even in close up magic, where you look can make or break a move.  When you are learning how to do a jog shuffle, for example, you wonder whether the audience will notice you in-jogging a single card.  Will they notice my left thumb dragging that top card back?
I've said it before and will say it again, the model for the overhand shuffle is Harry Lorayne and he does everything by feel.  He rarely looks at the cards or has to.  He knows where they are, has done the shuffles literally millions of times and has the muscle memory to prove it.

I used to coach soccer.  In practice we worked hard on the basics, the moves that happen every time you step onto the field, or pitch for my friends across the pond.  Some of the moves were easy peasy, some quite difficult.  We drilled them over and over so that the players could execute them literally reflexively.  The reason was that if they had to stop and THINK about the move they couldn't then THINK about the game.  They would lose sight of their opponent, for example, and their efforts would be in vain.  

I think magic is very much the same.  If you are using your mind to concentrate so hard on pulling off a move then you really are limited in how much attention you can pay to your performance.  In the end, both suffer.
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Paco Nagata

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Great post!
I've enjoyed and learnt a lot reading it.

I must add that when I took up card magic I didn't know how to consider myself ready for a show, since I had no master (and never have had one, but books). So, I thought about consider that you are prepared for performing sleights as long as you get to feel that you have not done any sleights, so you get during your rehearsal to fool yourself!
In addition I used to use my elder brother as a "guinea pig" to check if I did well my routines. Specially before great events like my family gatherings at Christmas.

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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paco Nagata
Great post!
I've enjoyed and learnt a lot reading it.

I must add that when I took up card magic I didn't know how to consider myself ready for a show, since I had no master (and never have had one, but books). So, I thought about consider that you are prepared for performing sleights as long as you get to feel that you have not done any sleights, so you get during your rehearsal to fool yourself!
In addition I used to use my elder brother as a "guinea pig" to check if I did well my routines. Specially before great events like my family gatherings at Christmas.


You'll get some varying opinions from people on when ready is ready. Some say get out there and learn under fire. Others probably wait too long.

At a minimum you should practice until you can perform the trick without exposing it. If you struggle through it in practice, you're not ready.

Then performing will help you hone away rough spots and polish to a shine.
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Mike Powers

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Burger used to say that if you haven't performed it 100 times (might have been 1000!), it's not ready for prime time.

M
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Anthony Vinson

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
Burger used to say that if you haven't performed it 100 times (might have been 1000!), it's not ready for prime time.

M


And that's the booger of it. Practice is often fun, sometimes tedious, and always important. However, there're are (at least) two distinct varieties of practice: mindless practice and deliberative practice. Mindless practice takes place during distraction, while engaged in some activity or another that allows the Default Mode Network to rule. Deliberative practice is focused, engaged, and goal-oriented. Of the two, deliberative practice is the more important. 

Malcom Gladwell wrote about deliberative practice and its role in becoming expert at - or mastering - an enterprise. His "10,000 hour" rule was a major hit in corporate and self-help circles for a while. The research he cited did appear to draw a correlation between deliberative practice and improvement/mastery.

This would, it seems to me, also apply to performance. Performance should be deliberative, at least initially; e.g. Eugene's 100 or 1000 times. When we perform we should have practiced sufficiently so as to be on autopilot of sorts, while diligently monitoring the environment. This allows us to deliberatively observe the performance, monitoring audience reactions, and assessing our performance looking for weak spots and noting the strong. Debriefs can be invaluable. Maybe ask for feedback if you're comfortable receiving it. Or maybe ask for it anyway.

Magicians, being human, naturally wish to rush the process. Open the box or watch the video, run through the routine a time or two, and away to inflict it on the unsuspecting. Could be one of the reasons that magic in general has such a poor perception among the laity...

I probably practice too much, refusing to perform a thing until it achieves my definition of near-perfection. That's what keeps me from performing as much as I'd like, the constant concern that I haven't dedicated sufficient practice and rehearsal and might flub it up, embarrassing both myself and magic. Sigh.

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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson


And that's the booger of it. Practice is often fun, sometimes tedious, and always important. However, there're are (at least) two distinct varieties of practice: mindless practice and deliberative practice. Mindless practice takes place during distraction, while engaged in some activity or another that allows the Default Mode Network to rule. Deliberative practice is focused, engaged, and goal-oriented. Of the two, deliberative practice is the more important. 

Malcom Gladwell wrote about deliberative practice and its role in becoming expert at - or mastering - an enterprise. His "10,000 hour" rule was a major hit in corporate and self-help circles for a while. The research he cited did appear to draw a correlation between deliberative practice and improvement/mastery.

This would, it seems to me, also apply to performance. Performance should be deliberative, at least initially; e.g. Eugene's 100 or 1000 times. When we perform we should have practiced sufficiently so as to be on autopilot of sorts, while diligently monitoring the environment. This allows us to deliberatively observe the performance, monitoring audience reactions, and assessing our performance looking for weak spots and noting the strong. Debriefs can be invaluable. Maybe ask for feedback if you're comfortable receiving it. Or maybe ask for it anyway.

Magicians, being human, naturally wish to rush the process. Open the box or watch the video, run through the routine a time or two, and away to inflict it on the unsuspecting. Could be one of the reasons that magic in general has such a poor perception among the laity...

I probably practice too much, refusing to perform a thing until it achieves my definition of near-perfection. That's what keeps me from performing as much as I'd like, the constant concern that I haven't dedicated sufficient practice and rehearsal and might flub it up, embarrassing both myself and magic. Sigh.

Av


Anthony, there is a lot of good stuff in that post.  I agree with your point about deliberative practice.  Many of us talk about how we watch TV and practice.  I do it, most probably do.  But I never do a trick, only sleights and usually basic ones.  For example, I will sit and classic palm 4 coins and practice dropping them individually.  Doing this, over-and-over helps to develop muscles in your palm that assist in the classic palm.  So in effect this is like weight lifting, or even a batter using a weight on his bat to warm up.  When you can do 4 coins then one is super easy.  So easy you forget you are palming the coin, and that is the point you want to get to.

So I agree with the notion that the best practice is focused, deliberate, intentional, whatever way you want to describe it.  But there is still a place for monotonous, repetitive motion.  Just don't let it get sloppy.

As far as rushing out to perform, my late mother used to disparage magicians that did "store-bought" tricks.  In her mind it was the difference between sleight of hand and sleight of store.  She felt the only thing they accomplished was getting to the magic shop first.  For a while I tended to agree, but later I discovered that no matter how the trick is accomplished, whether it is a black cylinder inside of a square box or a backpalm, the performance is what separates it.  As we've discussed here many times, so-called "self-working" tricks don't exist.  

As we grow in magic, we develop skills that are transferable to most any situation.  So regarding the 100 performances or 10,000 hours or whatever the measure, I think that is true for beginners and perhaps intermediates.  Once you have a bit of mileage under your belt I think the learning curve lessens and you CAN hit the streets with something much sooner.  But like anything else, you still must take care to do it right and improvement will certainly still come.

I remember Chris Kenner showed me a coin effect and offered to teach it to me.  I did it once and he said it looked great.  I just laughed and said, "well I have a good teacher".  The point is I already had mastered all of the skills required to drive.  He just showed me the roadmap.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #7 
I agree that "deliberative practice" can be the most valuable. But there's a lot of value in performing a move e.g. a bottom palm etc while watching TV or during other distracted moments. Not only does it help develop "muscle memory," it also emulates the real world environment where you have to listen, talk etc while you're executing the move. 

Along the lines of RayJ's paraphrasing of Jeff McBride - "If your sleight of hand forces you to lose eye contact with the audience, it is too advanced for your skill level." Burger used to say "Thinking kills magic."

Mike
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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I agree that "deliberative practice" can be the most valuable. But there's a lot of value in performing a move e.g. a bottom palm etc while watching TV or during other distracted moments. Not only does it help develop "muscle memory," it also emulates the real world environment where you have to listen, talk etc while you're executing the move. 

Along the lines of RayJ's paraphrasing of Jeff McBride - "If your sleight of hand forces you to lose eye contact with the audience, it is too advanced for your skill level." Burger used to say "Thinking kills magic."

Mike


Thinking can definitely kill magic.  John Mendoza, whom I quote a fair amount, had a routine in The Book of John where he cut to the aces in any order named.  He actually began the cutting sequence and then asked them to name a suit.  He reminded the reader that you should show no thought, but simply make the required adjustments to account for whatever ace is named.  When you can do that you are really doing magic.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #9 
 RayJ mentioned a notion from John Mendoza regarding cutting the aces without showing any thought. Ray said - "When you can do that you are really doing magic."

Yes, and conversely, when you can't do that, you're not ready to cut the aces for an audience. They'll see you thinking and that will pop the bubble of mystery.

Mike
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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
Along the lines of RayJ's paraphrasing of Jeff McBride - "If your sleight of hand forces you to lose eye contact with the audience, it is too advanced for your skill level." Burger used to say "Thinking kills magic."


Definitely this concept is one of the factors that made me a not bad amateur card magician.

"Mindless practise" has been one of the keys of my succeed as a family amateur.
I had mastered Passes, Top Palmings, and the Top Change among other extremely useful tools without taking my eyes off the spectators, by means of mindless practise. Whereas I used to focus the showmanship and the phases of a routine through the deliberative practise. So, I think that both ways of practise are indispensable.
Needless to say to be very careful with the mindless practise, not to do it near your family members, since of course lay people are not supposed to see you practising the Pass or Top Change!

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Latest erratum corrections and improvements update, 16/06/2020
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #11 
To be clear, I never denied the importance of mindless practice, but instead asserted that between mindless and deliberative practice, the latter is clearly more important to gaining mastery. 

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #12 
I think we mostly agree. Mindless practice is best for muscle memory, for being able to perform sleights to the point of habit. Intentional practice then takes what you have absorbed mindlessly and channels it into a thoughtful presentation.
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Alan Smithee

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
To be clear, I never denied the importance of mindless practice, but instead asserted that between mindless and deliberative practice, the latter is clearly more important to gaining mastery. 

Av


To me one follows the other. Get the move in your mind and your hands. Then do it whenever you feel like it. As others have noted, whilst watching TV, reading. It's a kind of osmosis. We absorb stuff.

A classic example is the coin roll. Not a move per se, but the principle applies. That's how I learned it. Both hands together at one time. Two coins of course. Age and the slowing down process is a hinder, but back when, the reading/TV thing was invaluable.
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