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Gracie Morgan

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For a long time, there have been varying opinions as to how many sleights it is advised to learn. Since I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time, I thought some might find it thought provoking for me to once again offer my opinion. Generally there are two sides to the argument and they usually either reference Eddie Tullock, who reputedly only used a few moves or Ed Marlo, who could do hundreds of moves anytime you asked him.

I argue for middle ground. First, allow me to start by quoting Sherlock Holmes:

Quote:

“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Now allow me to modify the quote:

Quote:
“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such magic as you choose. A fool takes in all the sleights and tricks of every sort that he comes across, so that the things which might be most useful to him get crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other magic, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon the most useful. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the sleights and tricks which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless moves and tricks elbowing out the useful ones.”

I have thought long and hard about what I would consider the fundamental moves of Card Magic. I believe the following to be a list that every Card Worker should master. They are, in my opinion, the moves which will allow you to do the largest amount of material. You may want to learn to do other moves, and that is fine. However, these moves should be mastered and never out of practice.

In no particular order, here are the general techniques/moves. Please note—I’m not saying that these should be the ONLY moves you learn. They should be the foundational moves you absolutely master and keep in shape at all times:

The Top Change

The Classic Force

The Touch Force

False Riffle Shuffle

Glimpses & Peeks

The Pass & A Turnover Pass

Elmsley & Jordan Count

Overhand Shuffle Technique

Multiple Turnover Technique

Break Technique

Top Palms

Bottom Palms

Side Steal

False Cuts – In the hands and on the table.

Flourishes/Color Changes

Several Card Controls that are generic in nature.

 Comments? Questions? If this is a subject of interest, I would be glad to discuss the same topic when it comes to tricks. I don’t have a list, but I can offer some thoughts. I know I've posted similar thoughts here, but it was a few years ago and I thought I'd try and reignite the conversation.

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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #2 
I don't know if I should be responding, since I am so new to magic. However, I have been converted to the Harry Lorayne way of thinking about magic, and that is keeping it simple. I admit that my focus is on impromptu tricks with no set up, or set ups that I can accomplish during a multi-trick routine. I also derive the sleights from the tricks, but some things I cannot do, my right wrist for example is damaged from martial arts and trying to practice the Hindu Shuffle is painful, so I don't do it, instead I found  I an do most things from an overhand shuffle.

Sleights I think are essential:
1. In-jog shuffle
2 Top Change 
3 Double Lift
4 Cull

You can do a lot with those. This list will grow with time, but for the beginner, these are essential, in my opinion.

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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #3 

     I think I must have written it four or more decades ago --- with a good control (a force can be considered a control), a double lift and a palm you can do miracles.  As time goes by, of course, you learn other sleights/maneuvers. I haven't used a top change in decades. My Ultra Move is many times better (in my obviously tainted opinion).  Be careful - as I say in the Foreword of THE MAGIC BOOK - I'll save you the forty years I wasted learning/practicing sleights I never used.
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StevePR104

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Reply with quote  #4 

I tend to agree with Harry on this one...I have many friends who are capable of performing far more sleights than I know or care to master.  And yet, I'm pretty comfortable in my skin in being able to perform the kinds of effects that appeal to me.

With that in mind, here's my list of sleights that make it possible for me to do whatever the heck it is I do:

• Elmsley Count
• Jordan Count
• Double lift
• Block push off
• Balducci Cut Deeper Force
• Herrmann Pass

Aaaaaaand....I'm off to the races.

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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #5 

   I agree with all, Steve, except the pass.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #6 
While deferring to your experience, Gracie, I have to agree with Sam, Harry, and Steve. I learned the Classic Pass, and still practice it, but rarely use it. Same with the Side Steal. But learning to invisibly cull has opened up new vistas for me. And your instruction on the Top Change finally got me over the hump, and while I'm still crawling, I expect to be walking soon enough. 

Also, while a wonderful literary conceit in its time, the Doyle/Holmes analogy doesn't comport with modern neuroscience. I've long used the analogy of Felix the Cat's Bag of Tricks; you fill it with what you'll need, so it's there when you do. But, and there's always a but, you gotta keep that bag organized and the tools sharp, otherwise they won't get you out of an fixes. 

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #7 
Some switching technique e.g. ATFUS, Biddle Steal action etc.

I'd leave out Side steal - I don't think we need so many control techniques.

What about double, triple undercuts from T to B and vice versa?

I think one way to realize what's needed is to go through your repertoire and see how many tricks you lose if you stick to a certain list. That'll force you to either drop the trick or add a sleight/move to the list.

Alternately it might be an interesting exercise in trying to find ways to use items already on the list in place of the one you're using. 

I'd miss:
TILT
ATFUS
Elmsley Count
Braue Addition
Bluff Pass
Buckle Count
Convincing Control
No-Lap switch
Elias multiple shift
Hofzinser Cull
Jay Ose False Cut
Jinx Switch
KM Move
Mexican Turnover
Multiple Count Change
OLRAM Subtlety
Rub A Dub vanish
Tent Vanish
Vernon Strip Out Addition
Zarrow Block Addition

Most of these moves are not very difficult and serve specific purposes. I'm sure some can be dropped in favor of something else. But often the "something else" will be busier or more time consuming. The maxim is "Use the right tool for the job." It's good to have a large tool chest. Just choose the right tool for the job. Some won't be used often, but they'll come in handy at some point.

You can certainly put on a good performance of solid material with just a force, a top change, a double lift an Elmsley Count and a few controls. But if I were limited to the short list, I'd lose a lot of items I like to perform.

M
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Magic Harry

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Reply with quote  #8 
i'm a fan of packet tricks so I think Elmsly and Jordan counts are essential along with double lifts the glide and Hammon count.
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Magic Harry

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Reply with quote  #9 
Sorry I forgot in my last post, how could I forget the essential buckle count/move for use in packet tricks.
As for slights I'd like to master, The Pass and Second and Bottom dealing but they elude me.
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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #10 
      
what's perfect for packet tricks, as well as for any set small packet of cards (up to half the deck or more) is my Utility Mixer (I'm betting most don't know about that good stuff!!) .
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Gracie Morgan

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Reply with quote  #11 
OK I think some people here missed my point.

First, I am not saying these are the only sleights you should learn:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracie Morgan
Please note—I’m not saying that these should be the ONLY moves you learn.


I AM saying that these are Foundational Sleights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracie Morgan
They should be the foundational moves you absolutely master and keep in shape at all times.


I also disagree with the minimalist approach. Yes, you can do miracles with only a few sleights. But so what? What's the point of that? That you should only learn four or five moves? Why would anyone limit themselves like that? Would you tell a beginner that he should only learn four Sleights in his entire career?  Neither am I arguing that you should learn as many sleights as possible, which was the whole point of the quotes in my OP.

Finally it is not strictly a utilitarian list. There are some moves in the list that have essential lessons ingrained simply in mastering them. The Pass, for example, has a myriad of lessons in timing, mechanics and misdirection.

Gracie
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luvisi

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Reply with quote  #12 
I know many great magicians get by without it, but I consider the glide to be foundational.

It can be used to perform a force (Sachs), a vanish (Collins), a control (Buckley/Kelly), a bottom deal (Marlo), and even a switch.

It is pretty much angle proof and it can be done without a get ready.

When you throw in variations by folks like Marlo, Downs, Jennings, Ganson, and Elliot, it becomes even more versatile.

The glide gets a bad reputation because it is often presented poorly, either through poor routining, poor technique, or insufficient practice. However, I believe it has the potential to be just as deceptive as the rest of our standard moves.

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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #13 

    You can check out my use of the glide in my effect, GUESS QUOTIENT. (That is, if you know about the "good stuff.")

    Gracie: To each his, or her, own.
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #14 
You learn tricks, and the sleights that go along   with them. That's what I think is so great about Close Up Card Magic.  Mr. Lorayne  teaches sleights and a whole a of good tricks that use those sleights.
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Harry Lorayne

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Reply with quote  #15 

     Of course. I learned the Diagonal Palm Shift sixty-five years ago - haven't used it yet!!!
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by luvisi
I know many great magicians get by without it, but I consider the glide to be foundational.

It can be used to perform a force (Sachs), a vanish (Collins), a control (Buckley/Kelly), a bottom deal (Marlo), and even a switch.

It is pretty much angle proof and it can be done without a get ready.

When you throw in variations by folks like Marlo, Downs, Jennings, Ganson, and Elliot, it becomes even more versatile.

The glide gets a bad reputation because it is often presented poorly, either through poor routining, poor technique, or insufficient practice. However, I believe it has the potential to be just as deceptive as the rest of our standard moves.

Andru


Andru, as a fan of The Glide, you would appreciate Al Leech’s sideways Glide variation called The Snide.


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Gracie Morgan

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michaelblue
You learn tricks, and the sleights that go along with them.

So if a beginner was enamored with the Curry Turnover Change, you would advocate him to spend hours on that rather than learning how to hold a break?
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luvisi

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracie Morgan

So if a beginner was enamored with the Curry Turnover Change, you would advocate him to spend hours on that rather than learning how to hold a break?


I interpret Michaelblue to mean that if a beginner was enamored with a trick that required the Curry turnover change but not a break, then it would be appropriate to put practice time into the Curry turnover change and not holding a break.

That is an extreme example, and I think it is important to distinguish between a pattern that sets a default behavior and an absolute rule. I imagine that very few of us follow any philosophy 100% in our magic or in our lives.

Andru
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #19 
All i meant was that you learn whatever move because you are going to do a trick with it.  I have heard people say the can do a great pass but they dont do any tricks with it. 
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Jorib

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Reply with quote  #20 
I'm with Lorayne thinking. Of course the more you have in your arsenal the more you'll be able to have solutions. Be warned, as Lorayne says in the Magic Book, you might be intrigued by the sleights and be missing the effects (sort of zen maxim) Adding sleights do not necessarily coincide with better effects. Personally, if I'm in an unplanned trouble, having more weapons in my sleights' arsenal is of course a good point: they can help to get out of it. But simple doesn't means easy either. Keeping simple is a work of art, it means you refine and refine your effects at a point that a sleight can be replaced by a subtelity or a simpler manuver. Forgive my enthusiasm for Lorayne thinking but I absolutely agree with him.
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #21 

I remember one afternoon years ago hanging out at Tannen’s in NYC, where I ran into a young man who could do a perfect pass.  And I mean perfect.  He did it for me over and over again … even with me watching his hands from six inches away … and I still couldn’t spot anything.  Then I asked him what he does with that.  And he said, “nothing”.  

This truly amazed me.  I mean, he must have devoted hours and hours in perfecting this sleight.  But he had no practical use for it.  Where’s the login in that?


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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #22 
For the record, the Curry Turnover without a break is called "Marlo's Breakless Curry Change." I learned if from Hierophant #7 as "Breakless Curry Change" (Chicago 1969).

Mike
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #23 
I guess I'll dive in and offer my perspective.  To me, card sleights are like any tools.  There are some you use frequently.  For me that would be a screwdriver and pliers.  Those are probably followed by a hammer, a saw, a putty knife, etc.

I own other tools that are used very rarely, but boy am I glad I have them.  Some of those would include a pair of huge, cast-iron pipe wrenches.  I might only use them every 5 to 10 years, but when I needed them, they were worth their weight in gold.  There just isn't anything else that will do the job.

Magic sleights are kind of like that.  The screwdriver and pliers might be equal to holding a break and being able to control a card.  There are probably over a million card tricks where you need to hold a break.  Paul Harris made a statement in one of his books where he basically said he is somewhat uncomfortable with any effect that doesn't require him to stick his pinky under the top card.  Being able to maintain a break invisibly has to rank as one of the most important tools.

The pass is just another tool.  As a control it used to be THE tool, but times changed and it went out of fashion.  After that, it was used more sparingly.  For some magicians it became a "rite of passage", a requisite move that established one as a true cardician.  Claims of invisibility and speed abounded.  

Some like to claim that the pass is useless.  That anything that can be done with it can be done without it.  Whether one agrees or not, isn't the point.  The fact remains that it is a tool and a good one.  I does allow for some amazing things, whether the audience is aware of it or not.  Mostly when they are not!  What I mean is a pass that is executed with no suspicion that anything has taken place as contrasted with the notion that "something" must have happened, but it was too fast to follow.  An example might be using a riffle pass to effect a color change or reveal a card.

I use the pass.  I love the pass.  Are there options?  Yes.  Do I care?  Not really.  The pass is just a tool.  A tool that does a specific job and does it very well.  Like any tool, it requires some mastery of technique.  It also shouldn't be used to perform operations that other tools are better suited for.  You can drive a nail with a heavy screwdriver that has a sturdy handle, but you really shouldn't.  Especially if it is really dense wood!  You can drive a Phillips screw with a slotted screwdriver if the tip is small enough and you have patience.  But you really shouldn't.  It just isn't as effective.  But using the appropriate tool with appropriate technique is appropriate.

There are also stylistic differences you can use to compare sleights.  For example, say you have a card selected from a peek.  You allow the deck to close, but maintain a break.  As you square the pack, you perform a form of the pass, controlling the card to the top or bottom.  The audience is under the assumption that you have no control of their card.  You "may" have an idea of where it is in the pack, by estimation, but they think it is still "somewhere" within the pack.

You could also, after the peek, hold a break and then cut to it.  Or you could do a triple cut, etc., etc.  In this instance, the audience might assume that the card is not hopelessly lost (what you want them to believe) or they might think that you somehow used the cuts to control their card.  

So in the two cases, a card was controlled to the top or the bottom, the difference is with the pass there was no overt action whereas with the cutting sequence there was.  It is up to the performer to decide which is better FOR THEM or for a Particular Trick.  Some tricks surely benefit from a decided absence of handling.  Mentalism demonstrations come to mind.  "I'm going to have you peek at a card.  Magicians generally have you remove the card, but we're not going to do that.  I want you to merely think of the card, to burn an image of it into your mind.  I'll set the cards down now, your card is still somewhere in the pack".  If you've done this using a pass, assuming your technique is good, they have to believe you have not control over it.  Or at least you've made a compelling argument.  Cutting opens up the door for manipulation and a possible explanation in their mind.  

I want to make something very clear.  I am not saying one way is right or the other is wrong.  But they clearly are different.  That's all I'm saying.  You can clearly do amazing card magic and never use the pass.  If you have the skill and the right tools you can build a cabinet without nails or screws.  And there is probably some satisfaction in doing that.  Does the person who buys the cabinet care, or even notice?  
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #24 
Good analogy RayJ.

Some tools are used a lot. Some not so often. But it's good to have those less used tools for when they come in handy. Perfect!

Mike
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #25 
I appreciate that Gracie started this conversation and was willing to stick her neck out with her list of fundamental sleights. It is quite a nice list, and, like any cannon, will be argued with by anyone who takes it as a list of the "correct" sleights. I don't think Gracie intended that. Such a list would differ by performer, hands, venue, tricks appropriate to personality, and so forth. But, it is a very good list, and raises the important issue for me to consider - what are my fundamental card sleights.

I am somewhat at odds with some of those who have posted above. It doesn't work for me to only choose sleights in a utilitarian manner. I know that may not make sense, but if I have familiarity with a variety of sleights it helps me to consider a new effect from several angles. Perhaps the moves in a trick would be better served with a somewhat different method. If I am at least familiar with a number of sleights, I can better consider slight improvements or alternatives.

Also, I have noticed a strange phenomenon. As I continue to practice sleights and learn new ones, I get better at them all. Perhaps it is just that I am continuously manipulating cards with my hands while watching television or doing other things, but especially if I am working on a difficult new sleight (or one difficult for me) I find that all of my sleights sem to get better and it becomes easier to learn new ones. Consequently, for me at least, it doesn't seem to follow that if I am learning a sleight that I don't have a trick for, I am wasting my time.

Of course, the ones that are the most critical are still the ones that I will use in actual performance. But, it takes me a very long time to get a trick to what I consider performance level, and that is very few tricks.

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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #26 
I think you're right Bill. You don't have to only learn a sleight because it's used in a trick you're trying to learn. Learn it if it seems like it might be useful down the way. Adding a tool to your toolbox isn't always based on an immediate need for the tool. You might just like the tool and imagine that you'll use it at some point. Sometimes you look at the tool and wonder what it might be used for and this can lead to a creative moment. 

I have come up with ideas for tricks just thinking about what a new move might be used for. 

M
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Guinee
I appreciate that Gracie started this conversation and was willing to stick her neck out with her list of fundamental sleights. It is quite a nice list, and, like any cannon, will be argued with by anyone who takes it as a list of the "correct" sleights. I don't think Gracie intended that. Such a list would differ by performer, hands, venue, tricks appropriate to personality, and so forth. But, it is a very good list, and raises the important issue for me to consider - what are my fundamental card sleights.

I am somewhat at odds with some of those who have posted above. It doesn't work for me to only choose sleights in a utilitarian manner. I know that may not make sense, but if I have familiarity with a variety of sleights it helps me to consider a new effect from several angles. Perhaps the moves in a trick would be better served with a somewhat different method. If I am at least familiar with a number of sleights, I can better consider slight improvements or alternatives.

Also, I have noticed a strange phenomenon. As I continue to practice sleights and learn new ones, I get better at them all. Perhaps it is just that I am continuously manipulating cards with my hands while watching television or doing other things, but especially if I am working on a difficult new sleight (or one difficult for me) I find that all of my sleights sem to get better and it becomes easier to learn new ones. Consequently, for me at least, it doesn't seem to follow that if I am learning a sleight that I don't have a trick for, I am wasting my time.

Of course, the ones that are the most critical are still the ones that I will use in actual performance. But, it takes me a very long time to get a trick to what I consider performance level, and that is very few tricks.



Bill, you are definitely on to something when you talk about getting better at all sleights when working on a difficult one. I've experienced the same thing. I think it is twofold, on one hand your dexterity is increasing while on the other you are gaining confidence.

I'm convinced that some struggle with even basic sleights due to fear or discomfort, both of which can be overcome.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #28 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
I think you're right Bill. You don't have to only learn a sleight because it's used in a trick you're trying to learn. Learn it if it seems like it might be useful down the way. Adding a tool to your toolbox isn't always based on an immediate need for the tool. You might just like the tool and imagine that you'll use it at some point. Sometimes you look at the tool and wonder what it might be used for and this can lead to a creative moment. 

I have come up with ideas for tricks just thinking about what a new move might be used for. 

M


I totally agree with the premise of a new sleight leading to creativity.

Also a proponent of analyzing existing tricks in light of new moves. Perhaps a move you have learned for a new trick fits perfectly in an existing routine. Maybe it replaces a move you dislike or maybe one move replaces multiple moves, uncluttering a handling.
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #29 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Guinee
 As I continue to practice sleights and learn new ones, I get better at them all. 



Over the years I’ve realized that certain sleights that I once found unconquerable, now seem easier to do.  This is especially true when I return to some of my older books and re-read effects and routines I had passed on in the past.


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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #30 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arthur stead


Over the years I’ve realized that certain sleights that I once found unconquerable, now seem easier to do.  This is especially true when I return to some of my older books and re-read effects and routines I had passed on in the past.



Yet another reason to revisit books or DVDs you already own!
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Tom Kracker

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Reply with quote  #31 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gracie Morgan
That you should only learn four or five moves? Why would anyone limit themselves like that? Would you tell a beginner that he should only learn four Sleights in his entire career?  Neither am I arguing that you should learn as many sleights as possible, which was the whole point of the quotes in my OP.

Finally it is not strictly a utilitarian list. There are some moves in the list that have essential lessons ingrained simply in mastering them. The Pass, for example, has a myriad of lessons in timing, mechanics and misdirection.

Gracie


I remember about 24 years ago watching, learning, practicing, learning many of the sleights on some of Daryl's Encyclopedia of Card Sleights Vol 1-3 on VHS, and picking out the ones that just felt right or fit "me".  I've since then reduced that to what I feel like practicing, but it makes sense to learn as many as possible, then figure out what works for you as a performer.  And as Gracie mentioned, something like the Pass, even if you don't use The Pass (or any Pass),  you can learn a lot about timing, mechanics, and misdirection.  I think this applies to "the good stuff" as well as stuff that has been around before that.  You just have to learn to pay attention to how it works and the impact it has on the audience.

Just my $0.00002

Tom

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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #32 
I didnt mean there was anything wrong with learning sleights just to have fun. But it becomes more fun when you learn  some tricks to use the sleights with. I shuffle cards while watching tv. And now that i have Netflix, i'll be watching a little more. 
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #33 
Another point re: learning sleights -

Just like with music where learning new chords and scales becomes easier as you master some, moves often become easier to master once you've begun the journey and have mastered several. The first time you try to learn G, A and D chords on the guitar, it's a struggle for each one. Soon you're able to move from one to the other with little effort and now you can play a bunch of songs. But then you find a song that requires a new chord. Or want to learn chords needed in a different key. It will be much easier to learn the new chord(s) having paid some dues already. Same with moves.

As MichaelBlue mentioned, needing the new chord/move for use in a song/trick is a great motivator to put the work in. Then you'll find that many new songs/tricks are now available to you since you have mastered the new chord/move. 

If you can only play three chords, you're limited to the songs that use those three chords. 

Mike
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #34 
Great music analogy, Mike!
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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #35 
In my opinion the following is the most fundamental card sleights and concepts for amateur card magicians (not any particular order):

- The Double Lift
- The Break
- The Key Card
- The Corner Crimp
- The Glide
- Braue Addition
- Depth Illusion or TILT
- The Spread Cull
- Vernon Multiple Card Control
- Palming (any that work for you)
- Side steal
- The top change
- The Shift/The Classic Pass
- The Herrmann Pass
- False Shuffle (any that work for you)
- False Cut (any that work for you)
- Forces (any that work for you)
- False Counts:
+Ascanio Spread
+Buckle Count
+Flushtration Count
+Hamman Count
+Elmsley Count
+Jordan Count
+Biddle Move
- Colour Change (any that work for you)

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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #36 
i like the open chords G A and D, too. Cat Stevens does that sometimes.
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