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DJ

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Reply with quote  #1 
As someone who is new to card magic I find myself buying books/videos/downloads looking for tricks that interest me and learning the sleights needed to do those tricks.  When I find a trick that I like, I'd practice, sometimes the sleights alone, sometimes the entire trick, until I thought I had a good handle on both to perform for someone.  Not too long ago I found myself ready to perform a trick for a friend.  I ended up being more nervous than I thought I would be, and I thought for sure the trick would be a bust.  The trick ended up working but it made me feel like I hadn't put enough practice in for the sleights/trick before performing it for someone.  My question is this:  When learning a new sleight, or a new trick, how do you know when you've practiced that sleight or trick enough that you are ready to perform it for someone?
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Cardshark Quixote

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Reply with quote  #2 
Hi DJ,
I read somewhere that Ricky Jay (a master magician) said "practice a trick for a whole year before showing it to anyone."

I will be honest with you though. I've personally never waited that long, although I probably should.
I usually practice something until i'm comfortable with it. If you got it down good, up to you.
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #3 
These are my thoughts. You need to be good enough to do the trick and sleights involved.
But there is a time when you have to take it on the road and show it to people.

You said that you're new to card magic. It sounds like you're new to performing as well. In that case, it's natural for you to be nervous because you have a lot riding on that one performance. You're looking to impress your friend, fool your friend, perform the trick successfully and not flub anything. That's a lot of pressure for what is pretty much an insignificant card trick that you're showing a friend.

But we all have to start somewhere. Experience is your biggest teacher. Know your trick inside and out, but don't be afraid to fail. It's not the end of the world. Failure shows you your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to go back and work on and even how to recover should this happen again.  Maybe you messed up a sleight, or you had a bad angle, or maybe your presentation was flat. The only way to know what you need to work on is to actually do it.

I've heard comedians and magicians always say that "You need a place to suck." That means you need a place to work out your material. Top comedians work small clubs honing their material until it is spot on and killer. Restaurant magicians and buskers know that by constantly performing one effect many times a day/night helps them to hone their moves, their script and their performance.

So when should you go out and perform? When you feel you have the trick down. Who should you perform for? Pick your audience depending on what you want to do.
You don't want to start out in magic and book a $500 walk around gig when the only person you've performed for is your reflection in a mirror.
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DJ

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Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks for the responses guys.

EVILDAN you are correct, I should have mentioned I am new to performing as well.  I'm currently just trying to branch out from showing my wife tricks to showing friends/family and eventually strangers.  


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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #5 
Eugene Burger says that you should have practiced a trick 1000 times before performing it! Yikes.. I don't take that literally. I think he means "many, many times" rather than a specific number. I might be wrong, though. He may mean it literally.

Another maxim from Eugene that is spot on is "thinking kills magic." He means that if specs detect you dropping out of "the moment" and thinking about what to do next, the magic evaporates. The "bubble of mystery pops." 

With "thinking kills magic" in mind, we realize that a lot of practice is necessary so that we don't have to think about the next step in the routine. That's second nature due to practice. Now we can concentrate on being in the moment with the spectators. Scripting is good but that too must be practiced so that thinking doesn't happen during performance. The script can be a bit loose so that it's less likely that we have to pause internally to find the next scripted line. Being "in the moment" is critical. There's no thinking about what to say or what the next move is.

The first performance of new material, even when large amounts of practice have been put in, can still be rocky. Fear of making a mistake can become visible to the specs and kill the "in the moment feel" of your performance. Eugene has another tip that makes failure a bit less scary. If things go south, Eugene will say "Well, it's back to the drawing board with that one!" 

This statement quickly acknowledges a mistake and moves on without showing shame or embarrassment. Of course, if you can pull off some sort of magic, you can give the feeling that this is what was intended even though you know you made a mistake. Then you wouldn't use the Burger line.

So the point here is - practice, practice, practice then perform, perform, perform. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that real expertise comes about through 10,000 hours of performance and practice. That's daunting!

Mike
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DJ

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Reply with quote  #6 
Thanks for the response Mike.  Good points you bring up.  It reminds me of something an British actor once said about using an American accent when filming scenes during a tv series.  For the first season or two he had to work really hard on making his British accent sound American.  He felt that his acting suffered because of it.  But once he was able to get his American accent to a point where he didn't have to think about it anymore he was able to focus more of his attention on his acting and he felt his performances improved.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #7 
Yes. Once you feel that the trick will unfold by "muscle memory", you're free to be in the moment with your audience. 

Mike
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Tom G

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Reply with quote  #8 
Basically, knowing a trick inside out and anything that can go wrong and you're on the path.  Mike (as usual) is correct, thinking about the trick in performance will kill it.
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #9 
Two things you DON'T want to happen.
1. Forget what step is next.
2. Have to stop and peek at the set up of the cards to make sure you're still on track.
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DJ

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Reply with quote  #10 
Thanks guys.  It definitely comes down to knowing the trick inside out.  I can see now that when I performed the trick I mentioned in the original post that I had practiced it enough but didn't account for the nerves that would come while performing it.  Instead of practicing it more I should have instead tried performing it more. Then, hopefully, with the experience gained while performing my nerves would calm and allow me to focus more on my spectator's experience.
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Cardshark Quixote

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Reply with quote  #11 
Yeah. You got it now.
Also, your hands may shake a little. Try to stay relaxed. Just keep performing. It'll stop eventually.

Practice the trick to the point were you rarely have to look down at the cards. That way you can look at your spectators while talking/using your patter.
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #12 
Jeff McBride called performance time "flight time."
It's like a pilot going for their pilot's license. They have to have a certain number of hours of flight time before they can even go for their test.
The more flight time you get in magic, the more comfortable you'll be performing.
Start easy. Get used to and comfortable performing. Then tackle the harder material.
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Cardshark Quixote

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Reply with quote  #13 
Michael Vincent is a great teacher & he uploads videos regularly. If you're not subscribed to his Youtube channel yet, I recommend you do.

This video is a must watch DJ...especially since you mention you're new to card magic. Cheers.

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=T4R7yK8kXEU
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DJ

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Reply with quote  #14 
That's a good analogy EVILDAN.


Thanks Cardshark.  I do subscribe to his channel.  Michael Vincent definitely stresses to master the basics of card handling and how it is important when developing more advanced skills down the road.  I have his Penguin Lecture and it was very good.  I'm looking forward to his here at the Magician's Forum!

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DJ

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Reply with quote  #15 
Thanks for the response Blathermist.  I see your point.  Practicing a trick or sleight countless times until you "perfected" the move only goes so far.  While all the practicing can give you confidence to perform it for others, there is another confidence that needs to be built that can only happen while performing for others.  I guess it is best to find a balance for both.  There is time that should be spent practicing a sleight or trick to the point where you feel confident enough to try it out for other people.  Then there is time spent performing, which is essentially a live practice, where another confidence is established and you are able to get all the kinks out.  
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Stevie Ray

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Reply with quote  #16 

Practicing sleights within the context and order of the routine is helpful in creating muscle memory.

 

Mirror and video can help correct tells and flashing. Video is cruel and invaluable. 

 

Writing out your script with margin notes on sleights and blocking will help with timing and memorization.

 

Rehearsing for the mirror and camera using pantomime to tell the story will enliven your expression and physicality.

 

Rehearsing your lines in concert with your memorized gestures and sleights and reviewing videos to create a crisp, confident and smart presentation is the final phase before trotting out to perform. This phase is built upon the foundation of agility, memory and control. It takes work to get to this stage. The rate of progress varies, depending on the technical demands of the effects in your routines.

 

Friends and family often get short shrift. We love them and yet we risk making a habit of subjecting them to what Brent Braun calls "the ugly baby." Those dearest to us might not have the heart to offer up a genuine critique. See, your new baby looks a lot like Winston Churchill but your kin will never tell you so. 

 

Take your new bundle of joy outside and show it to strangers. Try a bar, not too loud, not too busy and not during the World Series. Engage the bartender and a small group of nearby patrons in conversation. You'll find the right moment to seize hold and perform your miracle. Later, make time for a debrief. Write out everything that went right... and wrong. Eric Jones says, "Getting caught can make you a better magician." Reviewing your victories is the reward of a well-rehearsed performance. Examining a blunder will reinforce and beautify the next outing. Ultimately, Baby Winston’s face will look good enough to grace a jar of strained carrots and your magic will be stronger for it.

 

 

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DJ

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Reply with quote  #17 
Thanks for the response Stevie Ray.  Some good tips in your post.  Also, I can see how performing for strangers can lead to honest feedback and stronger magic.  Luckily, my wife is also a straight shooter and has no problem telling me something needs work...one of the reasons I married her. [smile]  
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Stevie Ray

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Reply with quote  #18 
DJ,

The problem in my house is this: My wife insists on frisking the magician after every effect.


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DJ

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Reply with quote  #19 
Hahaha....too funny!
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Rudy Tinoco

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blathermist

As long as the magician in question us you, I don't suppose it matters too much........[smile]  [wink]


That made me laugh out loud, Blathermist!!

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JHMagic

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Reply with quote  #21 
Hi DJ - Good topic! For me a big part of knowing when I'm ready to perform a magic trick for others is when my presentation (patter, handling props, timing, body language) flows and I'm not interrupted by having to concentrate on a sleight or next step in the method.

Often times I outline my patter and adjust it to fit the timing/pace and necessary pauses in the trick as I practice it multiple times. Having a good idea of what you are going to say relieves you of the additional stress of having to think of something on the spot plus relaxes your audience and allows them to enjoy the magic rather than wondering 'what did he just do there' because you paused unnaturally in what you were saying to look at your hands.

Always remember to have fun and your audience will enjoy it too!

Wishing you the best!
John

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JohnnyNewYork

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Reply with quote  #22 
Hello DJ and other posters! This certainly is an interesting topic. Awhile back I viewed an online lecture by Rafael Benatar and he offered an interesting take on this subject. In effect he stated that when you think you are about ready to perform something, practice it 20 more times; if it gets a little better, than practice it another 50 times, etc. When the extra practice no longer pays off, then you've probably prepared enough (of course, I guess you could also be practicing inefficiently, but I liked the spirit of his advice). Personally, I ALWAYS feel I can practice everything a little longer, but by performing I also pick up some valuable insights which someties is not apparent in front of a mirror. Magic is definitely an endless road of study. Thanks for the topic! johnny
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Sam Slaven

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Reply with quote  #23 
Mike Powers had mentioned Eugene Burger and practicing a trick 1000 times. I was young when I heard that, so I took it very literally. I usually do practice a trick about that many times, mainly because I'm bored. 1000 repetitions might take a week or months. I generally sit down and do something 25, 50, 75, or 100 times in a single sitting and log the attempts. After reaching 1000 reps, I'll start trying it for people. Once I hit around 1500 reps, then I'll put it in my act if I'm feeling truly comfortable with it. In the event the effect is very "simple to master", I'll still hit the 1000 reps simply because I've had "simple" effects go wrong more than any other. Murphy's Law, I suppose.
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DJ

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Reply with quote  #24 
Thanks for the posts!  Reminds me of something I've read in a fitness book regarding progressions for movement.  The idea was to work on a particular progression for a move until you are about 60% of the way there then moving on to the next progression.  You would work on the next progression until you got it to  60% of the way there and then progress to the next step and so on. Along the way you would always revisit previous progressions trying to get them closer and closer to 100%.  I'm not sure if the percentages would be the same for card magic but the idea may be something to consider.  
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