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Buffalo McKinley

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hello!

Is there an article or thread anyone would recommend regarding tips on effectively practicing sleight of hand?

I play guitar and I've found that some techniques on how to practice guitar (practice slowly, repetition, patience, discipline, etc.) apply to sleight of hand.

Thanks,

Buffalo
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RayJ

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Perfect practice makes perfect.  Yes, start slow, get the idea and then do the routines at "normal" pace.  Everybody is different.  Do you have a group of sleights that you want to learn?  You can learn them in the context of the routine or individually.  Both can be effective.  I think it is great that you are thinking about how best to practice!  

To me the biggest thing is to try to avoid the temptation to get too far ahead of yourself.  Learn the basics.  There are fundamental sleights that if learned well early on in your "career", will pay dividends far into the future.

Harry Lorayne is correct when he says what you need to be able to do entertaining card magic is a good control (a force is a form of control), a good DL and a good palm.  So break open a deck and learn to do a jog shuffle control, a riffle force, a good DL and a palm.  Could be a top palm such as Vernon's topping the deck, or could be a bottom palm or gamblers cop, whatever.  The idea is that if you learn those three things well you are miles ahead of many.

So don't begin working on the Zarrow shuffle just yet.  Save the Faro for a little later.  When the time is right, you'll be in a better position to absorb the moves and really benefit from them.

Walk before you run.


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MagicTK

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Reply with quote  #3 
One thing I learned to do years ago was practice making things look natural.

Back then, there was a few moves that I did that looked like I was "doing something", rather than just doing what people naturally did.  One example was I didn't do a really great DL.  It looked like I was trying to hold two cards together, rather than just flipping one card.  So I set out to study how I would actually flip one single card like flipping over a trump card in a game.  I did this hundreds of times with a few variations of flipping one card.  Then I would also hand a deck to people and ask them to flip over the top card (then I would study how they did those motions without telling them that's what I was doing) for the routine I was going to perform.  Then I picked the top 2 or 3 common handling and practiced to make my DL flip over look as naturally as the single cards.

I did the same with a coin.  If I were to actually take the coin with the hand, how would it look.  Then make the move look like the actual taking of the coin.

This method also helped when I had to do a move that was not natural and had no "natural" equivalent.  I would just practice and adjust until it felt natural, like "that's how everybody does it".

The other thing I'm still working on is having a reason for every move.  Justifying why I am doing something.  I'm better now, but when I was younger, I was more fidgety, and it looked more suspicious.  Now I pay more attention to placement of objects.  i.e. setting an empty card box on the table at the right location so it's actually "in the way" of where I need to spread the deck later, so it makes sense why I have to move it with my other hand.  Stuff like that.

Routining, scripting, entertainment factor.  These are also things I'm constantly working on improving.

Tom

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magicfish

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Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buffalo McKinley
Hello!

Is there an article or thread anyone would recommend regarding tips on effectively practicing sleight of hand?

I play guitar and I've found that some techniques on how to practice guitar (practice slowly, repetition, patience, discipline, etc.) apply to sleight of hand.

Thanks,

Buffalo

Read everything and anything from John Carney.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #5 
Two things. First, get ahold of a copy of Harry Lorayne's The Magic Book. It's a progressive course in sleight of hand magic. Following along with Harry's instruction will move you along the right road, in the right direction, and at the right speed for you. I dropped magic between the ages of 18 - 24, and it was The Magic Book that was my roadmap back to the journey.

Second, your analogy between practicing music and practicing magic is perfect. Follow those instincts! Oh, with The Magic Book in hand, that is!

Av 
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magicfish

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Reply with quote  #6 
I believe he discusses practice in particular in his brilliant, The Book of Secrets
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Two things. First, get ahold of a copy of Harry Lorayne's The Magic Book. It's a progressive course in sleight of hand magic. Following along with Harry's instruction will move you along the right road, in the right direction, and at the right speed for you. I dropped magic between the ages of 18 - 24, and it was The Magic Book that was my roadmap back to the journey.

Second, your analogy between practicing music and practicing magic is perfect. Follow those instincts! Oh, with The Magic Book in hand, that is!

Av 


I agree.  One of the best bargains in magic.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #8 
The music/magic analogy is dead on. There's a danger in practicing in both areas i.e. music and magic. The danger is that you just goof around and play with what feels like fun. I really had to force myself to practice scales and riffs on guitar. It was very easy to just start playing along with Stevie Ray or jamming on some blues. That's not practice. Practice requires focus and dedication. There's lots of repetition in practice and it can be boring. But it's the only way to really improve your skills. 

Video yourself as part of the practice regimen. You'll be surprised at how some things you thought really looked good don't look good - and vice versa. Mirrors are only good for angle issues IMO. You can't really see what you're doing as you do it. Video allows you to really watch yourself with full attention. Also, don't fall for "laypeople won't notice that" when your technique isn't good enough. Laypeople definitely notice things like fishing for doubles and pulling up a card for TILT etc. Above all be realistic about weaknesses and strengths as you watch yourself. 

Mike 


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Hal

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Vinson
Two things. First, get ahold of a copy of Harry Lorayne's The Magic Book. It's a progressive course in sleight of hand magic. Following along with Harry's instruction will move you along the right road, in the right direction, and at the right speed for you. I dropped magic between the ages of 18 - 24, and it was The Magic Book that was my roadmap back to the journey.

Second, your analogy between practicing music and practicing magic is perfect. Follow those instincts! Oh, with The Magic Book in hand, that is!

Av 
'

I agree with Anthony too. Harry's book is definitely a must. Also something that has helped me along the way is reverse engineering. Sometimes with a TT move for example, I suggest folks start at the end and work backwards. It may be hard to get the TT into that final position, so I start there and work backwards. Ah that helps. Each person has different size hands, fingers and TTs. So, at times this may help in seeing where the coin, card, TT, fingers etc should be at points along the way. Breaking the 'thing' down into parts so to speak. Also, practice in front of the camera and review constantly watching angles etc. Hope that helps some. Best regards, Hal 
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MagicTK

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal

Breaking the 'thing' down into parts so to speak. 


I remember at one lecture, Roger Klause said to break moves up into half-steps.  Sometimes it helps to take heat off of "the move", as well as gives the performer a time to connect with the audience or just take a breath.

Tom
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicTK


I remember at one lecture, Roger Klause said to break moves up into half-steps.  Sometimes it helps to take heat off of "the move", as well as gives the performer a time to connect with the audience or just take a breath.


Yeah, Roger's theory of half-steps is described in Roger Klause In Concert, and is worth checking out... even though I'd forgotten all about it before you brought it up, Tom!

Av
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magicfish

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicTK


I remember at one lecture, Roger Klause said to break moves up into half-steps.  Sometimes it helps to take heat off of "the move", as well as gives the performer a time to connect with the audience or just take a breath.

Tom

Also written about in Roger Klause in Concert by Lance Pierce. Great book. Allan Ackerman puts this to great use
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David

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Reply with quote  #13 
Not a lot to add to what others have said. Maybe just reemphaisize practice doing it correctly. I haven’t been at this as long as most people on here but have found out things are done the way they are done for a reason. Sometimes it makes all the “magical “ difference in the world. Enjoy the practice might be something new I could add.
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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #14 
Mike--I never could bring myself to practice scales on the guitar because, besides being boring, when you're done all you know is a scale--I always practiced songs, so when I was done I had something I could play for an audience. 

Same thing with magic: practice a trick. If it has a sleight, practice that, but put more time into the trick and how the sleight fits in. Learn tricks not just a bunch of sleights.

Here's a great non-practice tip from Ken Brooke: play with your props. So, if you have a coin box, carry it around and play with it so it eventually feels normal to you. 
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Michaelblue

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Reply with quote  #15 
Practice is fun.
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David

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Reply with quote  #16 
Couldn’t agree more. While you are determined to learn sleights always have a trick you are working on. As far as learning scales. Learning all 12 frets of the minor pentatonic scale enables me to sit in and play with anybody. People always thought I new more than I did, still do just not as often! I’d rather spend time practicing magic tricks these days.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #17 
Bob - I always practiced the raw scale in all positions up the neck and then test drove it by finding songs that it worked well in and jamming on them. 

A danger of learning scales is that you start just running the scale and stop playing melodically. Steve Vai seems to be running scales and arpeggios (although I think he plays melodically too), Mark Knopfler plays melodically. I'd rather play like Mark. 

Mike
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Bmat

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Reply with quote  #18 
Dont forget there is a difference between practice and rehearsal. You should think about them both.  Practicing is learning the moves, you can stop, backup, start over etc.  (and be careful not to practice your mistakes).  But once you have it down you must also rehearse.  get dressed in what you are going to perform in, and start at the beginning and go through the entire effect.  There is no stopping, no backing up, no starting over,  it is as if your audience is in front of you.   

And when practicing keep in mind the effect.  It is one thing to practice a double lift over and over to perfection.  Eventually you will have to put it into a routine.  How does one get into position for the move from within the effect?  how does one get out of it?  Once you surround a move with a routine it can become a different animal.  Just as performing live in front of an audience can throw all that practice out the window. 

I find what people do wrong in practicing is that they neglect going out and performing.  Don't wait until something is perfect before you put yourself out there.  If you have to arm yourself with a svengali deck, anything easy and almost automatic.  Performing is just as necessary as practicing.  If you wait until it is perfect you will be an arm chair magician before you even realize.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Farmer
Mike--I never could bring myself to practice scales on the guitar because, besides being boring, when you're done all you know is a scale--I always practiced songs, so when I was done I had something I could play for an audience. 

Same thing with magic: practice a trick. If it has a sleight, practice that, but put more time into the trick and how the sleight fits in. Learn tricks not just a bunch of sleights.

Here's a great non-practice tip from Ken Brooke: play with your props. So, if you have a coin box, carry it around and play with it so it eventually feels normal to you. 


There's a lot of wisdom in that last bit of advice from Mr. Brooke.
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Steven Youell

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Perfection may not be possible, but only by pursing it can you achieve excellence.
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #21 
One thing that I do is to practice sleights while doing something else. For example, doing a couple of hundred little finger counts while watching a movie on television. The idea is to make it automatic, quick, and all in muscle memory. I don’t want to have to look at my hand. However, it is important to make sure that I am doing the move correctly before doing this work. Otherwise, I may be planting a bad habit into muscle memory. I also check my form frequently (say during commercials) during the process and correct myself as needed. Doing this kind of practice allows me to run a sleight many many times without the boredom factor kicking in. This is not a method for practicing tricks, only sleights.

Also, my favorite book about learning new muscle skills is “The Inner Game of Tennis.”
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Bob Farmer

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Reply with quote  #22 
Here's a tip from Gene Anderson: when learning a new sleight, practice it profusely. Then, as soon as you wake up in the morning, try it with no warmup to see how well you're doing.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Guinee
One thing that I do is to practice sleights while doing something else. For example, doing a couple of hundred little finger counts while watching a movie on television. The idea is to make it automatic, quick, and all in muscle memory. I don’t want to have to look at my hand. However, it is important to make sure that I am doing the move correctly before doing this work. Otherwise, I may be planting a bad habit into muscle memory. I also check my form frequently (say during commercials) during the process and correct myself as needed. Doing this kind of practice allows me to run a sleight many many times without the boredom factor kicking in. This is not a method for practicing tricks, only sleights.

Also, my favorite book about learning new muscle skills is “The Inner Game of Tennis.”


I do the same Bill, but I make sure not to make noise. I was watching TV with my wife and did a one handed shuffle with waterfall. She heard it and gave me the stink eye. I do quiet stuff now.
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Buffalo McKinley

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Reply with quote  #24 
Great advice, everyone!

Thanks!

-Buffalo
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buffalo McKinley
Hello!

Is there an article or thread anyone would recommend regarding tips on effectively practicing sleight of hand?

I play guitar and I've found that some techniques on how to practice guitar (practice slowly, repetition, patience, discipline, etc.) apply to sleight of hand.

Thanks,

Buffalo


Buffalo, I read your post again and read it a bit differently than the first time. I will share one thing I do when I am sitting and watching TV. I will open a pack and do several thumb fans with both hands. Cards almost always fan better before they warm up. Then I do several double lifts followed by top changes. I switch to Herrmann Passes and classic passes. I do a few false cuts and faro shuffles. I finish with one handed faros. All of these moves are done with no need for a table and I try to not look at the cards except to align the faros. Good practice for actual performance because the audience will tend to look where you look. If you don't burn the dirty work they probably won't either.

Sometimes I will use coins for practice but it is noisier and my wife frowns at me. ☺️
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MagicTK

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Reply with quote  #26 
You can alternate classic palm to finger palm with single coin pretty silently, but if you are swapping two coins in the same hand, the challenge is to make them not clink.  Of course, doing this while not looking.

Tom
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicTK
You can alternate classic palm to finger palm with single coin pretty silently, but if you are swapping two coins in the same hand, the challenge is to make them not clink.  Of course, doing this while not looking.

Tom


Oh, I know, I was mainly kidding about the noise.
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Robert McGee

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Reply with quote  #28 
Bill Guinee recommendation of The Inner Game of Tennis is great . Read it years ago and have used its techniques ever since.

Van
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