Secrets to Being a Better Magician
Tips on Tricks #1
How to Practice Magic by Jeff Evans
Congratulations, you’ve just learned a magic trick! You know the secret, but need to rehearse the sleight. How do you go about doing it? Everyone learns a bit differently, but here are the steps I take.
- Get everything you need to practice the sleight. This may be a deck of cards, a coin, something from around the house, or a special gimmick. Whatever it is, get the right items.
- Read all the way through the instructions and make sure you understand what the move is supposed to look like. Look at all of the illustrations. If it’s a DVD or video you have an advantage here.
- Break the move into smaller steps. Pay close attention to finger positions.
- Practice the sleight and re-read the description or re-watch the move to insure that you’re practicing correctly.
- Rehearsse for a mirror or, even better, a video camera. Make adjustments as needed.
- Add the presentation as the sleight starts to gel and come together.
- Perfect practice makes perfect.
- Once you’re ready, find an audience. Perform the trick. Afterwards, critique yourself. How can you improve?
- Find more audiences and continue to hone your magic.
Performing for real people is the best way to gain experience and master the art of magic.
Tip: If you’re having trouble with a sleight, try this suggestion from pro Martin Nash: relax. Hold the coin or cards so loosely that it nearly slips from your hand. Try the move again and you may be surprised. It’s natural to tense up when trying something difficult.
Tips on Tricks #2
Master Your Sleights for a Masterful Presentation by Jeff Evans
Magicians have it tough. You need to be the master of two arts: the technical skill required to perform the trick and the presentation skill to make it entertaining. Although you may practice a secret sleight for many, many hours, it’s still that: a hidden ability that no one should be aware of! How cruel to have to work and sweat to perfect something that no one can appreciate.
At the same time, sometimes people will credit you with great skill when you’ve done nothing… but your presentation leads them to believe otherwise!
I suggest that you learn the sleight first and then add the presentation afterwards. The sleight must be learned so well that it can be done subconsciously. In actual performance your full concentration should be on the presentation. The physical moves – whether it’s palming a ball or getting a break under two cards – all happens effortlessly.
Like any skill, you need to practice. Master the sleight so you can do it with your eyes closed. When I was first learning to palm coins I had a coin with me at all times. My best friend would walk up to me and say, “You’re palming coins, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. And it was true! I went everywhere with a half dollar in my hand.
Watch any top magician and you’ll notice that they are more interested in engaging their audience and interacting with people than they are concerned with what they are holding in their hands. When a performer has this sort of control over their props, every other thing that they do – from eye contact to verbal misdirection to comedy – has a more powerful effect.
As a beginner you may feel self-conscious when executing a sleight or doing “the move.” You’ll have trouble talking or looking at the audience because your brain is totally engaged with the physical requirements of the secret move. I’ve been performing for many years, and I still occasionally feel that way when learning something new and different.
The secret? Practice, repetition, and performances for live audiences. Experience is the difference that will sharpen your performance.
Tips on Tricks #3
Learning Magic from Books vs. Video by Jeff Evans
It’s a question for the ages: are books the best way to learn magic, or is video?
Seriously, I love both, but will suggest that DVDs and video are the best way to learn sleights, while books – and the written word – are the best way to grow as a creative performer.
Video has the advantage for learning magic sleights. Video gets you up and going faster, as you get to see the timing and presentation. The downside is that new magicians who haven’t discovered their “performing personality” will simply copy what they see on video.
Several performers and publishers have put out good video courses. But hey – I’m partial to www.magictricksandsecrets.com.
The benefit of my “Magic Tricks and Secrets” DVDs is that you always see the magic performed for a live audience in a realistic setting – not a trick performed for the camera. This lets you see how the magic is presented for a live audience. Picking up tips on audience management, timing, and segueing between routines is the difference between an amateur and a pro.
Books have the advantage for learning presentation, psychology, and creativity. For serious students of the art of magic I highly recommend books by John Carney, Tommy Wonder, Stephen Minch, Michael Ammar, Juan Tamariz, and Dariel Fitzkee. There are many others, but these are a great starting place.
A well-written book tends to encourage more thought and creativity on the part of the student. The result is that each person interprets the magic for themselves and creates a presentation more appropriate for them.
If you’re new to magic don’t get too bogged down by this. If you have a book, read and learn from it. If you have video, do the same. Practice the trick and master the sleight. Then, perform for real people. As much as possible! Once you have some experience under your belt, re-visit this tip and it will mean more to you.