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Topic: Manipulation rouinte help
Message: Posted by: Jarana (May 25, 2006 01:06PM)
Can anyone help me or give me any tips on how to develop a manipulation routine with music?

I've had magic as a hobby for around 15 years now. I'm 28 and just about two years ago I started doing birtdhay party magic shows on some weekends with my wife as the assistant.

I would like to have a manipulation routine but don't know where to start. I can back palm pretty well, have coins, cards, balls, some different color silks , candles (appearing and vanishing) appearing cane, flash string, 3 doves and two rabbits. I use a clown costume for the shows I currently do but I would like to have a real magician musical routine and just don't know where to start or how to make it match with music.

Any help would be a appreciated.

Message: Posted by: bcookmagic (May 25, 2006 01:19PM)
Hi there,

I would suggest as a starting point to lay out all of your props on a table and find a few songs you like and start playing with stuff. The idea here is to get the creative process going. It is hard right off the bat to have the next brilliant and orginal act without going through the process.

I think you will start to find that you will start combining things you already know with different props and a routine will start to come alive. Don't be discouraged if the first go around isn't exactly what you envisioned... this is just to get you going... the rest will come as you practice and continue the creative process. Keep us posted as to your progress.

Message: Posted by: kregg (May 25, 2006 02:21PM)
Kyle (user name Magic4U02) has written detailed guidelines and tips regarding this question. Do a search and start there.
Do what you do well, add one new effect at a time - too many can throw your show off. Try to time your act tightly with your music. Don't guess, plan every move, gesture, and detail in your act from start to finish while keeping it fresh.
Originality comes from your personality, knowledge and energy; not by copying others. This does not mean you shouldn't do the same effects, but, that it should be done in your style. If your clown is unique and done well - then use it.

Message: Posted by: Jarana (May 25, 2006 02:54PM)
Thanks for the tips, I know someday I will get there. I have just got to start with a small one and keep redoing it, Hopefully I can have some time this weekend to work on it, as I have a four-year-old son and a one-year-old daugher and a wife that take up all my time!! Hehehe, but they are God's gift to me so I've got to attend and be with them and maybe while they sleep or watch TV I will work on developing my musical magic routine.

Message: Posted by: bcookmagic (May 25, 2006 06:49PM)
Hey there Jarana, my best work is done while the world sleeps. Good luck
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (May 25, 2006 07:20PM)
Thank you Kregg for the kind words. Let me try and repost some of my thoughts on this very topic as I think it might be worth exploring again and perhaps getting some new thoughts and insights into it. I am always constantly learning and I always strive to keep an open mind.

I decided to write this article out of numerous requests I have received from many magicians and manipulators on the subject of putting an act together. How do you keep it creative and different and why is it not the best to just do an act of pure skill alone? Below is my answer to these questions along with some tips on what has worked for me in regards to ways anyone can make their own acts more creative and therefore connect better with the audience and gather more response and applause along with it.

My first question to anyone putting an act together may seem a bit strange or sound like I am being too harsh, but read on and I think you will see what I am referring to. Some of these tips relate to manipulative magic, but the tips can be used for any type of an act. My big question to you is: WHY?

I told you that it may seem a bit strange, but let me go on now to tell you about to what I am referring. To a magician, we are fascinated with cards and flourishes and vanishes and anything related to manipulation. WE are amazed by the technique and the method and skill involved in doing the executions of the routines. This alone keeps us striving to learn more and piques our interest and curiosity.

However, this is often NOT the case with a lay audience. A lay audience does not see manipulative magic in the same way we do. They do not understand the techniques and skills involved and nor should they if what we are doing is supposed to be magical. With this in mind, the audience often will say to themselves, "WHY?" Why is this magician doing the same thing over and over again.

Why? Because the magician knows he is doing different vanishes and each one is slightly unique. However the audience only knows that the card vanishes, the card returned and now you're doing it again. This is why an act of manipulation is very hard to do well if your doing it for 7-8 mins in a normal act time. You do not want your audience ever asking "why" at any time in the routine.

So how do you work around this problem of boring your audience to tears? Well, that is where research and creativity come into the picture. It gets back to the point that in a manipulative act you must give the audience "more". It is not good enough to simply show an 8 minute act of pure skill alone doing moves that appear the same to any audience.

So how do you give your audience more? Well, you can give them more through the use of themes, character, style, pacing, transitional effects and emotional response to just name a few. Let me go on to talk very briefly about each of these I just mentioned. Each could be an article in and of itself but I will just give you my tips on each one for now in hopes you can grasp to what I am referring.

- Themes: You can give more to your audience in any manipulative act if you simply add in a theme to the act you are doing. This can be a generalized theme in regards to the objects that you are manipulating all relating, or the act itself can be themed around a storyline. In this way you are performing a small 8 min. play that just so happens to have magic in it. The audience can relate to the themed objects or the story and get more involved with your act and with you.

- Character: Every act you do should have a strong character present on stage. The audience needs to be able to connect with this character. If you can connect the audience with you, then they become more attached to you and can relate to what you are doing on stage. Ask yourself if your character is suave, comical, athletic, hip, sad, down on his luck, etc. Each of these can become a strong character that can be conveyed in your stage movement and even your music.

- Style: With style, I mean the way you move on stage and the way you conduct and hold yourself throughout the act. It is something that must be learned over time. It is the little things that make a huge difference to an audience liking you or not. It can be the way you pause at the right moment and look at the audience and wink right before a big production. It could be the way you move and look and smile at the audience as if saying "thank you" without moving your mouth at all.

- Pacing: The way you pace and time your act can make a world of difference to an audience. In many manipulative acts, the audience is being barraged with too much visual input. They cannot follow it all the time and so start shutting themselves down from even watching what it is you are doing. You must pace your act and place in it pauses that give the audience a chance to catch up, breathe a bit and give them a chance to applaud you before going into the next sequence.

- Transition effects: These are the simple things you can place into your act that changes it up a bit and ads so called "spice" to the act. It gives your audience something more to watch and breaks up the act from being too repetitive.
For example: You could be doing a billiard ball act. You do a few vanishes and produce the ball. The ball gets tossed up and as you catch it it turns into a white silk. You do a knots off silk effect and the knot becomes the ball again. In this way the ball to silk becomes a transitional effect that gives your audience something more to be interested in.

- Emotional Response: This is a HUGE one and can work so wonderfully if done well. If done right it can make your audience connect with you long after you have left the stage. It is causing an emotional response in your audiences by allowing them to connect and relate to your character and the predicament presented on the stage. It can also work closely with the theme you are presenting.

Every person in your audience has experienced something in common. What is common to us all is emotions. We have all felt fear, love, confusion and happiness. These are common to every person no matter who you are performing for. So if you can connect with them on one or more of these emotions, you can get that audience member to really relate to you because they are remembering a similar situation when they too had that exact same emotion or situation happen to them. They can relate.

For example, your manipulative act could be all about this guy at night who is just trying to reach a bus to get home. It is late and he misses his bus and the entire world seems to be passing him by. He sits on a bench to wait for the next bus and turns on his radio. He drifts off to sleep only to awake moments later. He realizes that magic starts happening to him even though he does not know exactly why it is. Through out the act the magic that happens to him causes him to smile and to realize that life is full of wonder even if we may not always see it.

Now this is just a very vague example but you can see how the entire act might be a manipulative routine but now you are relating to them a story of a very well-defined character with a well-defined theme. You give them an emotional response to the act because most can relate to being in a similar situation in their own life. In this way they relate better to what you are doing on stage.

Now these ideas are not meant to be the Bible for a great act by any means. They are simply some of my own understandings on what I have experienced that have really worked not only for myself but for other acts that have really "made it." They are meant only to be reviewed and given some thought to. Take even one thing from them and I think you will see your act reaching your audiences in a whole different light.

So I simply ask you to ask yourself, "WHY?"

I hope this is of some help to you and gives you some food for thought. I wrote it a while back when I really took a long time to sit down and really rethink the way I work my magic and why I needed to change certain things in my act.

Let me know your thoughts on this as I would be happy to share with you some other ideas as well as dive deeper into any of the topics I brought up above. My pleasure.

Message: Posted by: Rob Pond (May 26, 2006 09:49PM)
Very nicely said Kyle. This is also going to be a big help for me as I rethink over my act. Thanks for the advice.
Rob Pond
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (May 27, 2006 07:49AM)
You are most welcome Rob. My pleasure.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (May 27, 2006 10:30AM)
Great post, Kyle! Lots to think about.

Actually, what just went through my mind happened many years ago when I was paying my dues as a set designer by doing Summer stock. One of the interns was going to be designing his first set and was caught between wild excitement and absolute terror. This kid had been there the previous year, was active in theater at his high school, and was into design and painting, so he was a good choice as far as the executive producer was concerned. The show was a version of Alice in Wonderland.

Anyway, so he was getting all kinds of help from the other interns: do a back wall here, a couple of platforms there, a wagon that comes on and off, and so forth. But, as well intentioned as all this was, they were talking about scenery, not about a set. So Chris got even more confused and frustrated.

Somebody suggested a couple of us (guest artists) get together with the interns one night after dinner and talk about it. Again, the conversation went right to scenery. I stopped it and said we needed to think about the story first. We talked through the story and I said, gee, after this conversation, if it were me, the first thing I'd think of would be a huge deck of cards; some of the characters in the story are already in the cards, and it would be simple to make the cards become walls, doors, tables, ramps, and everything else.

To cut to the chase here, they all liked the idea -- but immediately went right back to how to make the cards stand up, open, and all that stuff. I had to stop the conversation again. They ended up using the card idea, but my point is that all these kids were into the technical stuff and kept falling back on it instead of letting their imaginations go wild and develop the concept first.

A couple of days later I took Chris out to the amphitheater and got him to sit down and just stare at the stage, forget all the technical stuff, and let his imagination wander. I kept emphasizing that he was designing a set, not figuring out how to build scenery. It wasn't easy, but he finally got the hang of it.

I'm bringing this up because it's so easy to get caught up in the tricks and the mechanics that we forget what we're really trying to do.

Good luck with your act! Keep us posted!
Message: Posted by: bcookmagic (May 27, 2006 12:34PM)
Hey there Kyle, I totally agree with you...but. The question was asked to where to begin. The points you hit on are most definately the direction you want to think when you start to have something that resembles an act. Its very difficult to just create a masterpice...so where do you begin. Kyle whats your thoughts on someone who has never done this before. I often tell people who want to do this to start out doing what I described above. The 1st step is just trying to get comfortable stringing a few things together....hey it will most likly be bad but this is how it all starts. Manip acts are not easy and most of them are strictly eye candy that really don't have a theme or make sense but are very fun to watch. I would like to hear others tell how they got thier first manip act going. Brian
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (May 27, 2006 04:27PM)
Okay, yep... we got off the subject. Hate it when that happens... :)

My cards-and-doves act was inspired by watching Channing Pollock abck when I was around 19. I knew that was where I wanted to go, but I didn't want to copy him, so I did some research and found effects that I could use that would end up in the same genre, and then adapted them to my liking. I wrote about this in one of my columns here in the Café, in the Buffet section; you may want to take a peek at it.

Later, when I wanted to move forward, I started -- believe it or not -- daydreaming about stuff I could do. Literally imagining myself in front of an audience and just letting things happen one after the other and blending with each other. I didn't think about putting discrete effects together: I just let things happen and flow and build. I guess I could say I was "designing" an act, because that's how design works: my brain was pulling things out of my mental database and ganging them together on the fly. A lot of good ideas came out of these sessions.

Once I was happy with a sequence, I wrote it down. I must have dozens of these in my old notebooks.

Hope that helps.
Message: Posted by: bcookmagic (May 27, 2006 06:55PM)
Hey there George, sounds like you confirmed what I said above.....sometimes like in your case you had a starting point with seeing Pollack but many magicians have no idea on where to start. There is no wrong answer in the beginning in my opinion. I don't want to give the wrong impression...I am not suggesting cloneing yourself after an act out there but it is good to get inspiration from these acts. Brian
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (May 27, 2006 07:21PM)
Hi Brian.

Some really great sound advice given here. I would like to dive into your question a bit and talk about what can be done for someone in regards to where to begin.

What I have to say is pretty much in line with a lot of your own ideas as well as those expressed by George also.

First, I would get a room and set up a video camera and get a bunch of tapes. I always record all my pratice sessions but I make sure that I am not focused on the camera. The camera is only there to capture my brainstorming and ideas as I create them. This is a great thing to do because not only do you get to see what the audience sees, but the camera also captures what I call those "happy accidents."

Happy accidents are what happens when you allow your mind to just become free to creatively think as you work on moves and putting moves together in forms of sequences. Sometimes we are often startled with how something came about and then we wonder how we actually got to that point. By video taping your sessions, you can always know exactly how something came about and it also shows you your progress that you are making. You are free to let your mind and hands explore things because you know you can always go back to it later.

Another thing I would reccommend doing is to make sure you practice something I call free-flow brainstroming techniques. The problem most people have when working on creating a manipulative act is that their minds are not free to explore past the obvious. The mind tends to only see what has already been done before it. It has trouble letting go and being open to explore things that may be new or different.

With free-flow brainstorming, you allow and train your mind to see past what is the obvious and let your mind explore things that may not be the norm to you. If you have a silk laying around and your holding a billiard ball, your obvious state of mind may never let you see the use of both of these coming together. However, in free-flow brainstorming, you allow your mind to try them. What would happen if I add in the silk to the ball sequence? What can I do with the ball and the silk? Let me explore some moves and see what comes out of it.

Soon you may realize that the ball can be thrown into the air and on the way down turn into a silk of the same color. This is just an example, but it shows how I often let my mind wander to try and come up with ideas for manipulation that is different and unique. It does not have to be hard, but just means thinking past the obvious by using what you already know.

Another thing I tell folks is that it is ok to be inspired by a manipulator or magician before them. If someone inspires you and helps light the fire within you, that is always a good thing. The bad thing is allowing yourself to fall into a trap by being too close to the source of the inspiration.

I tell students or folks making an act to start by learning the moves. Just spend time learning the tools of your trade. Like any profession, you can not build a house unless you know the fundamentals of building. Likewise, you can not build an act unless you know and understand the fundamentals of manipulative magic. This becomes the foundation for which the act must rely on.

Once you have these fundamentals, get as far away from your magic tapes, DVDs and videos as you possibly can. The magician in you will want to and crave to go look at them for ideas. Do not allow yourself to do this. Trust in your own abilities. You already have the foundation for what you need. By staying away from the tapes, you allow yourself much greater creative freedom and what you create becomes very unique to yourself and your own personal style.

When starting with an act, do not allow yourself to get so hung up on every little fine detail. If you do this too early on, you then are hindering creative freedom and expression. Instead, let yourself work on moves. Try a move and work on adding another move to it. These multiple moves start to become manipulative sequences. It is these sequences, that when placed together start to become the basics for the act which you will be putting together.

Let yourself try different things and do not get stuck on any one thing early on. Let yourself try different things and different moves. Constantly ask yourself, what would happen if I do this or if I added this? You are not performing for an audience so this is YOUR time to explore the magic inside of you. So let yourself explore every option you can think of. The video will always be there to help capture your ideas for you to review later on.

By concentrating on the moves first, you are starting off small and building larger as you go along. In a way it is like building the house by starting with laying the bricks. The same rule applies when I work on a new manipulative act or routine. I start off small and work bigger as I create moves that become sequences that then are formed together by transitional effects.

Another point I will make is that at the start, you must not allow yourself to perform for yourself. By this I mean you must always keeep your audience in mind. Afterall it is the audience that you are performing for. Too many magicians place in every single move they just learned simply because they know them and can do them. Use your funamental moves as tools of which to use sparingly to create something that has great entertainment value. Do not get hung up with trying to use everything you know. Often times some of the best manipulative acts are done so through simplicity.

I must aplogize for the rambling of my thoughts here. Often times I just post back and allow my mind and fingers to type what I am thinking. I hope some of my thoughts here make sense to some of you and I hope they may be of help as well.

I would love to dive further into any of the above or answer any questions if anyone has any for me. It would be my pleasure.

Message: Posted by: Jarana (May 27, 2006 08:29PM)
Thas all for this great advise,Kyle really appreciate your words,
I guess my issue has been more that I keep brainstorm and keep trying different things and never set a beginning- Im going to start somewhere and try to stick to that unitl I finish, thanks all again, ! and like Brian said I also would like to hear others tell how they got thier first manip act going

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (May 28, 2006 08:57AM)
You are most welcome. My pleasure. I hope some of my thoughts were of help to you.

Message: Posted by: Geoff Weber (Aug 6, 2006 10:06PM)
For the longest time I was stumped on how to do my card manipulation act.

I had a breakthrough of sorts when I stopped thinking of it a series of sleights and started thinking of it as a series of little tricks... instead of having just a bunch of card moves, now I had "the static card", the "packet vanish and reappearance", "the invisible toss"... The moves needed to flow from one to another were chosen based on neccessity. Segments that were to troublesome or risky or otherwise impeding the flow were excised. I'm happy to say I now have a lean mean routine that I can focus on perfecting.

My friend once told me to quit endlessly tinkering with my card routine and just lock it down. Its better to have a mediocre routine you can perform flawlessly, then a outstanding routine that you fumble through.
Message: Posted by: Noel M (Aug 6, 2006 10:39PM)

Your words are like gems. I hope that someday you put these thoughts into book and/or lecture form. The real performance aspect of magic is often neglected and those without experience don't know how or where to start I think that why we see reports of someone doing so-and-so'd 4 ace trick, then moving on to what's-his-name's chop cup routine etc. Your thoughts are wise and necessary
Message: Posted by: Zauber280 (Aug 7, 2006 12:16PM)
While I think stories and characters are valuable and underused in stage magic, I feel that the idea that one has to have a fully-fleshed out role and storyline to a manipulation routine might keep a budding performer (such as myself) from doing what is really most important, which is getting out there and putting the magic in front of real people. I've been trying to get back into magic recently, and to help inspire me I took another look at a video I had of a Shimada lecture where he goes through his billiard ball routine in great detail.

Though Shimada is amazing at telling stories and creating theatrical performances through his stage illusions, the character he employed for his manipulation was simply a Cardini-esque gentleman who is making small wonders happen at his fingertips, but doesn't necessarily know why. Basically, it was still magic for magic's sake. By that I don't mean that he was simply amusing himself; he stressed how important the audience is and how to look professional and how to really entertain with manipulation, but didn't imply that one needed to tell a story for the magic to be effective. I didn't have an emotional response to his character, but I was amazed and baffled by the magic. I would heartily agree that a persona of some kind is necessary for peforming any kind of magic, but that persona doesn't have to drastically differ from who you are normally. The persona was a backdrop for the magic, but I think it's okay for your "character" to be that of a magician.

Basically, don't make the mistake that I have made in the past that you need this elusive, un-previously-thought-of character to make your magic relevant and to allow yourself to perform in public. Yes, manipulation needs to be magical and not just juggling, but it can also be a subtle display of the skills that you have worked hard to develop. Shimada uses some seriously knuckle-busting moves in his routine, but they are so underplayed and subtle that you don't realize how difficult they are until he goes into the explanation. That is a hallmark of a true magician. The goal is magic and amazement, IMO. If the audience wants an emotional bond with a character they will go see a play. If you are talented and experinced enough to give them a bit of that within your magic, then go for it, but I don't think it is a prerequisite.
Message: Posted by: Jarana (Aug 7, 2006 02:57PM)
Thanks for the tips Joel- Kyle's tips on charater are ral good- and evntually I need to get to that part- but just like you say in the meantime my problem building a routine is that I keep getting different ideas and pieces there but can get a good smooth (error free simple sart) and also put the pieces together- but thanks for the tips