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Regular user
Los Angeles
150 Posts

Profile of filmyak
Not so much a question of how, but when, to help others get started in magic.

I'm sure every magician here gets asked to teach a trick to someone who wants to learn, well, just one. If pestered, I'll tell someone that I'll be more than happy to teach them everything I can -- AFTER they commit themselves to really learning magic. That is, they have to spend a certain amount of time getting the basics down to make sure they really are interested, and that they're willing to put the practice time in to improve.

As soon as the concept of work comes out, most people back off immediately, though I have had a few friends ask for places to start. (I point them towards some beginner books or videos, and tell them once they get to a certain point, I'll help as much as possible.)

I just wanted to get a feel from other members here -- experienced and beginners -- on how you handle similar situations. Am I being too heavy handed? Am I turning away true enthusiasts before they have a chance to try it? Or does this seem like a fair and honest approach?
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Special user
Lehi, UT, USA
643 Posts

Profile of what
I teach cub scouts (10 year olds) and they will ask me to teach them a trick once in a while. I use it as bait to get improved behavior out them. I never teach directly after being asked. During the course of the year, I will usually teach them 2 or 3 tricks.

I always teach them the old rubber pencil gag. This is a good one because they can see how it is done, but can't quite get theirs to look very rubbery without a little practice and acting. I will also teach them the pencil sticks to the palm of hand trick. These are great cub scout tricks because they require no preparation, and any borrowed pencil will work.

For those who are willing to practice their shuffles, (we either juggle bean bags, or shuffle cards before each meeting while waiting for the other scouts to show up), I promise them that after demonstrating a good looking shuffle, I will teach them how to do a "Pick a Card" trick where the card reverses itself in the deck.

I don't ever teach anyone tricks after performing my little show. I think it cheapens the show (and my little show is cheap enough as it is).

Magic is fun!!!
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Regular user
New York City
116 Posts

Profile of dgiancaspro

I got back into magic because my son is a Cub Scout and wanted to learn some tricks. I went to Tannens to get him a Magic Coloring book and I got back into it.

My son also has a mild form of autism and the performing has really helped his social skills.

"Mommy when I grow up I want to be a magician"
"Oh sweety you can't do both."
Reg Rozee
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Special user
Vancouver, Canada
592 Posts

Profile of Reg Rozee
I always start by teaching a simple self-working card trick that has been around for over a hundred years but is still pretty amazing to many spectators. Even people who learn how to do it often don't know why it works! (It's usually called "The Hotel Trick" or something similar). It does take some practice, so I tell whoever I teach it to that when they can perform that trick for me well (presentation/story and all), I'll teach them more. So far the only ones who have come back to learn more are the ones who seem really serious about pursuing magic.

-Reg {*}
Reality is what doesn't go away when you stop believing in it. -Phillip K. Dick

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? -Chico Marx
Dave Egleston
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Special user
Ceres, Ca
632 Posts

Profile of Dave Egleston
Cynical Dave here:

Please make sure to differentiate between Learning and Showing - Most seekers eschew the former and desire the latter.

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Loyal user
225 Posts

Profile of secondbaseman
Hey filmyak, I think you are right. A friend of mine wanted to learn magic too, so I started teaching him stuff but he never practiced. He screwed up a bill switch in front of a few friends of mine. He never practiced it. So make sure your friend is willing to work for it.

Take care

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Loyal user
210 Posts

Profile of adrianbent
$$$ is a good sign of commitment. I get them to "show me the money". Heck, I had to shell out the bucks, so I just point them in the direction of the magic shop. Once they own the effect, the skies the limit with my help.
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Regular user
Los Angeles
150 Posts

Profile of filmyak
Actually, I'd say $$$ is a sign of a healthy wallet. I've gotten into lots of hobbies -- bought the gear, etc. -- that I stopped doing after a short time. I think this is a fairly normal process.

As for shelling out the bucks, I've had more people help me for free than I can count.

I'd rather someone is willing to show dedication and commitment and then only have to pay for a deck of cards, then have them buy the latest incarnation of the pen through quarter and have them blow it in front of spectators, eh?
Peter Marucci
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Inner circle
5389 Posts

Profile of Peter Marucci
That's great thinking on the how and why of teaching the rubber-pencil bit.
I never thought of the reasoning behind it before but you're right: You have to develop acting skills as well as dexterity.
Good stuff!
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Loyal user
New York Metro Area
270 Posts

Profile of Vincent
I remember when I was about seven or eight years old I became aware that I had a cousin that was a professional magician.
Turned out that he was really a semi-pro but to me he was the world!!
His particular area of expertise was Coin Magic and he was absolutely amazing!!
Anyway, the first thing he showed me was the rubber pencil. I thought it kind of odd since he did such amazing coin stuff. But again, I was only eight.
I must have practiced the pencil morning, noon and night for at least a month. Even at that age I was overly critical of my performances. When I got up enough nerve to show John that I could really make the pencil look like it had turned to rubber, he said that's great!! He then took the pencil from my hand and it simply vanished!!
He was an amazing magician and a great person. His name was John Vincent Hope, and he did more to spread the art of magic throughout the New York area than anyone I can imagine.
Vincent Smile Smile Smile
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