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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Some Thoughts on the Etiquette of Practice (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

fingerjack
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The following is an original essay of opinion. I realize it is aimed at the beginner, but I share it with you all anyhow. Hope you enjoy it.


We all know that practicing is the key to success in just about anything, but practice in regards to magic is unique in the sense that it needs to be done in private, or does it?

While in Germany several years back, I took a trip through Berlin with a young magician friend of mine on the way to a magic convention. I didn't know this kid very well, but he was very clever with his hands and he naturally always had a deck of cards with him. He had a beautiful one hand top palm and the reason I mention it will become apparent in a moment. While we traveled on crowded buses and trams throughout the city, he practiced his top palm. He was so proud of his ability that as countless laymen watched him in curiosity, he would top palm the card, and then after a pause, reveal it classic palmed in his hand for everyone to see as if to say, “look how clever I am, I secretly got this card in my hand without any of you seeing it!” After exposing his top palm to several dozen onlookers, I asked him if he thought that it was a good idea to be exposing such a valuable move just to show off your skill and he only shrugged his shoulders, smirked, and said, “who cares?”

I thought a lot about that day, and then thought a lot about how much magic I may have exposed in my years of practicing.

I used to bring my cards with me everywhere and practice wherever I was; in school, at work, waiting for the movie to start, on public transportation, at the doctor’s office, in the break room, the cafeteria, everywhere you can think of. Naturally I would try not to expose methods such as palming, double lifts, passes, etc. while I practiced, but I eventually cursed myself in another way; I was known as the guy that always had cards with him. This was no good either because there was nothing special about it anymore. The novelty and charm was gone. It was so commonplace for me to have a deck in my hand that people would ask me where they were when I didn’t have them. How much magic do you think I showed them? How much magic do you think they still really wanted to see? Do you think anybody found anything magical about the fact that I could find four aces in the blink of an eye, stack a deck under their noses or have their card spin out of the deck? Did anybody even care?

Naturally, I am referring only to family, friends and acquaintances, not a paid or a stranger audience, but the fact remains that I regret learning my moves in front of my friends and family, for they will never again be fooled by my double lift (or possibly anybodies) and will always assume there is a card palmed in one of my hands, regardless of what I do or which methods I employ. I am very proud of my double lift; instantaneous, no get ready, natural as can be, but I will NEVER fool my brother with it because he's seen me do it a few gazillion times. Even when I do a single the same way he is suspicious.

True, I gained the level of skill that I have now from constant practice, and although I am still no expert, I certainly wouldn't have the same level of skill that I have now if I had not taken my cards with me everywhere and practiced. But there was a price to pay for it. I guess the point I am trying to make is this; practice responsibly. Although now I am a firm believer that you should not practice at all in front of laymen, I know that is somewhat impractical for the beginning magician, especially someone who has a strong interest in cards. Why shouldn’t you be able to sit at a friend’s house and watch a movie and practice your pass at the same time? Just keep in mind how you want others to perceive you. Are you known as the guy that always has cards or coins in his hands? If you are, then you may want to reconsider and think about how this relates to the magic you wish to perform and the reputation you wish to have. It is all that more amazing when you see someone that you thought had little or no skill in a certain field do something that clearly displays great skill in that particular field. After all, you don’t want people to say “it’s no wonder he can find my card, he has cards in his hands 24 hours a day!”

If you absolutely insist on practicing in public, practice basic flourishes or something that looks is supposed to look legitimate (like false cuts and shuffles). And please, practice the flourishes that you already have down well, as I find nothing looks worse than a sloppy card flourish. If you must practice palming, it’s easy (and fun) to put a card or coin in classic palm and keep it there all the time as you go about your daily business and practice keeping it out of view from everyone. This will not only help you facilitate the palm, but after a while you won’t even notice it anymore, and if you don’t notice it, there is no way that you can telegraph it to anyone. It’s similar to Vernon's idea of wearing a thumb tip 24 hours a day for a week until it’s like second nature. When you resort to practicing moves in public that should normally go unseen (like the top palm) you are defeating the whole point of learning the sleights in the first place (not to mention committing the worst of all magical crimes: exposure).

But the best advice of all is to practice in private. Practice is something to be respected. You are learning an art that solely depends on secret moves and methods. These moves should be practiced as far away from laymen as possible. There’s no need to clue them in about anything! The further you distance yourself away from being known as “the guy who always plays with cards,” the more powerful your magic becomes when you finally perform. I know the tendency to show off is hard to resist, but for a change leave the cards in your pocket (or at home) the next time you go out with friends or family, and don’t make the rude mistake of toying with your cards when you talk to someone. They deserve your attention so put your cards away and give them the attention they deserve.

I practice freely now only in front of my wife, my brother, and a few chosen close friends, that's it. Some people I meet don't even know that I do magic until months after I've met them, when I just happen to pick up a deck and blow their minds. Not a bad way to go.

Save the fancy flourishes for the right time and place, for it will surly come. Don’t waste them sitting on a bus or waiting in line at the bank.

In the words of T. Nelson Downs, “let art conceal art.” Practice intelligently and responsibly and save yourself and your reputation from being unnecessarily tarnished. These words are of course my own opinion, but I hope they help someone in some small way, and in essence, help us all as magicians and performers; after all, WE are the ones responsible for magic today.

How is your practice etiquette? Any thoughts, ideas, or criticism about the do's and don'ts of practicing is welcome. I'd really like to hear what you have to say. Til next time - peace.
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Peter Marucci
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Fingerjack,
Some excellent points made in your essay.
What is so magical about someone finding four aces if you've already seen him palm several cards? Or if he's got a deck with him all the time?
Practice in private: Good point.
Picasso never had an audience when he did his initial sketches or cleaned his brushes or sized his canvas.
And neither should a good magician.
cheers,
Peter Marucci
showtimecol@aol.com
Mike Robbins
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Excellent essay, FingerJack.

It can also be quite rude to be constantly shuffling cards noisily and riffling them. The place where I've seen this happen the most is at magic club meetings. I've seen members constantly flourishing, passing, lifting, and noisily shuffling cards while others are talking, lecturing, or demonstrating. This shows a lack of respect for the speaker and the club, and reveals someone who always wants to be the center of attention.

Quote:
You are learning an art that solely depends on secret moves and methods.


Not to quibble, but I respectfully disagree with the "solely" part. IMO a large part of the "art" of magic deals with presentation skills, which are not very secret. But I agree that a large part of the art depends on secret moves and methods.

Thanks for posting the thought-provoking message.

Mike
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Shakespeare
fingerjack
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Good point, Peter. I like your analogy.

Mike, you raise a very good point about card etiquette, especially at lectures. How rude indeed! I never have my cards out in public for fear of showing a lack of modesty (or looking plain silly). I must shamefully admit however that I was one of those rude people for quite some time. For me, it’s extremely difficult for to sit still, especially if I have nothing in my hands, but I’ve managed to become better at it.

Even worse is during performance when someone constantly uses a loud annoying riffle that clearly telegraphs his nervousness (one look at a videotape of one of my early performances taught me that the hard way).

Oh, about the line. You are absolutely correct. I should rephrase that line, that’s not really what I meant anyhow. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Thanks for the input gentlemen. I would be curious to know where you draw the line as to whom you practice in front of. For those of you that are married (or live with a significant other), do you bother being careful what you practice in front of them?
MAGNAPALM - The World's first psionic magnetic implants that is changing the future of magic http://youtu.be/EDmg2bp_Cas

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Mike Robbins
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Hi, FingerJack.

I wouldn't worry about practicing in front of my wife. She wouldn't pay attention anyhow. Smile

But I don't. I prefer practicing in solitude. Rehearsing is another story. I will rehearse in private and then, when I feel it's ready, I will rehearse in front of a helpful critic. While I use my wife on occasion, I have a magician friend who can be thorough and very helpful.

Mike
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Shakespeare
Jason Fleming
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Mike, you make a great point. I, too, typically follow this progression:

Practice alone --> Rehearse the routine alone --> Rehearse for a benevolent friendly critic

:coffee:

Jason
Matt Graves
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You know, I've noticed a lot lately that some of the best magic is not "foolproof" - in fact, very little of it is. Even David Copperfield's "Slow-Mo Duck" vanish that he performed at Ford's Theatre last night on ABC . . . my grandmother figured out how he was doing it (she's a professional psychic, so go figure . . . ) - but although I've been acquainted with plenty of methods of doing vanishes and reproductions of all kinds . .. just the way he presented it . . .with "art" I guess you'd say . . . diverted my mind from it and I was truly amazed. Not to mention, I saw him do it in person before I ever saw it on TV, and I was equally impressed both times.


Cheers,



Smile
Matt Graves
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Gosh, here I am posting twice in a row. Well, I just sort of scanned over this thread at first, but now that I've read it carefully . . .

I really almost never show any magic, and yet everyone in my family and those who saw me perform at my old junior high school still think of me as an all-capable magician. The heck of it is, I'm going on reputation alone. I haven't performed anything really startling since 7th or 8th grade, and I'm about a month away from graduating high school now. I realize that I went into "overkill" back then, showing whatever I could think of on the spur of the moment and really just running my magic into the ground for a lot of people. Now I've gone to the other extreme. I'm actually nervous to perform anything. I have three different routines I've been practicing day-in, day-out for about three months now, but I'm terrified to show them. I hear all these people talking about how awesome I used to be at magic, and now that I've started back, I'm just not sure if I can live up to their memories!
That's okay, though. If I can just show a few things that will make people smile and feel like kids again, if only for half an hour or whatever . . . that'll be worth all the sweat.
Fredrick
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Constant card shuffling will get on people's nerves - even those who love card effects. I wish magicians would put them away when they are attending a show or a lecture. Practice at home in solitude, please?

The advice above on the classic palm is absolutely gold if you want to get comfortable with the palm...
"Try to find the humanity in the magic and maybe you'll come up with something of your own. It's the humanity that gets you there, not techniques." Michael Moschen on Creativity
Sybilmagic
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I used to practise with cards at work but realised that it could be seen as irritating. You are not giving your full attention to the task in hand. Also you can look a bit wired. Much better is to take a book in and have a little read of that. That should keep your magic appetite quiet for the day.
Alex Reeve
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I totally agree with Sybilmagic,
in order to be good you really have to concentrate on your task. you need to be alone in a room with nothing to distract you like the phone or the TV. that's the only way to really pay attention to the details that will make the difference between an OK performer and a great performer. When you watch a show by David coperfield you can see that he has thought to every seconds of his show. Even at our level we should aim for the best. that's why sometimes my friends say that they haven't seen me much for a while that's because Magic is a lonely art and I was locked at my home and practice a lot
And when you are in public thera are others thing you can do like reading books on magic, write your patters down, think about presentation...

Think about the other people around you, I know from experience that it can bother everybody around you while you are practicing in front of them. When I was young my dad didn't want to watch TV when I was in the room because he couldn't stand anymore the sound of the cards, cards flying in front of him...

Think respect for the others and for you.
John Clarkson
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My formula is to practice alone and then to video-tape myself. I find that video is much better than mirrors. I put the camera at various angles that mirrors simply cannot reproduce. As I review the tapes, I think about timing and patter and the rhythm. After I am satisfied (usually months later, I show it to a few fellow-magicians and ask for feedback. I don't try to fool them, although I sometimes do.

Next, I show it to a few non-magician friends who are enthusiastic about magic, but who are also willing to let me know if they don't like an effect, or if I "flash", or if something else bothers them about the effect.

I no longer show imperfect routines to my significant other-- don't want the secrets to be community property in any potential court action! (Only kidding.)
Smile
John D. Clarkson, S.O.B. (Sacred Omphaloskeptic Brotherhood)
Cozener

"There is nothing more important to a magician than keeping secrets. Probably because so many of them are Gay."
—Peggy, from King of the Hill (Sleight of Hank)
Stuart Hooper
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I'd say that you can practice some things like discreet coin moves anywhere, but not cards. If you always have cards with you, people will think you are wierd. Also, being a younger magician, I started by doing effects for family and friends. It rarely works after the first three times you have done an effect for someone. The point is, work for strangers, there are 6,000,000,000 of em out there. Smile
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