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RJP
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This article was posted to my new blog, "Playing Big".


5 Rules For Choosing Music For Your Magic Show
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Music can have a strong impact on the feel of your magic show. That means it can support and uplift your artistic objective, or just as easily undermine your efforts if you make poor choices. Whether or not you are a silent act, you should be using music to set the mood for your audience.

I have a few rules I employ for choosing the right music.

Rule #1 – Use Obscure Music

I enjoy keeping my ears wide open, and listen to an eclectic mix of music on a daily basis. Due to this, the music I use in my show is likely a song that you’ve never heard before. Even if you listen to Top 40 radio, I still think you should be digging deeper for your show.

Music can have strong connections with people. They say the appeal of a one-hit-wonder is that the song becomes strongly tied to a specific point in your life. Hearing the song brings back a flood of memories and emotions. This is a bad thing for an audience watching your show.

When you’re performing you are trying to control people’s emotions, to communicate what you’re trying to express. If the music you use is causing your audience’s minds to wander, you’re not making that connection.

Rather, if you are using obscure music, you are working with a blank slate and forming new emotional connections. You can inject the emotion into the song that is intended to go along with your show. Ideally, should they ever hear that song again they will be reminded of you.

Rule #2 – Don’t Steal Soundtracks

The music composed for Cirque de Soliel or Blue Man Group is strong, dramatic, and great for theatrical shows. However, it is a bit of an artistic cop-out.

A lot of thought went into the creation of that music specifically for the original show. Slapping it onto your own performance is rather lazy. Are you selecting that music because it’s the right piece, or the low-hanging fruit?

This also ties back into obscurity. If your audience is distracted by picturing you as a bald man painted blue they won’t be connecting with your performance.

That said, if the soundtrack is obscure enough to be unrecognizable then you are back in the business of forming new artistic associations.

Rule #3 – Avoid Lyrics

If a song has words in it, the odds are very slim that the lyrics will match what you’re trying to do. It can be distracting if the audience’s attention is split, paying attention to both the story within the song, and the story on stage.

Use instrumental music, and let your magic become the lyrics.

Rule #4 – Avoid Randomness

While this is a difficult rule to meet right away, it is something to strive for. The idea is to build a collection of music for your show that feels like a unified set, rather than a random assortment.

If you use swing jazz to open, a rock ballad in the middle, and end with a chamber orchestra the show feels like a patchwork of music. Rather, if you find all the moods your show needs within the swing jazz genre, then your show has a stronger artistic statement.

If you don’t stick to a genre, you can find a common bond in instrumentation. If all your music featured was primarily played on piano, you could jump from classical to jazz to pop while maintaining consistency.

Rule #5 – It Has To Fit You

In an earlier blog post I was saying that all the choices in your show can be filtered through your character? You will look silly if your music doesn’t fit you. The leather-and-sunglasses style magician shouldn’t be performing to classical baroque music. Meanwhile you shouldn’t be in a tuxedo producing doves to heavy metal.

Find music that supports your character.

If you go to the original article I also offer up a musical suggestion of a song with a lot of magical potential. You can listen to the track here.

Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts or questions about how you find music for your show, please post comments here. I will be checking in.

-Ryan
Mike Maturen
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Ryan--

Great post...thank you. There are a few folks here on the Café who have tracks available written specifically for magicians. One in particular that I have used is MagiTracks. He also will custom compose stuf for an act. He is VERY good.

Another caution (which--sadly--is rarely mentioned) is that you MUST pay a royalty to use someone else's music in your performance. Otherwise, a performer is acting unethically, and stealing deserved income from the work of another artist...something that we magicians complain about when it happens to another magician (when their unique effects are knocked off)...but we seem to have no problem with when WE are the ones doing the "stealing".

MagiTracks and the others here offer royalty-free music...and I highly recommend them.
Mike Maturen
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989-335-1661
mikematuren@gmail.com

AUTHOR OF "A NEW DAWN--Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life"

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Ray Pierce
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Great thoughts, Ryan! I do have to laugh as David Copperfield broke most of those rules consistently but he also really knew what he was doing. For most acts I think they are good basic rules to start with.
Ray Pierce
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charliecheckers
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My number 1 rule is to pick music to fit the audience. I guess I do not share the artistic concerns of the other posters here. I want to create a particular atmosphere for my audience. If that means using obscure music, so be it. If it requires using the theme from Rocky, I will do that too. I must admit though, when I attend David Copperfield's shows I am a bit disappointed that at his level he does not have the major music artists personalize their songs for his show. I always thought that would be much more creative.
sb
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The best part of knowing the "rules" or having a very firm understanding and grasp of the foundation and underlying principles, is so you know when and how to break those rules. Like Ray said, DC knew what he was doing when he broke those rules.

-scott
Fábio DeRose
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These are rules that I always try to follow, #3 being an exception. The song with lyrics that I use are chosen in great part because of their lyrics fitting the routines like a glove.

On randomness...oh, well. On my stage show I have piano tracks, heavy metal, tango, gregorian chants and 5 seconds of...reggae (Yes, 5 seconds, lol). That sounds way too random, but each song is specifically chosen to fit with all others equally.
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charliecheckers
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I will break the lyrics rule only if the lyrics fit perfect to what I'm doing.
TH1
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@RJP -- Great post. In reading your post, I realized that I follow very similar "rules", I just never put them down on paper. As far as others' posts about "breaking" the rules, I consider these "rules" as guidelines. Guidelines are just that, and one should be free to deviate from them, provided they have a conscious reason for doing so.
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Ray Pierce
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Quote:
On 2011-08-12 12:28, TH1 wrote:
I consider these "rules" as guidelines. Guidelines are just that, and one should be free to deviate from them, provided they have a conscious reason for doing so.


Great Approach! For example I have a basic rule about not taking a photo where my eyes are green, yet it works for you. It is the well placed exception that makes us stand out!
Ray Pierce
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RJP
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I'm big on the importance of making intelligent, active choices about my performance. Making sure that some thought has gone into all the decisions along the way.

I've put a lot of thought into these rules for me, so when I use them I know there are reasons behind the choices.

That said, when I make exceptions to the rules it's fine so long as the same amount of thought and consideration has gone into that decision as well.

What I hope to avoid, and discourage others from doing, is making those easy choices. Using music because it worked well in somebody else's show... or just because it uses the word "magic" in the lyrics.

Thanks for all the responses, folks. Glad to see others are thinking hard about the music choices they make.

-Ryan
JNeal
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Ray Pierce wrote: For example I have a basic rule about not taking a photo where my eyes are green, yet it works for you.

Ray...how do you feel about green contacts?! maybe blue...? I'm confused, you have me seeing red!

JNeal
visit me @ JNealShow.com
Ray Pierce
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Lol... that was only for TH1... your milage may vary.
Ray Pierce
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TH1
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Quote:
On 2011-08-12 14:03, Ray Pierce wrote:
Quote:
On 2011-08-12 12:28, TH1 wrote:
I consider these "rules" as guidelines. Guidelines are just that, and one should be free to deviate from them, provided they have a conscious reason for doing so.


Great Approach! For example I have a basic rule about not taking a photo where my eyes are green, yet it works for you. It is the well placed exception that makes us stand out!


@Ray -- LOL...The green eyes are from spending too much time in the Cellar.
Beware of evil spirits...and depleted batteries! Smile
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