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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Need Advice New To Mentalism (2 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

smartinc
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Hey my name is Jay, just joined The Magic Café. A little about myself I've been practicing sleight of hand magic for a while bit it seems I have more interest towards Mentalism. I have learned some things but I would like to grow more and one day be able to a professional mentalist. I was told Magic Café is the place where I can get a lot of adivce.

I want to know where I can start off. Obviously there is no school that teaches mentalism. If you can recommend me to some material like DVD's or people that teach or anything else.

Also been recommended to join IBM which I will be. But please if anyone can give advice to get me started and moving.

Thank you.
Ray Bertrand
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British Columbia
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Welcome smarinc. Check out Bob Cassidy's site. He has a free publication on what books you should read, etc.

Ray
EnterTRAINment at its best. Keeping the Magic Alive in Northern BC
george1953
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A second vote for Mr. Cassidy, you can't go wrong.
By failing to prepare, we are preparing to fail.
Aster D. Grey
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but a quick learner
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Rainbows and unicorns,

Grey
D.J. Ayur
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Hey Jay!

I am too a newbie in the world of both magic and mentalism!

Thanks for the website Aster, really helpful stuff!
Giacomo Moretti
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Hi Jay -

I just read the link that Aster posted. This is very useful.

Still I find Corinda very useful,too. Maybe I am a little "traditional" in that respect. Corrinda has been my start into mentalism and has been a very good and solid foundation.
If you find Corrinda's book to be a little "dated" for your taste you may try Richard Osterlind. He has come up with a superb DVD-Version on Corrinda's material that brings Corrinda's ideas into our time.

Also I would point out an advice of Ian Rowand, that he used to have on his website (I think it is no longer there). However, you should be able to find it on the web easily. If you have trouble to find it please PM me. I will send you a version of it. It is the best advice I have found so far on the subject of mentalism. Ian's advice has proved to be very valuable for me. In fact I do owe him a few hundred pounds for it.

Kind regards,
G.M.

P.S.1: Ian, if you read this please PM me. I owe you say 200 pounds. If you give me your bank info I will transfer the money.

P.S.2: The advice of Ian Rowland has been discussed in the magic Café for quite some time. Please find below an example from 10 years ago.

Quote:
On Sep 4, 2004, Krull wrote:
If anyone wants good advice on starting Mentalism, you can not go wrong by checking out Ian Rowlands advice on his site. It should be the commandments of anyone performing and I mean PERFORMING MENTALISM NOT PLAYING WITH TRICKS. I have never met Mr Rowland but his advice will put anyone in the right direction who is serious about our art.
Giacomo Moretti
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Here is Ian's advice for all of you.

Best,
G.M.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Advice > Advice in General

Occasionally I get emails asking for advice about magic or mentalism. Typical questions:

"I'm really keen to get into mentalism... where do I start?"
"I've bought Derren Brown's 'Pure Effect' and some other books... how do I progress?"
"Can you recommend some good tricks and videos..."
"I'm working hard to plan my stage persona because I know this is important... but how should I go about this?"

And so on. Rather than type out the same replies every time, I've created this page. You can copy or forward this to anyone you want so long as you preserve the attribution at the end.

1. I have never suggested I'm a good source of advice

This is the first point to get straight. I'm flattered that anyone should seek my opinion on anything, but I have never claimed to have much advice worth giving. On this page is all the stuff I could think of that might be worth offering. But I don't claim any of it is worth reading. You might decide it's all rubbish. Fine by me.

2. Don't ask for advice. Experience is all.

I think an awful lot of people who want to get into magic/mentalism, or who are past the beginner stage and want to improve, get themselves into a sort of paralysis. They will do anything except actually go out and perform for real people. They will read books, practice in front of a mirror, write to people for advice, watch videos, ask questions on internet message forums... and so on. Most of this activity is a waste of time in practical terms. Experience is the best teacher, and the only one you really need. And it's free. All you do is just... perform for people.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy. If you do five minutes in a pub for your friends, that counts. You're performing for real people, in the real world. If you show a trick at the office party, that counts. If you do a card trick for someone at a bus stop, or for a small clump of people at your next social event or next dinner party... that's great. It's all real experience. And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters. Five minutes entertaining real people in real life is worth 10 years of theory, reading about it, preparing... blah blah blah.

3. Learn by doing.

A lot of people get 'paralysed' because they want to be good, and perfect and confident right from the beginning. Well, sorry, but it doesn't work like that. Look, here's the deal. You go out and you perform a trick or two for real people. The first time, you probably won't be that good. In fact, you'll probably be pretty awful. That's OK. It's allowed. I was awful (and maybe I still am). All the great magicians and mindreaders around... they were all hopeless when they started. That's what starting out is like.

But so long as you've started, you've done the most important thing... you've actually performed for people. You've done it. You haven't just sat at home thinking about it or pretending that you're still preparing. You've done it. For real. That's what counts.

So, you're first time was fairly dreadful. The next time, you'll be better. The time after that, you'll be better still. And so on. After 100 times, you'll really be getting the hang of it. This is called learning by doing, and it's the only way. Understand this: it is the only way.

Every performance counts. If you're entertaining someone with magic, or at least giving it your best shot, then it counts as a performance. Even if it's just a two minute card trick for one person at one party, it counts. It's experience. Over time, several things will happen. You will find your natural performing persona. You will find what sort of material works for you. You will find what sort of material you like doing, and that you have success with. It's a slow process, for sure. But it is the only way.

4. The Golden Triangle.

There is YOU, YOUR MATERIAL and YOUR AUDIENCE. These form three sides of a golden triangle. All that matters is that when you perform your magic, you get what you want out of it and so do your audiences. Broadly speaking, the aim is that

- the audience are entertained and mystified and feel that they enjoyed watchng you and taking part

- you enjoyed the art and craft of learning to present magic in an entertaining and enjoyable way

If your material works for you, and your audiences, that's all that matters. Bear this in mind, and you will eventually learn to stop worrying too much about the opinions and criticisms of other magicians.

Suppose you are talking about a particular trick or routine you do, and another magician scoffs and says it's poor, or weak, or not worth doing. So what? You can say, "Well, maybe, but it works for me and the sort of people I perform for. They have a good time watching it, and I have a good time performing it". You, your material, your audiences. This triangle is all that matters.

Also, suppose you hear someone rave about a supposed 'killer' effect, announcing that it's a real 'reputation-maker' and all the other cliches, urging you to either learn it or buy it. This kind of hype is essentially meaningless. What may be a killer effect for Magician A might be utterly inappropriate for Magician B. If it isn't right for you, and your audiences, then it's no good to you - in fact it might actually do your act and your reputation some harm. Your most appropriate response might be, "Yes, I can see it's a cute item, and I'm glad you get a lot of mileage out of it. Good for you and your audiences, but it's just not right for me." You, your material, your audiences. This triangle is all that matters.

Tip: when you come across a trick or routine you want to try, perform it at least three times before you decide if it's right for you or not.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't pay attention to comments and criticisms from other magicians. Not at all. I'm just saying that as regards the merits of the material you perform, whether it's any 'good', the triangle is all that really matters.

For added clarity, let me add two things about comments from other magicians. First of all, as regards material and repertoire, it can be tremendously useful to have dialogue and discussion with other performers, especially those with more experience than you. They can't tell you which tricks and routines are right for you (back to the triangle for that), but they can often offer ideas and suggestions, including tricks and methods you haven't come across yet, that you might like to try out. Second of all, in terms of performing, it can be very helpful indeed to have other magicians watch your act and offer feedback. This is true provided that (a) they have practical experience in your field, (b) their feedback and criticism is constructive, and (c) their feedback and criticism is well-informed.

5. It's not the trick, it's not the prop. It's you.

At the end of the day, whether an audience enjoys your performance comes down to whether they like you. Remember, in this context, an 'audience' can be anything from 300 people in a theatre to one person you do a card trick for at a bar. A 'performance' can be anything from your one-man show in Vegas to five minutes during a coffee break at the office.

The same rule applies... it's basically you they like and are entertained by. It's not the trick. It's not the prop. It's you.

If they like you, and feel entertained by you, then they'll have a good time. Even if the magic isn't really all that great.

If they don't like you, and don't feel entertained by you, then they won't have a good time. Even if the magic is seamless state-of-art brilliance.

Earlier, I wrote that it's all about learning by doing, building up experience. This is true. More specifically, what you're doing is learning how to make yourself into the sort of person people want to watch, like to watch, and feel entertained by. There are no short cuts, and no golden pieces of advice. It just takes time and experience.

6. The search for stunning secrets.

Another thing that lots of people do is end up on a great quest for 'the really good stuff', the really 'advanced 'killer' secrets' and 'diabolically brilliant methods'. They feel that if they just buy enough books, watch enough videos, dig deep enough... they'll come across these really advanced secret methods, closely guarded by the inner core of professionals, that make miracles possible.

It ain't gonna happen.

There are lots of people selling magic stuff, and of course hype and advertising is all part of the game. But don't get taken in.

Look, it's true that there are some great minds in magic. And every once in a while someone hatches a new twist or a new way of doing something which is a little bit cleverer than what has gone before. That's great. But don't worry about this. Don't go on some grand, expensive quest for these 'killer secrets'. They don't exist.

Just get started, learn by doing, gain experience... in the fullness of time, you will make contacts, develop your knowledge, learn more bits and pieces, and come across a few cool ideas. Let it happen naturally.

The important thing is to be actually performing and gaining experience. You can start with perfectly standard, normal tricks and routines that have been around for decades. Most of the top working professionals use old, tried-and-tested stuff in their acts! It's true! They don't sit around waiting to unearth some new 'killer secret'! They take perfectly standard tricks and routines and they perform them, but they do them well. In their own style, their own way. The most commercially successful mentalist of our age is my friend Marc Salem, who performs all over the world. Pretty well all of his act can be found in '13 Steps to Mentalism'. There's nothing exceptionally original about the actual tricks he performs... but his style and presentation are just a joy to behold.

Ah... but you say you want to be different, you want to be better, you want to be original. That's fine. But all of that will come from you, not from the material. It's you that must learn how to be different, better, original. Your performing persona. Your style. Your way of entertaining people. And sure, now and again, you'll learn a new twist or a neat new angle. But it's rare, and it doesn't happen often.

I also get emails from people saying they've seen someone on TV do something amazing or wonderful and they want to know how it's done or where they can go to learn the secrets, because they want to do it too. Ho hum. First of all, don't aim to copy anyone else. You should aim to be brilliant at being you, not being a human photocopy of someone else's act or routine. Secondly, don't believe everything you see on TV. There's a lot of magic and mentalism which looks GREAT on TV. But that's the only place it can be done. It wouldn't look that good in real life. Remember, on TV cops solve murder cases in 50 minutes, comedians get roars of laughter from fairly routine sitcom scripts, and kids sing songs with big purple dinosaurs. That's TV. You aren't on TV. You're performing in real life, for real people. Different game.

7. A great way to start.

Most people who contact me for advice are into mind reading and mentalism. Good. It's a terrific branch of magic and one that I love. Here's a great way to start. You know there's a book called Corinda's 13 Steps To Mentalism. Buy a copy. And then don't buy anything else. In fact, take all the money that you were thinking of spending on other books and tricks and tapes and props over the next year. Put it all back in your bank account except for 10%, and send that 10% to me to help me run this website. This advice is worth it. I've just saved you lots and lots and lots of money.

Study Corinda. Using just that book, get yourself to the stage where, if you want to, you can entertain people for 10 minutes at a party.

That's all. That's the target. To be able to do 10 minutes at a party, among friends or strangers, anytime you want - with confidence, and so that you enjoy it and they enjoy it and you all have a good time. This is not easy. It's an ambitious target, and it will take time. But it's a wonderful feeling when you get there!

IF you can get that far, using just Corinda, then you can start spreading your wings, buying other stuff, learning some other material. By then, you'll have developed enough good judgement to know what's worth buying and what isn't.

IF you can not get that far, then may I suggest you just give up. Go and do something else. There's no point buying and reading other stuff, because none of it will do you any good. You'll never get anywhere. At least not in mentalism.

8. Confidence and fun and enjoyment.

Sometimes people write to me and they say '.. but how can I build up my confidence?'. Or they're worried about 'what to do if a trick goes wrong' or 'what about hecklers and awkward people'.

Same old answer: learn from experience, learn by doing. Nobody can give you any advice that's better than that. There are no shortcuts. There are no hints and tips that will make it all easy for you, and make it all plain sailing.

Remember, you are learning to do something that is difficult to do: entertain people with magic or mentalism. It's hard. It's challenging. All you can do is start. You'll be pretty awful. So what? You're learning. Do it again. Then do it again. You'll get better. It will start to come more naturally.

When guitarists start, they make a hideous sound. They practice, they get better, and then it sounds beautiful. When people learn pottery, at first they just produce hideous lumps of clay. They practice, they get better, and then they can make beautiful objects. When magicians and mentalists start... tricks go wrong, they present things badly because they lack confidence, people are awkward. It happens. So what? You're learning.

Every performance you ever give will basically either go well or go badly. If it goes well, terrific. If not, it's a learning experience and you'll gain a few valuable lessons. That's all there is to it.

Confidence is infectious. When any entertainer or performer walks on to a stage, the audience can instinctively 'sense' whether that performer is confident, experienced, knows his job. If they get this feeling, they feel they are in safe hands and they relax. Because they relax, they respond better. Because they respond better, the performer does well, knows he's giving a successful performance, and gains even more confidence. It's a virtuous circle.

What if the audience get a 'sense' that the guy lacks confidence, is nervous, doesn't really have that core self-belief? They get anxious, nervous. so they don't respond as well. They don't laugh so much at the jokes, don't join in as much, don't engage. The performer picks up on this, and he gets even more desperate and anxious and worried about the lack of rapport. The audience sense this. And so it goes, round and round. A vicious circle.

So it's up to you, the performer, to start the virtuous circle - after which it just goes round and takes care of itself. The only way to do this is to be confident and relaxed, to know that you know your stuff, that you enjoy doing it, and that you are going to enjoy entertaining people with it. Unfortunately, there is only one way to get to this position, and you already know it: learn by doing. Gain experience in real life of really entertaining real people. That's the only way.

It can take a long time. However, it's well worth getting there. So what are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the sooner you get there. Enjoy it. Have fun. The more you love it and enjoy it, the more the audience will.

9. I can't be a free consultant for you.

People sometimes ask me to recommend tricks or effects to suit a given theme, or which use a given principle, or which would be suited to a particular situation... and so on. Or they ask for other kinds of advice and help.

Look... I'm a people person and a generally nice kind of guy. I'm flawed and imperfect, but I do try to be a helpful sort of individual where I can. But please let me make a few points.

First of all, like most people in this business, I generally only discuss effects, methods and repertoire with my own close friends in the trade. That's just the way it is.

Secondly, I've never claimed to be anyone worth consulting. However, if you honestly think that my experience and knowledge would be of use to you, and your interest in performing mind magic and mentalism is serious, then you can pay me for my time. My email consultancy starts at £100 per hour, payable in advance by credit card and by mutual agreement only. Bear in mind that one professional gig can easily pay anything from £750-£1500 according to circumstances. So I'm cheap at the price provided you are serious.

Thirdly, if it's just a casual enquiry, I can't really recommend tricks and effects and routines because I don't know you. Please refer to the Golden Triangle mentioned above. It's impossible for me to know what's a good trick for you, and your style, and your audiences. Of course, if you are paying me for my efforts, then I'd take the time to get to know you better and work out some good material for you.

Elsewhere on this site is a list of books which I recommend to anyone interested in mind magic. Whatever kind of material you're looking for, you'll probably find it in there somewhere.

Copyright © Ian Rowland 2003, but may be reproduced provided this attribution is preserved. From www.ianrowland.com, the website of Ian Rowland, The Mind Reader, The Mind Motivator.
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