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Dr. JK
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Sandusky, OH
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Profile of Dr. JK
Today I published a video on my YouTube channel (Erudite Magic) discussing the merits and pitfalls of learning from books vs. other ways to learn magic. I hope it will give a solid overview to new magicians as well as spark some lively discussion among the more seasoned magi here. 📚 We all learn differently, so I'd love to hear your thoughts about what type of learning (or blend) works best for you! Thanks for watching as help overview how to learn more efficiently and talk about what might be an option for you❗️
- Jeff Kowalk, The Psychic CPA
IG: @erudite.magic
FB: @eruditemagic
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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Profile of funsway
Very well and succinctly presented, and you touch the major issues of books vs. video instructions as a modality.
But, methinks there has to be focus on the distinction between incremental and universal processes and their impact on learning magic (as opposed to learning tricks)
When one's first impression of a magic effect is on a video, it is of a limited perspective and particular actor/performer. This creates a bias towards the later learning of the steps/element of the effect.
It might be OK if the student then reverts to the written explanation of incremental steps, or even step video or individual sleight video,
but there is tendency to view the video many times and "try and figure it out." This can dramatically impact later learning in negative ays.

It is like watching a movie first and then reading the novel. Since you know how it ends it is easy to skip over essential character development or sub-plots.
If the director's selection of actor does not meet your imagined one from reading it can be a big disappointment.

As you noted, when reading ( a novel) you can place the book on lap and roll play the action as if you were there. After seeing the movie this is impossible/difficult.
Any attempt to 'reverse engineer' the important elements is likewise difficult. So, it isn't just a problem of book vs video, it is one of stultifying imagination and retention.

Perhaps the best approach is to view a video or live performance of an effect ONCE - then read the book to understand the incremental steps and the logic behind the development of the effect (years of refinement)
and the selection of specific moves and sleights. Then one can use written material or video demonstration to best learn the individual steps.

Somewhere in the learning process must be attention to "why" and not just "what."

I am reminded of an incident from my youth. A kid had found a nail hole though the wall between the boy's and girl's locker room. Peeks through the hole revealed secrets, mysteries and
kindled the imagination of impossible things. When caught we were given some advice by the coach. "What you have learned might help you get a date. It might even suggest what you might do on a date. But nothing you have seen will help you find a wife to spend a lifetime with."

For me, trying to learn magic from a video is like looking though that nail hole. Lots of tricks and excitement, but I miss out on what life is about. Magic is more than trick or sleights or even secrets.
It is a way of communicating a sense of a'wonder to another person and receive some life-energy back. With a book I can imagine that happening. A video, not so much.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Reviewer EndersGame
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"Should you learn from books or a different way?"

My answer: Yes. Smile

In other words, you should learn from books or a different way. i.e. a blended approach, taking the best of both mediums, is what I recommend.
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New York, NY
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Profile of TeddyBoy
I find books very frustrating b/c I don't like spending time with tricks that don't interest me. However, it is not until I do the trick that I can ascertain if it interests me. Therefore, I end up doing almost every friggin' trick in a book and it takes several months to get through one. It is a slow way to go. But, to tell the truth, I find books to consistently provide the best learning experience. Starting with Royal Road and the Card College series I feel I was at least functionally exposed to the basics in a useful manner. It took a few years, in part b/c I cannot spend an unlimited amount of time on magic, but I learned a lot.

However, I am now slogging through Oritz's At the Card Table which contains card tricks that are exceedingly dense with respect to sleights not taught in the beginner books I referenced. This book will probably take me six months to get through. In this case the DVDs would be very desirable to learn selected sleights. But I promised myself to stop feeding my acquisition disorder and cease ordering everything I would like to have. In the end, I am a 69 yo hobbyist; what the heck am I doing with At the Card Table.

P.S. I also have Cardshark. Oh well...
So many little time.

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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Profile of funsway
Yes, it is a problem that many writers do not describe an effect before getting into the description of the how (usually ignoring the why)

Methinks that every effect should begin with a general description, followed by a listing all Moves, Sleights and Stratagems involved.

That way you either skip that effect or acquire the necessary skills before getting involved.

What I dislike the most is getting involved in an effect only to learn it requires a special gimmick or a sleight described in another book that I can't afford.

In many of my eBooks I have a Handbook with an alphabetic listing of all methods that can be opened in a separate window and searched along side of the main text without losing one's place.

My point is that it is not the fault of "book" - it is the writing style.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Profile of vannma
We all learn in different ways. As for me I learn more from a visual lesson rather than a written format.
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Profile of Wilktone
Other performing arts have pedagogical traditions and schools of thought that get objectively tested and published. As far as I can tell, the art of magic relies mostly on self learning. Some magician teachers and authors have a natural talent for explaining things well and teaching, but very few really have studied pedagogy and assessed how students learn and retain abilities to perform magic.

The idea of a student having a primary "learning style" never really had much evidence to support it in the first place and has been thoroughly debunked now, yet this notion still persists. The truth is we are all visual learners. We are all kinesthetic learners, verbal learners, aural learners, etc. When someone expresses they learn best from one way what they are really saying is they *prefer* learning that way. Studies consistently show that emphasis on a "learning style" has little effect on the student's achievement. In fact, when the approach isn't proper for the subject matter being studied, trying to use an inappropriate "learning style" actually hinders progress.

Should you learn from books or videos? I say yes to both.

I don't necessarily buy the argument that learning from a video will force the magician into a pale imitation of the instructor. Nor do I think that this is necessarily a bad thing in the first place. The great jazz trumpet player Clark Terry famously said that the path to creative improvisation was a three step process - Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.

And in that order. The imitation process (in music, at least) is a vital step and can't be skipped. Innovating too soon in the process can lead to mistakes and habits that are difficult to correct later on. Magic, being an art that is primarily visual, you will need to *see* what things are supposed to look like before you can correctly imitate it. That's something that you can't get as effectively from books alone.

Books have a some innate advantages too, some of which have already been mentioned here. It can feel like learning the same trick from a book takes longer, but in the longer term it can be advantageous to learn from book over a video.

Learning something well mainly comes down to focused practice over time, not so much the medium used to convey the information.

Can a magician achieve excellence through only reading books or only videos or only in person instruction? Sure. But it's going to be harder and probably take longer.

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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Profile of funsway
I recently purchase as "gently used" magic effect on the Café'. It came with only a DVD and no written anything.
Half way though the description of essential "secrets" the DVD froze up with message "Working around damaged section."
But everything was locked up and I could not even eject the Disk. After 10 minutes I crashed the computer and started over.
This time it got to different spot before locking up everything. I think I have enough info to performed the effect now.

a half hour lost? Nope, I had a magic book at hand to read while waiting.

It would be nice if every effect sold had at least a downloadable PDF available.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Lancashire, UK
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Profile of Wez_Evans
This is often debated, and some people have quite black and white views on it.
For me, I agree with the comments above about a blended approach.
Or whatever works for you!
And whilst I understand that seeing a performance can mean that styles are copied or that creativity is stifled etc. I also think that not everyone wants to copy or ape performances, and that we should just continue to encourage individuality. Not shun video instruction, as seems to often be the case with book lovers
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Profile of BlushingCrow
Previously I was purely book based, but after I let myself finally crack and have a look at some magic DVD's, I find myself referring to them more and more - I feel I get more presentation 'feel' from the latter.
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Profile of PCHslim
I am a beginner and use both books and videos. For me, when I struggle through learning from "royal road" or "expert at the card table" I feel connected to the history- that is important to me. It may not be for others.
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