Where and how you practice is important in magic. You should practice your effect sitting down, standing up, surrounded, whilst traveling, in every environment you can think possible. We must practice daily to keep up a good standard of magic. As the saying goes use it or lose it.
- Find a trick you like.
- Practice the trick until it flows naturally.
- Add a script to make it sound good.
- Record yourself performing.
- Perform for friends & family.
- Get feed back.
- Correct mistakes.
- Perform again.
- Add your own twist.
- Master the trick.
A deeper understanding of how magicians practice.
We must structure our time to maximums our efforts. Every effect should be fully scripted and worked out to provide maximum impact and entertainment. We should aim to move tricks from conscious memory, trying to remember the moves into muscle memory to create natural flow. Once you have gained muscle memory only, then should we add the script.
Muscle memory is a term often used when a conscious action moves over to the subconscious as it becomes something we just do. Like walking, riding a bike or driving a car, that’s the minimum standard we must get to in our technical ability to perform magic tricks.
Cognitive over load will kill your magic so it’s better to have a structured approach to practice before you perform. When you have your muscle memory and script working together thats when you can create flow. Only then can you consider true, powerful performance.
Remove the thinking.
You need to remove every element of thinking you can when performing magic. Reducing the stress factor to allow for performance pressure. I would say performance pressure is hardly ever talked about as a tangible component to entertainment. For me, it’s the hidden element that needs careful consideration. Performance pressure comes from understanding how the brain works.
When a performance goes wrong.
When a performance goes wrong, we have to understand why, and the first place to look is at your level of understanding and practice. It’s the weakest link in the chain. I usually find my answer by asking the following questions
- Did I move the trick from conscious mind to subconscious?
- Did you embed the script in your subconscious mind?
- Did I allow for performance pressure?
- Did I take into consideration the environment I was performing in?
- Did I hesitate when performing a move?
Brake the performance down in your mind, where do you think you went wrong? For me nine times out of ten, its hesitation. If you got nervous or forgot your lines, then go back to the start. Practice that one effect in every situation, environment you can. Say the lines. Record it in private on your phone. Watch it back. Learn the effect inside out back-to-front and upside down before even considering preforming for people again. Be hard on yourself! Don’t be a like it’s just a magic trick no one got hurt (that’s a cop out in my books). Want to be better, be better..
The second element to consider when the performance went wrong is your environmental conditions? How many people were watching ? How did you feel? What room were you in? What social structure were in play? Getting a good idea of all the elements will help us rectify your mistakes for later performance, so the next time you’re in that situation you will be ready.
Isolate The Weak Points.
Once you isolate the weak points, it’s imperative we structure practice around that area. Be it mechanics, body language or patter, something will have given you away. What was it? Understanding that and you’re onto becoming a much better magician.
Practice methods I shall offer some suggestions regarding practice with unknown effects and hopefully you will see how to they can benefit you. First, read or watch the performance of the effect until you get an understanding of the structure and timing. Then with a pen and paper break down where you feel moves are happening. Write them down in a simple bullet list style. At this point we haven’t even picked up the prop or watched the instructions. We are just trying to work out the machines of the effect. Write the lines you like? How the magician made you feel and the spectator. We need to learn to emulate them. It’s absolute bullshit that you hear in the magic community you shouldn’t steel lines or effects. For me if you’re selling me a product it’s everything in its entirety, script, style and all. If you don’t like it, don’t sell the effect. Over time, you will change the script, timing and understanding, but if you’re starting out, you need not start from scratch. Most of the significant acts are build on ideas of others, past performers with their own interpretations.
Writing out the effect in this way is doing one of two things. The first and important part of this practice method is creating neurological pathway way within your mind. We are building a deeper understanding of the effect. The second you are creating a new way of interpreting the effect of how you internally perceive it. We are trying to create the effect as the spectator sees it before understanding the mechanics behind the tricks. Let’s break this down even more, and for that we have to understand a performance of an effect. Once you have watched the effect and have worked out where you think the moves are taking place these may make up as weak points or moments of hesitation. Something had drawn your eye to these moments, and that’s important to keep in mind as I move forward. The second part to this practice method is to watch the instructions. Watch them once from beginning to end . Then go back to the start with your notes in hand. Did you spot the moves? Was you correct in the hesitation moments? If so, we have built a better structure internally. If not, we have increased our knowledge of the over all effect and how it works.
Starting to put it together.
Ok, it’s time to put your new effect together in a structured way so you can get the most impact for your spectators. Once the effect is seamless and you’re 100% happy you have it down. We now need to add some stress to your learning (just like an army soldier runs with weights on his back, we now need to add some additional weight to our mind). In the long run this will make it easier to perform, don’t skip this part or you will regret it later on. Try performing the effect whilst having a conversation with someone on the phone over loud speaker. Just like driving a car and having a conversation, you want that level of freedom. I first stated to see ideas like this in The Shift volume one on practice. It makes sense to overload your critical factor at this point by doing other tasks that include thinking or adding additional information to the brain. Try performing the effect by standing on one leg or raising a leg if sitting down. We are adding elements to the brain now this is because as we perform your relaxation levels drop your fight-or-flight kicks in along with adrenaline that needs to be controlled and removed. By adding a tasks to your brain when you are relaxed it will free up some of your cpu later when the time comes to perform for actual people. For more information about this check out The Shift by Ben Earl all three volumes each volume has a different technique to use or to explore more about this topic look at how sports people train.
Learn the script.
Now we have the effect down, we want to script it out, build narration around the effect with good hooks and ideas. I’m thinking more about in the short time I have with people, how can I affect their day for the better and the best answer is with powerful magic, it’s not ever day people get to witness live magic. So scripting is equally important as the mechanics. Eventually you will create misdirect with scripts and language. That for me is when true magic begins. How to find hooks and build script ideas. As we consume content through YouTube, social media, films, podcast and books there will be ideas that jump out at you you need to capture. Ideas that you could later use for different magic tricks or scripts. I was forever coming up with great ideas from books id read or podcast I’d listened to and not capturing them for later consumption. I wrote my ideas down in a simple notebook; the problem was I’d didn’t have my note book with me twenty-four hours a day. The solution was in an app called Notion. Notion is a database app that you can set up to capture ideas and sort the ideas into categories for later use, you can then filter down, it’s a bit of a learning curve to understand the software but once understood its relatively easy to use. Since building my second brain in notion I’m able to quickly write things down and then sort into areas later on in the week. The best thing about Notion is I can use it on your phone and PC. I always find my best ideas usually come when I’m in the shower or when I wake. You too will have a time when your mind is most creative, that’s the time to write ideas. Once I have found a trick, I like or have created I then think about a presentation an idea that would best fit the effect. I look in my Notion database and my ideas list for inspiration. Because I’ve been writing my thoughts over many months, ideas that I previously captured jump out at me.
Write out your script or copy the script they have already provided. We are now going to put it all together; you have the trick down, we just need to add the words. For this timing is important. I think the best way to work your script is to think about beginning, middle and end. You need to introduce the effect (hook) something meaty for the spectator to get his/her head around something like body language, luck, probability and idea that intrigues and interests people. Then we need to think about where we can pause and add content to our trick. Are there any moments you can break or drop a gag in? Can you add anymore ideas? At the end you need a round up, sell the impossibility, let them know the elements they saw, recap everything and how impossible the effect is. Sell to them. Then let them experience the wonder of magic.
I hope you’ve learnt something from this blog, it’s taken many years to understand how to structure my practice to get the most of my magic. Practice is something I’m always working.
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