Forgetting Tricks

May 7, 2009
So a natural part of being involved in magic is learning new material. As many of us learn and perform new material however it is common for us to forget old material that we used to use and may have actually been better material than the newer ideas, so i was wondering, How do you guys and girls combat this?

- obviously coming up with a list of your tricks and logging them all is a common strategy, but i was wondering if you guys did anything else
Jun 1, 2009
I totally fell into that spiril of learning so much new stuff all the time, and then forgetting what I learned like a week ago.

I would say go back to the stuff you liked, practice it and get it down, and then perform it. If it does what you want it to then do it, if not then move on to another effect you liked, and repeat. Another part of magic is learning and practicing tons of things you will never perform haha :)


forum moderator / t11
Elite Member
Sep 14, 2008
Louisville, OH
I was also guilty of this when I was in my early stages of, "I want.... I want...I must have...." I had an abundance of so much stuff that none of it was getting performed and I was forgetting older stronger material that I used to use. It was because I was only performing for the same audience (parents, friends, and coworkers) and I was always running out of material. I'm sort of over that phase now.

I would narrow your purchases down some or if you are learning new material from books be a little more selective. Another thing to keep in mind is that even the best performers, continually perform the same things they've been doing for years. I know guys that work professionally that are still doing effects from 30 years ago. Now that doesn't mean they don't spruce up their act with one or two things every once in awhile.

You could video yourself and keep a video log of things that you know and perform and continually add to it. Or keep some sort of journal / list of effects with the patter and directions to it.

Or...pile up some things you know you just aren't into anymore and sell them on ebay.

I know it is difficult for some people who may not get the opportunities to perform regularly myself included at times.
Dec 18, 2007
Northampton, MA - USA
Try holding onto 4 decades of information. . .

I stopped performing a bit over three years ago for this very reason; between age and worsening brain-damage (due to illness and lots of self-abuse during my youth) I was finding myself not just "lost" during a performance, but actually having a panic attack as the result of such; not exactly something you'd expect from a veteran showman.

Just recently I found myself lost when asked to do a Reading demonstration for a "fan" from the forums; we're talking about one of my specialties and yet, I was having to lean on very elementary tactics and not doing well with them. I even forgot what certain cards in the deck meant and this is something I've done since I was 16 (36 years if you must know).

  • As to avoiding these extremes my first suggestion is to dye in your early 30's; you not only make a better looking corps but you won't have to endure the humility of growing old and having something new go into melt-down & failure with each passing birthday. . .

  • Stop abusing yourself. . . not just heavy partying but the extreme sports can really nail you in latter years (I often feel every broken bone I've ever had and the affects of every concussion).

Ok. . . in the mean time, you simply need to walk through your pet bits with a degree of frequency. Make absolutely certain that you keep the instructions to any purchased pieces on file so you can reference them two or three years later, when you're missing that one move that keeps mucking you up (I'm doing that right now with the Perfect Center Tear. . . and I no longer have the materials to reference :( ) and of course, dust off some of those other bits every once in a while; playing with things after a long break allows us to see them in a new light and as such, we become creative with them once again vs. working the bit in a robotic manner, which we tend to do when they are a steady part of our life & routine.
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Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
New Jersey
There are some effects that deserve to be forgotten.

When we start out as magicians, we learn a lot of effects. Some of them are simple in both plot and method. Some of them we "create" ourselves. As we learn more, those effects are discarded and forgotten, often for good reason - we've learned more powerful effects. Some effects are discarded and forgotten because we tend to find our style and perform only those effects that fit our style. Again, that is a good reason for forgetting.

Rick's post hits on an important distinction about the type of performer. Amateurs perform different tricks for the same audience while professionals perform the same tricks for different audiences. I probably fall somewhere between amateur and professional. As amateurs, we tend to have to learn a lot of new effects to keep performing. We forget good effects because we don't perform them enough.

So how do you keep from forgetting? Here are some ideas. First, you need to have something that memorializes the effect. This can be a video or a write up in a notebook or word processing program. Include both the methods and the patter. second, you need a separate index for quick reference. Third, I would encourage everyone to keep a theory notebook to record ideas about performing and studying magic. Finally, a performance notebook that reflects feedback on your performances - what went right and what needs to be improved. Now the write-up of effects, the theory notebook and the performance notebook can all be in the same physical notebook. I'm starting to catalog all of my effect descriptions in a word processing document because I like the ability to be able to edit and add to the descriptions based on performance. Also, it is easy to index and organize the effects. I'm starting to write ideas about theory and performance in a college ruled composition notebook.
Nov 15, 2007
Raleigh, NC
RealityOne has some solid advice that can transcend knowing effects and actually help create routines.

If you perform an effect enough you can put in the word document if you think it's a good opener, middle effect, or closer. When it comes time to build small routines or even bigger shows you can reference openers or closers more efficiently. Don't feel like everything you write down as an opener has to Always be an opener, as everything fits via context.

ACR's can both open a set and close one, depending on how you want to play it. It can show your skill upfront or be your smashing closer that blows people away.

I started converting effects to word docs and have folders for Cards, Coins, Rubber Bands...etc and within each of those folders for Impromptu or setup/gimmicks...within each of those folders for each individual trick. A write up of the effect, with script (if I've developed one) and then separate ideas in other word documents (alternate scripts, ideas or notions). Sometimes I'll re-write an effect with an updated handling, but keep the old one in case I (later) decide it was actually better than my 'improvements'.
Jul 13, 2010
If I read a book and something gets my attention, I write it down in my notebook. I actually write everything down what comes to mind, even ridiculous stuff and thoughts.
I also try to store and categorize every trick I do or new ones I´m interested in (but not every trick/effect/routine I know) in my personal database (all kind of information about the trick, the origins (references to inventors, books/DVDs/Internet sources), cross references to similar effects/tricks, sleights involved, pattern, scripts, own variation etc. ) to see if they have similarities and which are worth performing for me .
For example I don`t want to perform x versions of the same trick (at least not in the same "set").
It may look like a too academic approach for some, but that`s the way I like. If I write down something, I can better reflect about it. And I can`t forget about it.
Apr 27, 2010
This is common especially when you start learing a lot of tricks and not including them into your routine. If it's in your routine it's near impossible to forget simply because you've done it so many times.

I have an Excel spreadsheet that I created recently that logs all the tricks and illusions I know, no matter how simple or complex. It takes some time to eventualy get all of them in but it's worth it.

The sheet also is created to narrow down tricks based on need and environment. So for example if you need tricks that work best in a dark environment, for a small group, that requires no gimmicks, but has a set up deck then you can filter those criteria out and it'll only give you the tricks that fit.

Drop me an email if anyone wants the sheet and I'll send it.


Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
I do two things. First, I've begun writing my versions (scripts and mechanics, separated by stage, parlor, close up, impromptu, etc) into word documents and organizing them on my computer. I've only recently started this, because until now I didn't have to worry about remembering everything.

The second thing I do is simply not to worry if something gets rusty. Everything I use is up to snuff, the things I don't use I don't worry about. I keep the reference material around so that I can refer back when creating new routines or working on new material, but until that time I just remember that the material exists and where it is. If I ever need it, I can think to myself, "Hm. I need a card control that takes the card from here to here ... I think the Suchandsuch can do that. I'll have to look it up." Whenever I'm performing, I already know everything I'm going to do so I don't have to try to scrounge for new methods.

I guess I actually do three things. I also try to learn at least three methods to any trick I do regularly. That way I can use the various methods to cancel each other out when I have to perform the same trick to the same people, due to lack of new material. I've also learned that presenting the same trick in a different way will help. People already saw your coin bend? Do a bottle-cap bend instead. Same method, different thing being bent, so it seems totally different.
Nov 8, 2007
Years ago I created a list of everything I knew. Then I whittled it down to the absolute best of the best and decided to stick to it. I carried the list with me for a while, and looked at it regularly as a guide to remind myself of what I was sticking to until that handful of effects became ingrained. Over the years it evolves a little at a time, and I do jazz when I perform, but I always have a catalog of strong, reliable material memorized I can run through in my head whenever I need to find something to perform in a situation. I'm a huge proponent of being able to do a handful of effects masterfully and with confidence rather than mentally swimming through a messy ocean of half-learned effects when it's go time.
Jan 1, 2009
Back in Time
Stick with learning and mastering 5-6 routines or effects for a year and then when you've got those down to the point where you can do them without thinking about it, then maybe start adding 2-3 more routines to the list while still working on the effects/routines that you have mastered.
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