How do you practice?

Deechristopher

theory11 moderator
Moderator
Different people practice in different ways. I'm interested to hear how You practice your magic, mentalism or cardistry and what advice you could give to other performers?

I'll go first...

As I'm primarily a stage performer these days, it's pretty difficult to practice my show without a room full of people watching. So sometimes, that's exactly what I do! I'll get a few friends over and run a bit of my show to see how it plays.

If you're a close up performer, or perform material in your stage show that could potentially be done close up, it's super easy to practice. Just perform for friends or family.

A lot of magicians use the phrase:

"Practice, Practice, Perform."

To me, the second 'practice' is for people - I call this "Real world practice." You never really know how a routine is going to play until you start doing it for people. I've put together routines or effects that I thought were going to be killer… Until I performed them for a few friends and they just didn't play. So, back to the drawing board I go.

To throw a musical analogy into the mix, when less experienced singers sit in a practice room writing lyrics to a part in their head, often they'll pack more syllables into one part than they can physically sing. This is because the voice in your head doesn't have to worry about breathing, crafting words, etc. It just sings them. The same applies for magic or mentalism, without working on something with a person there to perform on, you'll often find yourself fumbling or confusing yourself as you're trying to manage the participant as well as your handling of the effect and your pocket management. Make sure this happens when you practice with a friend, not in a gig environment!

Just think, what effects are you working on that could really benefit from a "real world practice" session?

Some visual manipulation routines are just to be watched, so CAN be practiced in front of a mirror or a camera forever until it's ready. Mentalism however, cannot be practiced without human interaction. Take the time to write a list of the effects you're working on, or that you'd like to perform in the future and start preparing yourself to try these out in full with a friend or family member - what I find helps is putting together five or six new effects in a mini show, this will not only get you used to doing each effect, but will also iron out the creases of your pocket management and the flow of a full set.

What are your thoughts on practice?
 

Jeremy Hanrahan

Craftsman, <a href="http://www.theory11.com/gear/h
Sep 1, 2007
191
1
Simcoe Ontario Canada
I tend to go over the effect over and over again until muscle memory sets in. I then go over the patter. Then I practice the effect with patter until I don't even need to think about what I am saying or doing. My magi friends ask me why I waste all my time scripting over and over again. My answer is simple. While it would seem I am performing and paying attention to my spectators I am also watching for people who may come up behind me,to the side of me (angle concerns) and those who sometimes want to heckle. Nothing worse then having to address a heckler then forget where you left off. Knowing an effect is ok to a certain degree, but knowing it so well with patter that you can be aware of your surroundings will pay off 100% more in the long run.

Jeremy
 

Deechristopher

theory11 moderator
Moderator
I tend to go over the effect over and over again until muscle memory sets in. I then go over the patter. Then I practice the effect with patter until I don't even need to think about what I am saying or doing. My magi friends ask me why I waste all my time scripting over and over again. My answer is simple. While it would seem I am performing and paying attention to my spectators I am also watching for people who may come up behind me,to the side of me (angle concerns) and those who sometimes want to heckle. Nothing worse then having to address a heckler then forget where you left off. Knowing an effect is ok to a certain degree, but knowing it so well with patter that you can be aware of your surroundings will pay off 100% more in the long run.

Jeremy

I totally agree - While it's good to have space to banter with the audience, it can help create a much more solid, professional performance when you've put as much time into your scripting as you have learning the moves. It's something a lot of performers don't bother with, but unless you're a silent performer, it's DEFINITELY worth your time!

My favorite way to innovate and practice moves is in the dark. Gives you a completely different feeling for a deck.

That's a really interesting technique, do you find it difficult to go from working in the dark to working when you can see the cards/coins again?

I imagine it gives a lot of benefit if you're practicing to not have your eyes to rely on, especially when doing sneaky moves. A lot of people recommend performing for a camera rather than a mirror, as you'll begin to rely on your reflection. Practicing in the dark will allow you to build up pure muscle memory so that you can do certain moves when you're making eye contact with your audience.
 
Aug 17, 2012
66
0
For my cabaret show - first I realise how I handle the prop, and if so how to improve my own handling of it. I practice each effect individually at first, then perform them in order (without patter, probably just muttering to myself). Then I try to improvise patter whilst I perform it (to myself) to see if any of it fits into my script later.

I then show my parents the improvised patter and the effects (quick run through,nothing long-winded), then they give me pointers on my performance and patter.

Then I arrive at scripting, first I bullet point my original ideas for later reference. Then I write all the links between to tricks, so it runs smoothly. Then I script it and perform it to my parents (if they have the time) and they give me ideas that I write down.

Then I'll give the script to my sister, to see if she can improve the sentences or vocabulary used.

I then fix any problems needed and go over it everyday day or so.


This only happens once every six months or when I buy new props, as I only have one show I am willing to perform (I am only 15).


Thanks for the post, I will definitely try other's ideas in my own practice.
 
Oct 5, 2012
97
0
Love this thread topic and lots of good suggestions. I tend to use a variety of different types of practice for different purposes.

Moves

1.) Fiddling-over and over and over again until my hands do it automatically. While watching TV, or in front of a three way mirror, or walking around, as many different possibilities as possible in terms of environment/conditions.

2.) Refining-after a while of just "fiddling", carefully re-reading/re-watching the source material, slowly and carefully studying my own movements in a mirror, and directly, and also studying the "supposed" action. In this phase I make certain that I am doing the move in the most effective manner.

3.) Reps-over and over again in front of a mirror. This has the brute repetition aspect of "fiddling" but is more careful and accounts for angles/etc.

Effects/Routines

1.) Internal/External Reality
This is a concept of Ascanio's that Ortiz develops in Designing Miracles. I have found actually writing out a table of what is "supposedly" going on and what is "actually" going on really helps me to clarify how to make the effect as deceptive as possible and also as clear as possible. This gives me insight on attention direction, execution of sleights, presentational elements, and other factors as well.

2.) Scripting

Then I prepare my presentation alongside the Internal/External Reality chart, pairing language and movement so that complex passages of patter aren't paired with taxing mental elements (reciting a poem + memorized deck calculations = fail) and so that the clarity of the presentation/effect is as strong as it can be.

3.) Rehearsal

Start to finish for an imaginary audience 10 times, then in front of a camera.

4.) Film study/Refinements

5.) Audience Testing
 
Sep 1, 2007
3,818
15
Usually I start with a show idea. I decide on a theme and tone. From there, I try to figure out how the natural progression of ideas should go. If blocked, I skim through my books looking for interesting ways to present effects I already know, or knew scripts I could attach to them consistent with the theme and tone. Then comes the writing and re-writing. Whole lot of that. Finally comes rehearsal. I very seldom practice the sleights independent of the scripting and blocking anymore. Because of my handicap, I accept that I'll never be able to do the knucklebusters, so instead focus on how I can weave everything into a seamless whole.
 
Apr 6, 2011
540
6
Lansing, MI
That's a really interesting technique, do you find it difficult to go from working in the dark to working when you can see the cards/coins again?

I imagine it gives a lot of benefit if you're practicing to not have your eyes to rely on, especially when doing sneaky moves. A lot of people recommend performing for a camera rather than a mirror, as you'll begin to rely on your reflection. Practicing in the dark will allow you to build up pure muscle memory so that you can do certain moves when you're making eye contact with your audience.

Haha I find it very easy going from the dark to normal conditions, its going the other way that proves challenging. And yeah, I actually started it because whenever I executed a pass my eyes flicked to the deck, absolute habit that I could not break. Finally I had the idea that if I couldn't see the deck, I couldn't look at it. Started doing nothing but eyes closed practicing.. and it just sorta developed. I saw noticeably greater improvement practicing most moves without sight than with it. It is also great, because it allows the mind to focus all of your perception on the points of contact between your fingers and the deck, which really changes the way the deck feels. It's no longer that object I see in my hand, it becomes that thing thats poking me here, here and here. And if I touch here, or maybe rub a little here, let's feel where it all goes.
 

Deechristopher

theory11 moderator
Moderator
Usually I start with a show idea. I decide on a theme and tone. From there, I try to figure out how the natural progression of ideas should go.

This is a really great way to start writing - When we start writing shows and acts in the first place, we tend to look at the tricks we know and list them in a good order. While there's nothing wrong with doing that, it can be a fantastic advantage if you have an overall theme or idea that you want to put across.

To give an example, my friend Jack did a show a few years ago called "Media." Media is of course video, audio, print, etc. It is also a plural of "Medium" (as in the psychic kind)

So Jack had this very strong concept from the start, he was going to create a show that merged audio, video and mentalism into a fantastic experience for his audience.

Sometimes, by giving ourselves certain boxes to write between, we can end up being more creative than if there was no limits!
 
Oct 5, 2012
97
0
Something my IBM ring just proposed doing for next session is working with partners to create a new presentation/routine. Each group would be randomly assigned a traditional magic prop/principle and also some non-magical prop from a dollar store. For example, your group might end up with a deck of cards and a rubber ducky, and then you would have to try to create an effect/presentation that incorporated both. Just another idea along the lines of using restrictions to boost creativity. Gaetan Bloom mentions some similar strategies along those lines in his new books.
 
Sep 1, 2007
3,818
15
This is a really great way to start writing - When we start writing shows and acts in the first place, we tend to look at the tricks we know and list them in a good order. While there's nothing wrong with doing that, it can be a fantastic advantage if you have an overall theme or idea that you want to put across.

Interesting story, I got this idea from a mentor in college who was an Emmy-winning TV producer with PBS. Every TV show have what they have a series bible that details all of the essential information necessary for the production team to create a consistent product. The series bible always starts with the premise of the show, the theme and the tone.

The theme is the general concept that binds the narrative together. Now, in TV you generally keep the theme broad as writing an over-arcing continuity across multiple seasons is a more decompressed sort of narrative and you need some room to flex to keep the episodes from getting too samey. In a one-off platform/stage show however, you want to keep it much more focused and direct since you're working within an extremely limited timeframe. Themes can be expressed as, among other things, philosophical statements, questions, or opposed pairs.

Tone on the other hand is the mood. It's the trappings that steer people's reactions and emotions into a specific direction that compliments the theme in a specific way. You don't have rapid-fire punchlines in a Halloween show wherein you want people to stay on the edge of their seats for example.

For the media nerds out there, this is kinda-sorta related to the syntactic and semantic elements of the genre. To give you an example of what I mean, the syntactic definition of horror is, "Normalcy is disrupted by the monster, and the monster is an entity which cannot be reasoned with, exists to destroy, and in some way confounds our sense of reality." So Dawn of the Dead is a horror because it's a zombie apocalypse (our normal society crumbles because of a zombie outbreak) and zombies are monsters because they cannot be reasoned with, only exist to eat people, and they are both living and dead.

The semantic elements of horror on the other hand would be things like full moons, ruined castles, abandoned old houses, fog, claustrophobia, etc.

Many great movies have been made by mixing syntactic and semantic definitions. Seven Samurai was a Western with the semantic elements of a Japanese period drama. Outland was a Western in space. Alien was a horror movie with sci-fi trappings. Inglourious Basterds was a spaghetti Western set in WWII. I could do this all day.

To give an example, my friend Jack did a show a few years ago called "Media." Media is of course video, audio, print, etc. It is also a plural of "Medium" (as in the psychic kind)

So Jack had this very strong concept from the start, he was going to create a show that merged audio, video and mentalism into a fantastic experience for his audience.

Out of curiosity, did he ever read "The Medium is the Message" by Marshall McLuhan? And is he a fan of David Cronenberg and specifically his Videodrome?

Sometimes, by giving ourselves certain boxes to write between, we can end up being more creative than if there was no limits!

I'm actually of the opinion that imposing limitations on yourself forces a greater degree of creativity. Too many guys come here and say, "Yeah, I've got this talent show coming up next week. What should I buy?" They aren't being creative, they think they can just spend their way to success. As penny-pinching producer/director Robert Rdoriguez said, "Once you turn on the money hose, there's no stopping it." It's telling that the guys who do crap like this seldom ever come back to tell us that their half-assed show was a success.
 
Sep 1, 2007
3,818
15
"The Medium is the Message" was a graphical illustration of McLuhan's theories that he outlined in his book "Understanding Media." He posited that the medium itself, not its content, should be the object of analysis and discussion because the vary nature of the medium itself has far more impact on the society that uses it than whatever content is carried through it. Cronenberg was intrigued by the idea, which was the genesis of Videodrome. The whole O'Blivion thing of TV replacing modern life, ascending to the new flesh, etc, that was all an exploration of McLuhan's theories on how the medium is the message.
 
Dec 5, 2009
33
2
My practice routine is very different for magic and cardistry. For cardistry moves - of which I'm not the best but learning - I tend to practice "while" doing other things. While talking on the phone, while watching a movie, while eating lunch, etc. The goal is twofold - to get in as much practice time as possible, and to develop as much muscle memory (moving without thinking about it) as I can.

For magic, my practice routine is totally different - for that, I tend to lock myself in a room and focus wholeheartedly on what I'm doing. I review whatever I'm learning from again and again - be that a book or a video or lecture notes. Then, once I develop at least 80% confidence in what I'm doing, I allow it to leave that room, and I show it to trusted friends until I feel comfortable that the effect is sufficiently polished for a "real world" performance.
 

Jeremy Hanrahan

Craftsman, <a href="http://www.theory11.com/gear/h
Sep 1, 2007
191
1
Simcoe Ontario Canada
Some excellent advice in this thread! Also, shooting a video of yourself is a great way to see what your spectators will see, and more importantly what they will hear. I know a few magicians that still get nervous when they perform ( which is normal for some) and every other word is um and ah then um again. Scripting is so important as it allows you to focus on what you want to relate to your spectators!
 
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