Improvisational magic anyone?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by YRAMagicMan, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. I was out with my family today, doing some after christmas shopping and testing a new magic trick, Ring Leader, on the people we came across. I had worked with the moves enough to know that I could do the tricks without revealing the method, but I knew I wasn't going to be great. I did 2 different bits of the routine, the opening penetration, and the final vanish and reveal on the pinky. These went well, but I'm writing this because of another thing that happened while I was out performing.

    I ran across this guy who really liked magic. He told me that he had recently been to a restaurant where one of the waiters would pull out a deck of cards when things were slow and do tricks for people. I had a deck of cards on me and I pulled it out, half joking, half hoping I'd get to show him a trick. He asked me to show him something, and of course, that's what I did. I did a simple effect. I asked him what his favorite card was, and then had him pick his favorite card from a face down deck. The man was completely floored.

    The point of this story isn't to tell you about a good experience, though it's always fun to tell friends about cool things that happen. I'm writing to pose a question. Is there anyone on this forum, or does anyone know of someone who does improvisational magic? (Not necessarily impromptu magic, there's a difference.) And have they published anything? I know Fin Jon talked a little about it at EMC 2010, and so did Paul Daniels at EMC 2011, but there's nothing on Penguin that appears to relate.

    The reason I ask the question is this, when I pulled out my deck of cards I had no clue what I was going to do, I improvised an effect based on something that had worked in the past. I realize that there are huge risks in improvising, but there are also huge rewards because it allows you to be completely free in your performance, and improvising is a great way to come up with new effects. I'd love to do more like this, but I'd like to learn from someone else's mistakes before strike out to make my own mistakes. Do you guys know of anyone who has published anything on improvisational magic?
  2. I think we've all been there where we practice and know about 30 effects, but once we are asked to perform, our mind goes blank.
    I'm a little confused on what you mean by "improvisational magic" because if someone published that, it wouldn't be improvised anymore, right?

    To do improvisational magic, I feel like one would need to know a handful of controls, color changes, and other sleights, as well as being able to sequence them on the fly. It's just like doing improv in acting, you need to have a quick mind to keep things moving and not act like you're sitting there thinking about what to do next.

    I would say just have a solid handful of effects you can do at the drop of a hat so you're not caught in a position like you were then. For example, my go to effects are Joker's Wild, Doc Daley's last trick, a sandwich effect, an ACR, and a rubberband routine I do. I perform those all the time at the restaurant where I perform and they rarely fail me (unless of course I'm the one who botched it haha).
  3. Simply mastering effects can leave you stuck, when you have mastered sleights, then you have a bit of elbow room. Even when you know multiple sleights to do the same effect, thats borderline improv, working with the situation, judging the conditions. The only time i improvise is when im with a crowd of people who are really into it. Like in the thread i posted about the flashgig i did. One group were just great so I did my routine then went into an improvised card routine, essentially and ambitious card with card to pockets, card to mouth and card under glass (which was a milkshake). It was alot of fun. But to simply do this every time i perform would be redundant to me, i have no story, theme or even patter, it is simply showing the magicians 'mastery' of playing cards. As a part of set list, it would be too long and repetitive, it simply worked because of the situation. It was alot of fun and recommend you guys try if if opportunity knocks.
  4. @Jacob L I'm talking about publishing a book on the theory of improvising magic, not a book detailing the effects, that's impromptu magic.

    I do have a few effects that I do all the time, and you mentioned most of them, but I wanted to do something different, so I improvised. The first effect that I thought of was Jokers Wild, but that doesn't work with one spectator very well, and my since my family has seen the trick dozens of times they don't make good spectators.

    @ReservoirRed I see what you're saying about things getting repetitive and lacking focus. I certainly wouldn't do it all the time. I do have routines that I've developed that I perform frequently and I enjoy that as well as the improvising.
  5. Gotcha, I guess I misinterpreted that part of your post, I see what you're saying now though. Unfortunately I do not know of anyone who has published anything of the sort.

    Agreed, Joker's Wild doesn't play well for one person, I would do blueprint or 5 speed instead then. Haha yeah families almost get tired of seeing everything. I personally don't show them anything until I feel it's performance ready, so I'm not constantly bombarding them with stuff.
  6. Dan and Dave bucks book Organic directly address's this topic, and encourages development of improvisational skills to make effects seem more off the cuff, and therefore magical.

    Its a great read, It has a few effects in it to show how it can work, i think its available in pdf on their website.
  7. I think you are looking for Jazz Magic, as popularized by Dani DaOrtiz. He`s great with "jazzing".
  8. Actually "Jazz Magic"was popularized by non other than Dai Vernon. He cut his chops in the New Youk club scene in the twenties doing this sort of thing.

    As for published material on it? Not really sure, other than a section here and a comment there, scattered throughout other books. I'm honestly not sure how it could be taught? What you might try is conceptualizing a basic structure for all your routines. Then learning a battery of effects that could be plugged in at any time. That is basically how Jazz and Blues works. There is an underlieing 12 bar structure that the musicians can play around with. I don't listen to a ton of blues but I am a big Black Sabbath fan and you can hear that influence, especially in some of their early work. You are listening to one song and before you realize it they are playing an entirely different song. When you compare it to other bands from the 60s, (ie Beatles) there melody transitions were almost seamless. When the Beatles experimented with tempo and melody changes mid song it was usually very abrupt. That not because the Beatles sucked and Black Sabbath was awesome(There are other reasons for that lol) it is because Sabbath, or "Earth" at the time, had a very solid blues foundation.

    So that was kind of a tangent but the point is you should develop a structure and practice different effects within that structure. You don't want to just go from one effect randomly to another. You still need to follow some basic rules or your performance won't "flow" properly. You still need a good opener and it still needs to build to a more spectacular finish. So you don't want to think, "Hey I'm in a good spot here for card to wallet" and then follow that up with card to mouth.

    Frankly, this is an area where "Move Monkeys" have a bit of an edge.
  9. Gregory Wilson talks about this type of magic in his DVD "On the Spot", but it's more in relation to pickpocketing. He will essentially take an object when he has the opportunity and then reveal it later on. I guess most pickpocketing is done in this style though.
  10. Take an improv comedy class.
  11. Mehh...I'd be hesitant to recommend that. Certainly a class like that could help develop pre-existing talent but if you don't already have a talent with this sort of thing you are just throwing your money down the drain. You can polish a rough cut diamond but you can't polish a turd. Be sure you are not a turd before you throw your money away.
  12. #12 renome, Dec 30, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 30, 2011
    I definitely fit into that category. I mostly perform when the occassion arises and I really don't like the idea of repeating the same patter and sleights over and over again, especially if you're not performing professionally (like me). To the spectators, it's all the same, but it poses a challenge for me to do, e.g. a sandwich effect without the classic load, or to do a card to pocket without a palm.
    Also, sometimes I don't even know the plot I'll do even after I controlled a card, so I just make last moment decisions. The reactions are all the same but the feeling of accomplishment after performing a few improvised effects is much greater.
    Of course, I'm mostly talking about card magic here, but I also tend to improvise with some small object vanishes and transformations, and one of my favorites, Angle Zero (which is a perfect example of something that's not impromptu, but can be improvised in a matter of seconds).

    Great thread!
  13. Check out Justin Higham's work.

    Mainly, Secrets of Improvisational Magic and the "follow-up", the KOSBE system (which is a revised and expanded version of the same book, written by the same author in 1995).

    I personally read the Secrets, and enjoyed it. I'll have to read the KOSBE system now, thank you for making me make the research ;)

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