Need some direction, also how do you routine?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kennethcmerrill, Nov 11, 2017.

  1. I've been in and out of magic several times over the last 10 years. I'll go through 6 month spurts of practice and dedication, followed by a year of not picking up a deck of cards. This is partly because I'm a freelance filmmaker with a wife and two kids, which means that life can get hectic, and magic isn't my top priority, but I also think a major part of losing interest is not having any direction.

    What I love about magic is being able to participate in this long, amazing history of the craft and try to channel some of the wonder I feel toward it into a small, fun experience for friends and family (and sometimes strangers). I would love to become a skilled magician who is comfortable doing short routines in social settings when the conversation lags or when someone asks me. I'm not in it for a career--more just the craft itself. Like someone who learns to play piano simply because they like playing.

    The problem is that a side-effect of this being a casual hobby is that I have no concrete goals or plan for how to grow my abilities and keep learning. I watch magic online, try to read and study new material, learn new techniques, but there's really no path in it. It's just me following whatever looks interesting at the moment, which is a TERRIBLE way to progress. So, I'm interested in hearing how other self-taught magicians put themselves on a track that actually led to long-term results.

    My second, more specific question is about routines. I have a handful of effects that I've gotten pretty good at over the years, but they're not really a routine, and some of them really just don't go together at all. That means when I have performed, it's typically limited to 2 or 3 random effects and minimal patter. Again, it's hard to motivate practice when you don't know what you're going to do with a technique or effect. It's like that piano player just learning scales and arpeggios without any plans for a song.

    I have a small collection of materials that hold WAY more than I have actually put to use, and I want to dive into that and figure out what kind of routines I can come up with to practice. I'm wondering how other people go about selecting effects for a routine and how you move from one effect to the next without it feeling like a complete left turn.

    Thanks for reading my novel, and I really look forward to your answers!

    Lindel likes this.
  2. PS. This is probably a lot to ask, but if anyone feels inclined, I wouldn't turn down having a private conversation about the actual materials I have and routines I can put together from those materials. Sometimes it's good to get an extra set of eyes on the possibilities I can't see.
    Gabriel Z. likes this.
  3. Hello Kenneth,

    I think you should start out by watching this video. You said you have been on and off magic for 10 years. With a wife and two kids it will be difficult but not impossible to devote about an hour a day toward your craft. I had a pretty bad break from reality about 7-8 years ago with my diagnosis of Schizophrenia and now that I am pretty stable I try to devote as much time towards my craft ( for instance last night I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning just practicing my bottom deal). I'm pretty confident you can do it...

    If cards are your thing just work out a list of sleights you want to practice and keep decks around the house so when you feel you have a free hour just sit down and start working out the sleights. It's all about the muscle memory and reps will do the trick. The Royal Road to Card Magic is a terrific start for anyone. I agree with you that a piano player just learning the scales and arpeggios without plans for a song would be boring. However could you imagine how much time Mozart spent on mastering let alone thinking about these scales (even though he was a natural genius). What I'm getting at is that you need a strong foundation in whatever direction you are going to take in magic.

    Seeing that you have some prior background all you really need to do is brush up and get back into the swing of things. Hope this helps.:)
    wZEnigma and Maaz Hasan like this.
  4. Being 99.9% self taught myself (only because am too gracious to ignore the help I have got from books and YT and say 100% instead) I think I qualify to give some valid tips to you (even tho I feel most magicians today are self-taught...but wth, let me enjoy feeling like an expert a little bit, okay?).

    So, the way it works for me is I have been watching YT for some time now. So I have an idea of the 'holy-grail' moves of magic, like the classic pass, the classic palm, false tranfers, etc.
    When I find a move intersting, I try to learn it. Sometimes this approach works fone, sometimes it doesn't. Because more often than not, I will find the most difficult stuff out there interesting!
    However, I still do that.
    Another thing that helps me, are the magic tutorials on YT, and not only because they give magic away for free.
    For example, say I see a tutorial that tells me to use a double-lift and I don't knkw how to do that. So I type 'double-lift tutorials' on the YT search bar and download the tutorials that come from trustworthy sources like 52 kards, Sankey, Russian Genius, Chris Ramsay, etc.
    Then once I have the visual aspect down, time to work on the finer details and improve my DL.
    So I browse through my books and see what they say abt the DL. I look if there are any great books to help me on that front.
    Once I have got everything read and seen, time to practice.
    To do that, I merge everything I have learnt into a deceptive DL. Then I practice the same move for a few days until I can do it without my hands tensing up before the move.
    After I have got an amazing DL down, I get back to the tutorial, take a few more days to perfect the trick itself and personalise it to my style. Then I perform it for my elder sister.
    If she catches me out, I need more practice. If not, I am okay. Simple equation really.
    I gave a DL's example. But put ANY move there, that is usually what I do.
    If I need a control, I do a research on different types of controls and perfect a SINGLE one to a level it looks amazing (which means that the audience can't see it at all, if that makes sense:) ).
    So that's how a magician advances if he/she is self-taught.
    A tutorial on a single effect can help you get down some great sleights. If the 'teacher' uses a double undercut, doesn't matter. He says it is a control. So search 'card control tutorials' to get a better grasp on the topic.
    The only thing is that you have to work hard. You have to do your research and homework on the stuff. Only YT videos will make your magic mediocre. Only book stuff will make you take a long time to learn the simplest moves well and make them look aesthetically pleasing. The formula to win is a smart and clever mixture of both.

    But always remember, the results you will get will be the fruits of your practice, If you treat something as you do it in your free-time, expecting Dynamo-level reactions is taking the bar a bit too high.
    I am not a professional magician, heck, I am a student! But I treat magic as important, along with my studies and other stuff I learn and give it equal importance. Who says that having something as a hobby will not make you great at it?
    Treating something casually will not make you great at it.
    Don't mix the two.
  5. @kennethcmerrill, I know how you feel. As adults with jobs, families and other commitments we don't have a lot of time for our hobbies. That's ok. I have a job that I leave for at 7:00 am and get home between 7:30 and 9:30 pm. I'm deeply involved in Scouting with my son. Have a wife, dog and house that all demand some level of attention.

    But magic is always there to come back to. Focus on what you love about it.

    For me, I love the history and the creativity. I use my library of books to trace the development of methods and effects. I thoroughly enjoy acquiring new and old books and reading them or using them as a reference. I can read a book whenever I have free time. I have several of them stashed around the house -- a couple on the table beside the comfortable recliner in the family room; a bunch on my desk in my office; one or two on the nightstand next to my bed.

    I learn and perform those effects that truly call to me. With close to 200 books, I have a lot to choose from. I don't learn effects to perform once, I learn them to perform for a lifetime. One thing that has motivated me is designing my shows and sets. I love starting with a blank sheet of paper and picking what I'm going to perform and then scripting the show.

    Performing also is a great motivator. Knowing you are going to perform (-whether it be a show, for friends, for an event or just going out in a park and accosting innocent bystanders) is a great motivator.

    For me, these forums are a way to keep connected to magic. I don't have time anymore to go to lectures or SAM/IBM meetings, so I get my magic fix looking at the forums on my way to and from work.

    The key is to find what is fun and do just that. As long as you are enjoying your journey, it doesn't matter where you are going or how you get there. It is OK to have different directions and different levels of interest at different time in your life.

    Most magic performances are like that. I call it the Rocky and Bullwinkle transition. "And now for something completely different!"

    I like words and like definitions. An effect is something magical that a spectator sees. The method is how you doe the effect. An effect can be stand alone or a routine. A routine is a series of magic effects using the same props with multiple phases such as a sponge ball routine, linking rings routine, ambitious card routine. It is hard to tie stand alone effects together in a routine (one good exception is the first four or five effects in Banon's Six.Impossible.Things) and it is usually not a good idea to split out an effect from a routine (i.e. having one sponge ball multiply into two and then move on to a card trick). What you are talking about is a "set" which is three or four stand alone effects or routines performed in sequence. I'll also define a show as six to eight effects or routines performed in sequence.

    For all my blather about presentation on the forums, I haven't figured out how to tie effects and routines together in a set or show with the exception of using the same performance character. My show is a series of effects and routines where the only thing they have in common is my style of presentation. The best I've come up with is a show written around an animatronic Toucan who leads me through an Indiana Jones type adventure (actually, the inspiration was The Adventures of Tintin) where I need use magic to save my wife who has been kidnapped.

    However, there are a number of dramatic devices that you can use to link the effects in a set or a show. I already mentioned character. You can use foreshadowing and callbacks. You can begin by introducing all of the props you are going to use (e.g. producing a spongeball, a deck and a four coins). You can toss out or hand out props to the audience (e.g. a deck, a lighter, a top hat, a lemon and an envelope). You can use a "show in review" effect. You also can tie effects together with a theme. I once did a kids birthday party show as a wizard that finished third (from the bottom) in his class at a well known school of wizardry.

    PM me. I'd be glad to help.
    ArielB. and Gabriel Z. like this.
  6. I know how strongly you feel about the benefits of learning magic on YouTube. In most cases on YouTube, you get what you pay for. You have recently posted about learning the classic palm for coins and the Hamman count. Both of which you were doing wrong.

    I can pretty much tell in 30 seconds of a performance video if someone has learned from YouTube. There is an amazing amount of tension and focus on their hands. Their basic grips are wrong. Their mechanics grip is too deep (i.e. the cards don't float) and their end grip too deep and too tense. Their moves are done quickly (to cover the move) instead of being done technically correct (to make the move invisible). The speed and tension make it apparent when a move is being done. They also over prove everything. Also, their skills are limited to the "holy grail" moves because they haven't delved much into the real learning of magic and their
    repertoire is ace productions, pick a card / find a card tricks and color changes.
    I admire your enthusiasm about magic. But if you are serious, you need to move beyond YouTube and start learning from magicians that have better techniques and start learning from sources that have more variety in sleights and more variety in routines.
    CWhite, Casey Rudd and Gabriel Z. like this.
  7. @RealityOne Hey David, as always I'm happy to hear your perspective. And thanks for your encouragement! It's good to keep perspective

    "Sets" are exactly what I'm talking about! I think you're right on the money that your character is the glue that ties it all together. Maybe my problem is I really have no idea who my character is. Maybe that's why I have a hard time keeping my interest; without a character, I don't even know what I'm doing. The trick is I don't want my character to be very different from who I am, but at the same time, it can't just be me because I'm the most boring person I know. I'll have to do some thinking on it.

    You're super generous, and I will definitely hit you up to get some pointers on figuring out routines and sets! I think if I had a three-routine set to work toward, I would feel like I had a little 10 min show to give to people when the opportunity arose. If I could just get good at that one set, I think it would be a big leg up on figuring out my larger goals. And for now at least it gives me something to work toward.

    Thanks again, and have a great week!
  8. Thanks for you insight @Lord Magic ! This definitely spoke to me. Maybe the problem is I treat it too casually. They say where you lack discipline, establish structure. Structure is what I need! And thanks also for your tips on learning. YouTube is a big rabbit's hole for me. I can get really overwhelmed with all the material out there, when I really just need to focus on Royal Road or the basic coin magic material I have. It's easy to want to jump to the fancy stuff when you don't totally know the basics.
  9. Focus that thinking on two things - what people like about you and what you like. Ask your wife and kids what they like best about you - I suspect you know the answer without asking. Then think about what you like with a focus on characters. Favorite books, favorite movies, favorite television shows and the characters you like and what you like about them. Then put the pieces together.

    Let me give you an example based on my character:

    In my real life, I'm introverted, technical and precise, a perfectionist. I have an intellectual sense of humor and a love of puns. I have the ability to laugh at myself. I truly care about the people close to me. ​

    For works and characters, I like Harrison Ford as Hans Solo or Indiana Jones. I love Richard Bach's book Illusions. There are lots more that I don't have time to list. ​

    After seeing me perform, one of my wife's friends commented, "put a microphone in his hand and he becomes a different person." I get energy from my audience and become larger than life. It's the best parts of myself on display. My performance is an invitation to play in a world created by imagination. I engage in word play and a few admittedly bad puns. My presentations gave an intellectualism to them but it is disguised beneath my smile. For the of the show, I care about my audience. I don't really perform magic, but it just sort of happens because it makes sense in the context. ​
    Gabriel Z. likes this.
  10. Lol mate...
    Hamman Count, fine, I accept.
    The classic palm?

    Learned it from Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo!:p
    Anyways, in both cases I feel it is wrong to criticise YT because of MY bad habits in case of some sleights!
    And I did not even practice the Hamman too much to go into details.
    But this is one of those arguments that will never see the end!

    As for books, well, I do learn a LOT from books. I don't have a library to boast about, sure, but I do learn from books.
    I have always agreed the best magic comes from books!
    It is just that I feel that YT may not be the BEST, but it definitely is GOOD. What I condemn is focussing too much on any ONE source. That's my problem. If someday a thread comes up about how YT is the best, I will tell them how books are great too. If people are like 'Oh, You Tube is bad' and stuff, I will tell them YT is great too. I work both ways, see?
    But unfortunately most magicians are of the latter type, so I tell them YT is great too...and I come of as a YT devotee! :)

    Anyways, I feel learning good magic is a delicate mixture of attending lectures, buying and reading books, paying for and seeing DVDs and watching free tutorials in YT. I feel good magic requires all of that stuff.
    Also, even though I learn from YT (complementary to books obviously), I suck at the colour changes department!
    And, I can happily say that my hands don't look to tensed, thanks to a Q and A video of Asad's where he advised us about relaxing our hands and stuff.

    PS:- It is amazing how people highlight my words about You Tube but always seem to ignore that more often than not (or probably everytime) in the SAME post I also say LEARN FROM BOOKS!!!:cool:
    Did anyone even notice that in my post I also said learning from YT will make you medicore? No. *sigh* I will highlight those words of mine from now expect all my posts to look something like:-

    Hey! You can learn from YT too, those videos offer great stuff, borrowed mostly from books obviously but basically, you guys can try the videos of YT. Seriously, the tutorials are amazing, although to really get them down you have to do your research and reference books. YT is a cool place to get magic tutorials about basic stuff, but if you need next level stuff, you have to still get books, that will help you way more than videos but if you want magic, YT will never disappoint you!

  11. For everyone...
    The above things I have quoted from my original post. Why? Is that what you asked?

    Because those are the words somehow everyone's eyes magically skip over and ignore when reading my posts!
  12. @Lord Magic

    I did see your mention of books and took it as a secondary reference with YouTube being your primary source of inspiration and learning. If I'm mistaken then I apologize.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the value of YouTube. Let me just tell you that if you meet any experienced magicians and mention learning from YouTube, you will instantly lose their respect.

    I'm not sure there is much else to say since we have both made our points, but I'd be glad to continue this discussion through PMs so as not to further derail Kenneth's thread.
    Lord Magic likes this.
  13. I thought I might most this here instead of making a whole new thread since Kenneth already asked for help on making a routine.

    I was wondering if anyone else has put together a routine and been practicing those effects and working on how they want to deliver everything then all of the sudden think the tricks aren't great and want to completely change it up?
  14. Happens every freaking time.
    And I swear it is irritating.
    But rather than taking it as a set-back, I sort of view it as an improvement, because after practising the tricks for a while, I understand them better and know how they would look in my hands and how I should perform them to seem more 'me'.
    I also end up figuring out the vein of the routine I am trying to make. Like, I figure out that the routine I am trying to build is sort of based on the theme 'body-language reading' (for example).
    After that I have to try out other tricks and re-discover old ones or discover new ones to actually build that routine of mine. This leads to an expansion of my knowledge and skills.
    Obviously I am assuming by 'tricks aren't great' you probably mean 'the tricks aren't great as a routine'. And I am sure you know it that just because the tricks themselves are great that does not make them great in a routine.
    Am forgetting which magician said this but rest assured he was a great one! He said,"Imagine you buy all the best-looking furniture from shops all around the world. But when you put them ALL in one room, they might look rubbish together. The same thing goes with building a routine."
    The tricks might look great individually, but if they don't complement each other in a routine, we have to sacrifice those tricks in order to build a good routine.
    Ultimately, we have to take those moments as an oppurtunity. As it is I feel that as one develops their knowledge and understanding of magic, the previous routines and their effects start seeming dull!
  15. You have honestly hit the nail on the head with all points!
    I think removing some effects and replacing them with others might make me feel better about the routine as a whole.
  16. Kenneth,

    After thinking about your post for a while, it strikes me that you are someone who enjoys magic, and although you aspire only to be an amateur, you want your presentations to come off as more professional. A good set in magic, is like a good film; it has a beginning, a middle and an end. One way to get that professional flow and draw your audience in is through continuity. It could be continuity of props, or of theme, and/or verbal continuity which is connecting from one routine to another by appropriate wording.

    Examples of Continuity of Props: Magician, Carl Andrews' Table Hopping Cups and Balls. He does a cup and ball routine (beginning) and as his final loads produces three red sponge balls (middle). He then proceeds to do a sponge ball routine using the sponge balls he produced (end). Or John Carney's Fruit Cup. He borrows a dollar, rips a corner off and gives to spectator as a "receipt." He then crumples the remaining part of the dollar into a little ball and does an impromptu chop cup routine with the "ball" a coffee mug and a table knife as a "wand." He makes the dollar/ball penetrate through the cup, then vanish and reappear under the cup. As a climax, he produces a lemon from the cup. The lemon is then cut open using the knife and inside is a balled up dollar bill. It is opened and a corner is missing. The corner the spectator was given as a "receipt" at the beginning matches. (Still another example: You first magically cut to the 4 aces from a shuffled deck; second, you do Twisting the Aces, and Third, you perform Dr. Daley's Last Trick using those same aces. The third Routine (Dr. Daley) is strongest because it happens in their hands. Using your creativity as how to verbally connect the three routines - which already have continuity of props.)

    Example of Continuity of Theme: I tell the story of how I was hustled on the street in New York City by a card cheat named "Fast Eddy," in the game called "Three Card Monte." I do a multiple-phase 3 card monte routine with me as the victim, and tell how I got hustled and lost $100 to Fast Eddy. I then say, "But this was not to be my last encounter with Fast Eddy. Years later I ran into him in a casino in Las Vegas." (verbal continuity). Eddy bought me a couple drinks and then and invited me up to his room for a "friendly game," saying that he wanted to give me an opportunity for me to win back the money I had lost to him in NYC - and then some. (continuity of theme). When I told him that I knew I was no match for him in Three Card Monte, he smiled and said he had a different game, also played with 3 cards, two with a red diamond on them and one with a blue diamond (the money card). Well, I was kind of tipsy and I clearly had not learned my lesson, and so I played the game with him. I then demonstrate the "Color Monte, "and of course end up the loser. Finally, I said to him, "Look, I'm a magician and we always use a full deck of cards. "How about if we play a game with a full deck, and we put some real money on it, like $1,000?" (more continuity of theme). I told Fast Eddy that the object was for me to cut to 4 of a kind from a shuffled deck, and asked him if he wanted to bet $1000 that I couldn't do it. Well, the gambler in him was unable to resist, and he pulled out a big wad of money. I then go into the Magician versus Gambler routine and win the $1000 from Fast Eddy. An entertaining story, with an emotional hook and a nice surprise ending.
    RealityOne likes this.
  17. Thanks so much for your input @Al e Cat Dabra ! This is exactly some of the advice I'm looking for!
  18. @KCM - you are most welcome! Have fun!

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