Practicing the natural.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Randy, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. I wonder how many people still actually do this or use this idea. The idea is that you practice doing natural movements with cards/coins or whatever. IE: you would simply practice dribbling cards into your left hand, then making a gesture, then squaring up the pack. This whole process should take around 3 seconds tops.

    This is mainly for making your top palm look less suspicious and more invisible. But it got me thinking are there any other sleights that could use this type of theory to help improve them or make them seem less "fidgety" as Michael Close points out. (Also the fidgety-ness of many things is what tends to alert people that you did SOMETHING weird.)
  2. The double-lift is a big one! Get the feel of what it's like to flip over only one card. Your double and single lifts should look identical. If you flip over a double differently, it already calls more attention even if the cards are lined up.
  3. A retention vanish; a load of a cups and balls routine; the rub a dub vanish; also the Shift from Dorian Rhodell's DVD The Avenue should just look like you're doing an all around square up.
  4. Bill Tarr in "Now You See It, Now You Don't" states this about being natural:

    "The secret to good sleight of hand is naturalness. No quick, jerky motions, no hand wagging or waving! You must work slowly, deliberately, and naturally. Then coins and balls and rings and cards will disappear and reappear at your fingertips not because you are involved in all kinds of complicated machinations, but magically!

    "Remember that. SLOW, DELIBERATE, NATURAL!"

    In other words, practice everything that you are going to do, and do it slowly.
  5. The main, and probably the easiest way to make your sleight of hand natural is by learning it by yourself. I haven't watched videos showing me how to palm - I just needed to secretly get the top card in my palm without using both hands, so I devised a way to do so. Nothing compares to self-taught methods in naturalness. In other words, as method is concerned, I don't care how Akira Fuji does his pass and I don't care how Jason England bottom deals. I keep it that simple.

    The awful part of magic videos and DVDs is that you don't see yourself doing the move, you see a given individual doing the mechanics with his hands.

    So, to practice natural movement get a pen and a paper, write the beginning and the end of the routine, then figure out by yourself a method to get to A to B. This way you won't even be nervous in performance because by then you'll know the routine inside out.
  6. While this does sound interesting and seems like it can work, (I did basically teach myself to one hand top palm) I only agree to some extent here. If you don't study at least the bare minimum basics of...let's say the pass, then you could end up with a very sloppy self-taught version of that, with all the bad habits that will be hard to break when you learn the proper techniques from it.

    As I'm watching a DVD or download, or reading a book, I first watch or read the effect all the way through, then go back and follow along with my own materials, then do a brief run through in the mirror to see how it looks, and then for the camera for that unblinking critic to see. The good part about magic videos and DVDs is that the person teaching has (hopefully) perfected the sleights necessary to perform and teach them in a way that should look natural, which gives you an idea of how it should look as well as proper guidence on how to get there.

    In reply to RediSpades:Again, I agree on the slow aspect but to an extent. Alex Geiser said in an interview with the Blue Crown that you do want to be slow, because being fast draws suspicion from the audience. I believe that practicing slow is vital to understand how things work and how things should look at certain angles, as well as getting the movements down without fumbling. But some things in performance should be done quicker for obvious reasons i.e. the twirl change or else the change is rendered futile.
  7. The problem with trying to reinvent the way a move is done is that often times the reason the method for it as been around so long is because it's been worked by everybody and made practical. Whit haydn mentioned that you shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel till you have a good understanding of HOW and WHY the original sleight or effect works. THAN maybe years later if you want, you can come up with a new palm or change.

    Anyways, the idea to practice the natural doesn't mean to see how YOU would naturally palm or steal a card, is to see how you handle the deck WITHOUT doing that particular sleight. Which is why I made the example of dribbling the cards, making a gesture, then squaring the deck. Mike Close mentioned that the best way to do this, is to simply video record yourself doing these natural movements and gestures, then try to make your dirty work look as close to your natural work as possible. This was also an idea of Vernon's and a ton other magicians over the decades.
  8. this is why books exists.
  9. I think that naturalness is taught best by those who are into coin magic. They really hammer it into you because if your palms or whatever looks arthritic and unnatural your spectators come looking for you fast and it impedes the "magic" of it all and increases the probability of being caught. I'd say even if coins aren't your thing learn how to learn them because they always have helpful hints to make them look flawless and natural. With cards i think you can get away with more because so many people CAN'T handle cards well so you are held to a lower standard to a certain degree.
  10. Lots of great observations guys!

    In order to learn the classic palm with a coin I would literally hold coins in position during my typing classes in school, typing away with coins in hand. I don't recall where I read about some other notable having done this; basically going through your day with this or that item in a palmed position and doing everything you normally do at the same time so that the action becomes a natural part of how you move and use your hands. Obviously this wouldn't be practical for certain types of palming techniques, such as a back-palm but then there are alternatives. I look at guys that are good at coin rolls and it's because they roll coins when there's nothing else to do or when thinking -- the action becomes a focal point in a kind-of meditation, we even see this in non-magicians that twirl pens and most especially, smokers that fidget with their cigarettes/pipe/cigar, etc.

    Don't get me wrong in what I'm about to say, but "naturalness" is most important in two key areas of magic; the card guy that plays themselves as a cheat/card shark sort, and the Mentalist who, by the very essence of the craft, must make everything seem above board and innocent. While the latter has certain psychological advantages that actually obfuscate flaws in their work the former does not; a card/gambling hustler of old would literally be risking their life when running a game and that is why those that specialize in such a theme really need to be cleaner and smoother than the average mage. . .
    . . . at least that's my opinion based on the array of card guys I've watched over the years.​

    Anyway, I just wanted to toss in a couple of pennies worth given how very sound this thread is on the subject. Keep it up!
  11. Michael Skinner did warm-up sessions before he performed where he just did natural card handling moves, such as fans, spreads etc.
    So did Vernon before he performed a trick with a top change for example (he practiced the move in the context of picking up a card box he pushed down before).
  12. Apart from everything mentioned, "practicing the natural", as you put it, will greatly improve any kind of pass you might do.
  13. Yeah, I seem to recall David Williamson mentioning that when he was teaching the Top Change (which is something I'll get around to working on next week and seeing if I can try out that practice technique with it.)
  14. The best way to look natural doing magic, is to (obviously practice), but also not to indicate. This is probably the most insightful magic video I have ever seen. See what Brad Christain has to say about this topic [video=youtube;_iMXJGyT0Dg][/video]
  15. When first learning a move, I practice the sleight, then do the true move.
    For example, in my push through practice, I do a push through shuffle, then a true table riffle, and repeat. It really highlights what little changes you need to make to make your moves look like you are not doing anything but what your body says you are doing.
  16. I think one of the most helpful things also is like Brad said is to perform for live people and focus on calming your nerve. I've noticed that this helps an incredible amount. During my first theater production at my high school, it was "The Music Man", and I had the very first line of the entire show and it scared me stiff! It literally took every ounce of will to step on stage and deliver my lines. Just from doing it once for 400 people or so, the second night of performing it took noticeably less effort to go and do my lines and get out. By the end of the show I didn't think twice about going onstage and doing my parts. I was used to 400 to 500 people I didn't know staring me down looking to be entertained. This also applies to magic and I hold it as the best way to improve not only your naturalness, but also your magic.
  17. Craig Browning hit on a point that I've put some thought into: Natural actions versus naturalness in your actions. It's a matter of character.

    If you ask a spectator to shuffle and then shuffle a different way then you are shuffling in a way that is unnatural to them. Do they notice? No, they riffle with a bridge and you're doing your push through variation, shuffling is shuffling, as long as it looks natural in your hands they accept that you've always shuffled cards that way. Lennart Green drops cards...a lot, a feat that would look unprofessional in the hands of, say, Darwin Ortiz. However Darwin Ortiz's precision with cards would look out of place if you were a mentalist just using cards as a tool for a demonstration or experiment.

    Natural handling and a naturalness of handling are tied together, but not exactly the same thing. I can learn the overhand shuffle controls perfectly, and use them in any situation. But if I were proclaiming psychic powers my shuffle shouldn't look as thorough or even complete. I may do it once or twice casually because I'm not 'finding your card' so it doesn't need to be completely lost...I'm reading your mind - attention to the cards is (like Brad Christian said) Indicating something more.

    Likewise if you say you've been practicing gambling techniques your uncle taught you as a child for 10 years now and you shuffle like Lennart Green...someone is going to call you on it.

    Being natural is to know what character you're playing, and making everything you do true to that character, nothing more and nothing less. You could speed up at a move, if say, you were playing an amateur magician who doesn't have experience (not sure how many bookings you would get though...).

    Good discussion so far, hope my rambling is coherent.
  18. Part of the issue is learning a method for the sleight that allows you to look natural. That is, different magicians teach sleights differently. I've found that for me, Roberto Giobbi's methods in Card College are way better than anything I've seen in a video. part of that is that most videos teach an easy method of performing a sleight which in many cases doesn't look as good as a more slightly more difficult method. I think coming up with your own way to perform a sleight - like a palm of a card or coin - most likely is going to do it in a way that is easy but does't look natural.

    The other part is tension of magician's guilt. As Brad said in the video, watch for anything you do that telegraphs that you are performing a sleight. One of the keys to a good performance is to practice the patter along with the sleights. It makes everything more smooth. If you don't do that you end up with saying what you are going to do and then doing it which only focuses more attention on what you are doing.

    Also, what Rik said about character is also really important. When you are performing a sleight, the "feel" of it needs to be consistent with your character. If you are a pretty plain card handler, a fancy acrobatic double lift will stick out.

    Finally, practice, practice, practice. You have to be able to perform the sleight without knowing you are doing it. In my cups and balls routine, I've practiced so much that I'm surprised when I reveal that the final load is in the cups because my the load has become so natural and because my attention is directed where the audience is looking.
  19. It shouldn't be just your actions that are natural, but your voice as well. Like Brad said, you can't start talking really fast or raise your voice all of a sudden.

    It's not really "you need to be a good liar" it's "you need to believe what you are telling them." If I put a coin in my left hand, raise it up, and slowly make it vanish, and the whole time I look at my hand like I believe the coin is in there then they will believe it too. My right hand is no longer important because the coin is in the left hand, and that's where the attention is.
  20. #20 RikAllen, Jan 6, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2012
    Excellent point, which is why practicing your sleights while delivering your script at the same time during rehearsal is important. Going over the move a bajillion times is good, as long as you also practice while saying what you're going to say when you're doing the move.
    Very true.

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