• How can I be a better magician?

  • June 24, 2020

  • Practice, more practice and even more practice.

    I doubt that was really the answer you were looking for though. As you are no doubt aware, magic requires a whole host of different skills to be brought together to produce the finished product. Self confidence, dexterity, psychology, charisma and dress sense to name a few. But as magicians, how can we best improve our performances?

    Practice is unfortunately probably the best answer. Directed and focused practice though. By this I mean, when practicing many people don’t actually practice the right way. This includes me by the way. Let’s look at an example, guitar again so I don’t accidentally reveal any secrets! When it comes to learning a new effect, or song, most of us practice by playing through the entire song each time, tripping up here and there, but making it from start to finish. What we want to do though, is focus our practice specifically on the parts that we trip over. If there is a particular chord change that our fingers trip over, then we need to only practice that part of the song over and over until it can fit smoothly into the song as a whole.

    This sort of practice is often called “deliberate practice” because of the additional attention it requires. On top of focusing on the parts we find difficult, it is also important that we pay attention and analyse the results. It is all good and well to practice a flourish with a deck of cards while sitting in front of the television, but if you want to really improve, then you’ll need to focus on the  practice. Analyse each movement of your fingers, is it in the right place, is it moving in the right way, is the movement unnecessary? Ask yourself these questions and endless others to refine and tighten each individual piece of the whole process and you will see a firsthand example of how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    I realise how you may be tempted to run off and put this into action right away, and there wouldn’t be anything wrong with doing that, but it is worth taking it a step further when you do.

    That comes from measuring and/or recording your practice sessions. A really good example for this is to imagine two basketball players practicing taking shots at the hoop from the free throw line for an hour. Player A throws two hundred shots, has a coach collect and return the ball each time and records where the ball goes in relation to the hoop each time. Player B throws 50 shots, collects the ball after each shot himself, chats to anyone nearby to pass the time and dribbles leisurely back and forth between shots. Which player do you think could be considered as putting deliberate practice into effect? (Thank you to James Clear for this brilliant analogy)

    If you want to apply the same deliberate practice to your magic, find a willing colleague or friend who is willing to act like a coach. Have them sit in the “firing line” and repeat the move and see if they can catch a glimpse of anything they shouldn’t see. Perform in batches of ten as smoothly as you can, then review with your coach. Were there moments where your hands looked unnatural or stiff, where things didn’t flow properly or were jerky, did they see a hidden prop? Repeat this until it is as close to flawless as you can, then do it all over again with your coach sitting at different angle.

    This is a tedious process and can be exhausting, so you may find if you are used to practicing several hours a day, you may end up only able to do an hour or two a day. This is a good sign, so keep performing like this and you will see an exponential rise in your abilities.

    Deliberate practice is of course not the only factor that will help improve your magic, but I thought it was worth going over first. We can delve into other factors tomorrow. In the meantime, get to it!

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