• How do you learn magic?

  • August 19, 2019

  • When it comes to learning magic, there are a plethora of different ways to learn, all with various advantages and disadvantages. In the modern-day and age that we live in, though, I find a combination of all of the following gets me the best results.

    Books:

    Magic books are almost a cliche at this point. Coming across as an outdated method of learning with the advent of more modern approaches that certainly provide a host of advantages. Books, however, trump the other formats simply because of the absurd amount of information that is contained within each one, particularly if it is one of the great classic magic books such as:

    The Royal Road to Card Magic by Frederick Braue and Jean Hugard

    Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic

    Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo

    There are many others of course, but these books alone contain some of the best material out there for new and old magicians alike. The significant disadvantage of books though is of course that the images are static and often, especially with certain classic books, the use of drawings, or less than high-quality photos, to convey complicated handling results in nothing but confusion for the student.

    The thing to remember is though that almost every magic concept, sleight and effect have already been created and they are all probably written in a book getting dusty on a shelf somewhere, so don’t turn your nose up at magic books!

    DVDs:

    I have heard many magicians complain that “young magicians today, they have it so easy” because of the easy access to instructional DVDs. These are incredible, and my collection seems to be forever growing more extensive. DVDs allow the instructor to convey their points far more quickly by showing moves repeatedly, from different angles and at different speeds. This is, of course, a huge leg up on learning from books.

    There aren’t many disadvantages for using DVDs to learn from that aren’t also present for books, which is, of course, the ability to ask questions, as you will inevitably want to do.

    Teacher/Mentors:

    To me, this will always be the greatest way to learn magic. And not just because I’m trying to make a living teaching online these days! This is because I started out using books, DVDs and online courses to learn magic. Still, it wasn’t until I was able to sit down with a professional, albeit retired, magician that my performances moved to the next level.

    Since magic is inherently a live performance type of art form, it is crucial to get feedback from someone other than your audience. Magic is the only art form where you practice to conceal your hard work. Therefore it is all the more necessary to get a keen eye to look at how you perform, how you handle your props and how you conduct yourself, as only they will be able to know where you should direct your focus and attention.

    My first mentor was a man by the name of Jim Holt, who had been an incredibly successful clown that had toured all over the world, performing to thousands of people. Jim taught me a great deal, most importantly, though, was the need to have a “kicker” ending. It is all good and well having the most polished magical effect ever created, but the end (and the opening) are all your spectators will remember. Having someone like Jim to shoot down effects that didn’t belong in my act made it far easier for me to streamline my shows and give my audience the kind of entertainment I had always imagined being able to provide.

    Another benefit of a mentor is that they don’t have to, nor should they, spare your feelings. Much better that they are harsh to you in private so that you can succeed in public. I always remember how my far too obliging family members would tell me how amazing each and every effect I performed was. I showed Jim my performance, and he quickly had me remove over half of my act, because as he put it, “you did the same thing five times!”.

    To get the best out of your mentor though, you need to be learning magic on your own time, and coming to them with questions and areas you want looked at with their professional eye. Otherwise, you may just end up sitting there twiddling your thumbs!

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