Learn the Art of Magic

June 20, 2020

If you're serious about becoming a magician, give Penn & Teller's Masterclass a try:

World-renowned magicians teach trick psychology, buildable techniques, and the perceptual tools that astonish audiences.

A downloadable companion book accompanies te class with supplemental information and illustrated step-by-step guides to performing magic tricks.

What equipment do you need to start with magic tricks?

Here are some must-have products that any magician should have:

The single best book for learning card tricks

The first three volumes of this book will guarantee you a small career. No need to look for anything else.

Card College is the Bible of card tricks.

Vol. 1 has all the basics, and gives the most solid foundation I know. I would even say after learning the basics in vol 1, one has such a good basic skillset, that the "big tricks and sleights" can be learned somewhere else.

The "big tricks" like triumph and "big sleights" such as the classic pass are not in vol. 1, but in later volumes.

Even though Card College 2-5 is excellent for those things as well, let's say you want to learn the Zarrow Shuffle in detail. Card College will give you very good instructions, but cannot shoe all there is to it, since it is not a Zarrow Shuffle book. Maybe you aren't that interested in the other things in that books. It would be better to invest in a Zarrow shuffle only book, in that case.

I am not at all recommending against vol. 2-5. I just think vol. 2-5 aren't beginner anymore, and at that stage (after reading vol. 1) one can consider what way one wants to learn more advanced things.

What are some of the best card tricks?

Card to impossible locations are my favorite. I really don't like math tricks or long card tricks or production of poker hands etc. I respect the skill involved they just don't interest me.

I like card to impossible locations, like lemon, wallet, unzip pants..(mac king has brilliant video of this, plus beginning of trick his hilarious because of the volunteer)

Ambitious card routines, Torn and restored.

A lot of these seem like they would be hard but really most of them are even easier than a lot of the more complex tricks that just aren't as 'big'.

I like to do a version of Miracle Princess (most people seem to know it as Mira-bill, but the trick itself is older). As far as I know it started with Mr. Fingers, aka Irv Weiner. I use a memdeck, so I only have to see one card before the reveal. Same trick otherwise.

I settled on my method to memorize a deck a long time ago (by watching Derren Brown with that woman on the expensive pier). Then I decided I didn't want to waste my time memorizing any deck, and built my own. Then memorized it. I still remember the deck that started it all. My mnemonics are exactly Derren Brown's. A few years later I found out about Juan Tamariz.

And I'm a big fan of Tamariz. I'm more into mentalism than magic, so although I study his books (and I do have all of them on my shelf, well marked up from multiple readings), my interest is actually in a totally different direction. I don't use his methods at all, but I do use some of the effects he gets out of his method, if that makes sense.

For a beginner, what should you focus on first? Card magic or cardistry?

Whatever tickles your pickle. When I started out I did magic, just basic magic with cards. As Zach Mueller did, I switched over to cardistry simply because people only cared about the trick, not appreciating the skills the magician has. I know that doesn't answer your question but starting out with some basic magic and getting familiar with cards will help to ease out the transition to cardistry.

I'd start with some basic magic first. If you like it move on to cardistry, or the other way around.

What's the easiest cool magic trick you can learn quickly?

Try the "Turn water into wine" trick.

Can you learn magic from Youtube?

I’m honestly not sure how serious everyone is about magic around here but I was pretty into it I would practice for hours a day and watch hours of tutorials for tricks and lots of them are simple in theory, but tricky in practice. Some simple in both. Take hand sandwich for example, this trick is dead simple. I’m sure someone “created” this trick at some point, but the fact is, just by watching someone do the trick, you can figure it out with ease.

Yes, there are people who bought the cds and then posted the tutorial they learned, which is slimy. But if you simply figure out the trick on your own I really don’t think that’s a terrible thing. That aside there’s so many “basic” tricks with learning on YouTube. All these super complex tricks are hard to master and the reactions aren’t that amazing honestly. (Oil and water for example. Hard to master, not terribly impressive.)

Hand sandwich and another variation of that get the absolute best reactions ever, and they take about 5 minutes to learn, and just a bit more to master. I’m a fan of this. Maybe I’m not normal but idk, I’m a fan of simple, solid tricks. That said I hate people blatantly stealing tricks and never watched those videos. I used to watch Disturb Reality, The Card Trick Teacher, and 52 Kards and such. They teach stuff that’s been around for awhile, and some new stuff, but I honestly believe they have quality tricks and techniques worth learning.

How to learn the lingo Penn explains the tricks with?

It kind of depends on the act. Sometimes he mentions magicians that created or were known for an act or illusion. Sometimes he mentions a type of prop (thumper, invisible deck, shell, etc) as it's enough to say how something is performed, or at least the key component. Sometimes he mentions a type of move or style of act. Sometimes he just outright says it. "If we looked at the cards, would we know how you did it?" and that's all that's needed. You may not always get the full answer but most times just watch as Penn says something with a lot of emphasis.

You can also read Reddit, they talk about the illusions a lot. So if you don't catch it, you can ask one of the posts with magicians discussing it and we'll likely steer you in the right direction.

Are magic tricks protected secrets?

No truly great magic trick is secret for one reason - they are all patented.

While there are exceptions, loop holes, and litigation is messy and largely unsuccessful, it is still common to patent magic tricks. Keep in mind that most magic acts can and are classified as performance art, and are afforded the same protection as your favorite musical artist (though proving infringement is much more challenging).

As to where to look patents up, Google it.

Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_rights_to_magic_methods

How to become a professional magician

Sounds cool. Hire a good graphic designer, student even, to create a cool identity so when you hand over a business card or your website, people think, "this guy is legit". Even better if it's not some run-of-the-mill boring minimal generic looking webpage.

Connect with some film student at local college to do a short docu on you. Plan out what you want to demo, see Blaine's first video, doesn't have to be a long movie. Let it be front and centre of webpage.

Some if not most people will hire based on visual impression. Also, flyers at places where people attend parties, see if you can advertise there and/or build a relationship with a banquet hall for eg. so they call you for weddings - be a part of the package.

See if clients can give you testimonials to put on your Youtube channel.

How to entertain people with magic

Do whatever makes the show the best for the audience. If having a stooge in the audience is more entertaining for whatever reason, go for it. The people pay to watch a good show, the method in which you deceive them is something they would never know about, so the method could be a rubber chicken concealed in your sock that somehow achieves a levitation, the ridiculous method isn't what the spectator cares about, it is the effect! Some methods may give more of a headache than others, stooging is one of those methods, you need a reliable assistant that can be at every show, etc. That could be bothersome to someone performing daily. Also, whenever money is handled, it makes friendship with whomever somewhat weird in my experience.

People may say it is rude to the audience because you are taking their opportunity to be on stage, well if you are performing for 200 people, for 45 minutes, probably 1 or 2 volunteers a trick, 7-10 volunteers are around the average. so having one stooge and the rest be real, wouldn't change things by a huge enough degree for me to have an issue with it. I've been to around 70ish magic shows, I've only been a volunteer for about 3 or 4 of them. I was just as amazed as I would've been onstage those 66 times.

Are there any ethical concerns when it comes to magic shows?

I'd argue that a magic show is different from a play/movie/etc in the fact that fictional stories don't try and pass themselves off as real, and everyone (or at least the vast majority of people) know they aren't real. Stories aren't entertaining people by deceiving them, they're entertaining them by giving them a story. Even in "true story" fictional stories, the entertainment doesn't come from deception. Whereas the entertainment from magic comes from deceiving them.

I think a lot of people just see plants as "cheap" because it's easy to do. For me, I think it depends on context. If you have a plant that you're using to "read minds" then yeah, I think that's kinda cheap, but at the same time, it's probably not going to be a very good trick since most people will assume that's what happened and won't really be fooled. If you have a plant to help in your trick of sawing them in half, then I think that's perfectly fine. The trick isn't centered around them being a plant.

Despite that, I don't think there are any ethical concerns. Magic is based around deception. No one is actually using telekinesis or mind-reading powers or teleportation or whatever else. It'd probably make the trick shittier, but if using a plant is unethical because it's deceiving people, then all magic is unethical.

Do you prefer coin tricks over card tricks?

The trick and effect must be super original for me to get excited. Otherwise I just don’t care.

In my mind, Coin magic is less customizable than Card magic so I inevitably lean toward Cards. Coins have limited options: Disappear, levitate, jump from one place to the other, transform into another object or grow bigger/smaller, multiply, torn and restored...

That’s pretty much it.

Cards can do all those things + the ability to utilize pictures, become a canvas for anything, they have more space for uses... and probably a ton of other throngs that I can’t come up with lol.

They both can be used in conjunction with other effects but cards just have more customization options.

On the other hand, when people see cards they immediately think “oh here we go... some lame magic long counting card trick” but when they see a coin they don’t get to associate it with magic. So that’s cool.

Do you think Quentin Coldwater is a good magician?

By the end Quentin is on par with Mayakovsky in terms of ability. He just wasn't there yet when Mayakovsky was breaking him down, and of course Mayakovsky knew nothing about Fillory. Further, Mayakovsky has seen what happens when a magician gets too big a head. It's his style to ensure his skraeling understand that they know nothing. So Mayakovsky's assessment is hardly fair.

Quentin has done things either on par or beyond Mayakovsky:

  • In restoring Alice - this is a unique feat, universally agreed to be impossible.
  • In creating the portal - again; unique by human standards as far as we know; other humans transport themselves, they don't create fixed portals.
  • His various feats inside Fillory - keeping in mind that it's when he's at his most adrenaline filled and confident that he has flashes of genius and ability that desert him in his downtime, when he's got more time to worry about his inadequacy.

All of this at - what, less than half Mayakovsky's age, with fewer resources and less time spent with nothing but practice and books for company? Q is a top-tier magician, he's just hobbled by his neuroses when he's got time to be distracted by them.

The thing about the magicians though is that they're all brilliant; preternaturally so. If they weren't magicians, and didn't end up burnouts or suicides, but found some other outlet - they'd be the sort of person most people haven't heard of. The ones too good to piss away time on TED talks showing off how brilliant they are. Or the ones you read referenced in textbooks constantly, the foundational modern masters of a field, but whose own work you'll never need to read because it will always be beyond you and the needs of your own work.

Every single Brakebills alumni is that good. They could all be Mayakovsky-tier; or at least Dean Fogg. They just don't care to. As with the way their lives could have gone before Brakebills, you still get lazy or burnout or nihilistic or hedonistically distracted or neurotically damaged magicians and they form the mediocre class - but that's just habit, not ability. So trying to quantify power levels of the magicians is somewhat of a lost cause - in some field or another, one will always scare the others with their brilliance, if they put their minds to it. Q's brilliance is simply habitually not used, under-recognized and under-rated.

How does the "Any card at any number" trick work?

The easiest explanation is that he has another trick planned and he switches tricks if the placement isn't right. This sounds hard to do but he can choose a couple different cards by making people count from the bottom or from the top or making people count by twos so it probably happens more often than you'd think.

He obfuscates the odds a bit in that video but in reality if you're only counting from the top you have a 1 in 52 chance, choosing which way to count you're at 2/52 and if you go down from there it turns pretty manageable.

There are lots of little stories and weird math tricks a good magician could pull off as a reason to pull a card ("You chose 3? You chose 6? Alright 3 times 6 is 18 so count down 18 cards from the top"). The second performance in that video (assuming no plants) is almost certainly down to luck.

The first one is a little more suspicious to me because it's televised and prearranged so I'd say there's a good chance one of the men involved in the trick is a plant. Maybe he got lucky and it worked out just right but that seems a bit unlikely. I'd like to see more videos of him performing the trick not just two where he gets it right I'd expect a lot more variation if we watched more of them.

Remember social engineering isn't as real as Derren Brown pretends it is or at least not to the extent where you can make someone think of a specific card in a deck like that.

How to deal with "forgetting" new tricks

I definitely fight this problem a lot. Related to this problem, I'll practice some difficult new stuff, and when the opportunity comes I'll chicken out and fall back on old favorites.

To combat "forgetting", I'm getting organized with spreadsheets of categorized effects I like/want to do. I'm trying to make my practice time a little more organized by running through each effect once a week.

My practice time tends to be kind of lazy, but I think I can still watch TV and practice the important points of some tricks, working my way through the list.

How long does it take to become good at magic?

Some kids these days are really good at it, and even so, it took them awhile to "get it". I'd say minimally a year to be comfortable.

I'm far from talented, but should be pretty average, from your examples it took me a year at least for all the shuffles you mentioned, and at least two years for my doubles.

Not to scare you off, but the whole appeal to magic is the practice itself. If you do not enjoy the practice, perhaps you aren't really interested in magic.

Well there is a simple way to find out if you have become decent at those, perform them. If they entertain people, yes.

Although I would say you should add a couple more sleights to what you are practicing, because those shuffles will automatically get practiced a lot when performing most tricks, and as long as the cards aren't flying everywhere its not absolutely crucial to get a perfect riffle shuffle..

I would add the top palm to what you are practicing. Maybe spread cull too.

How real is Justin Willman’s “Magic for Humans” on Netflix?

I'm inclined to believe that a majority of these "magicians" that interact with strangers have opted to used trained actors for their entire performances. Just like many of the big youtube pranksters. They get the exact reaction they are looking for and it requires much less editing/actual talent. I've seen a few reactions from his participants and they seem extremely fake to me.

It’s totally fake! In the man disappearing bit, upon first viewing I was totally enthralled... upon making my wife watch it with me, it became immediately obvious that the entire thing was staged... all on screen were actors. Watch it again, you’ll see. They’re all straight out of central casting. Someone put out a call for hipster millenial park-goers and this was the result. 100% staged, beginning to end - won’t be watching more.

I think I have PTSD afer watching this one.

How my story with magic started

I found Penn and Teller's Fool Us on Netflix and was FASCINATED with the card tricks and similar sleight of hand, small scale tricks.

When it comes to "magic" there seems to be various resources ranging from videos to books so I found a bunch and started slowly learning.

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