03 May 2016

Practice Thoughtfully… Reap Greater Rewards

Practice can make you feel good.

Michael Skinner  practiced five to ten hours a day.   Larry Jennings had packs of playing cards in every room of his house.  Dai Vernon said if you don’t like to practice leave magic alone and find another hobby.

“Practice your magic every day for at least thirty minutes; think or read about it another thirty.  Is this enough to become a great magician?  No, but it is more than most magicians ever do and will put you light years ahead of the rest.”  – John Carney, Book of Secrets

In the film Deceptive Practice, Ricky Jay describes the meditative effect of practice.  The mere act of shuffling and handling playing cards will calm him down.  Though he admits how this is not the most efficient use of his practice time.  Charlie Miller advised Jay to try and improve a sleight each time he did it.  This is smart.  It puts you in the moment.

Faro shuffle practice

Vernon loved to practice

Watch a cash register worker handle money and change.  Bills and coins move about their fingertips with the grace of a sleight of hand expert.  After countless hours of repetition they have become skillful.  Repetition plus thoughtfulness makes better use of our time.

“When you practice, be sure you have the correct information so that you don’t practice “wrong.”  A small amount of time properly investigating, or angle, or timing on a particular move, will save hours of “wrong” practice.” 

Bill Simon, Effective Card Magic

Practice Tips

Decide on one trick.  One move.  Find a quiet place.  Use a mirror.  Film yourself.  Take notes.  Think about the details.  As Carney says, focus on one aspect of the trick or move.  What can you do to simplify it?  How does the action look when you don’t do the move?  Compare this to when you do.  They should look the same.  Through trial and error and practical thinking, you will finesse those rough spots.

“To rise above the pedestrian rank, the student must assign himself tasks and focus on improvement. It is not about being “good enough” or “getting by.”  We must truly want to improve and accept the requisite responsibilities and work.”  – John Carney, Book of Secrets

About a year ago I decided to tackle the pinky count.  I had always heard good things about this sleight.  I started to read books on the subject.  Lots of them.  Once I had the right knowledge I sat down to practice.  It was painful at first.  Hand muscles were being used for the first time.  But I wanted this.  So I pushed harder.  I improved.  Got smoother.  Faster.   The point is, I chose one move.  Not seven or four or three.  One!  I did my research and applied myself.  It felt good.

Consider these last two observations:

“Most things in life which look like they will cause us some personal inconvenience make us invent excuses why we should not exert ourselves”

Lewis Ganson, The Dai Vernon Book of Magic

“There is a terrific incentive to progress once the first glimmers of achievement are apparent.”

Dai Vernon, The Dai Vernon Book of Magic



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