Chatter Archive Volume 17
September 2008 - August 2009
Posted at 01/08/09 - 05:00 PM
I receive a German magic magazine called ‘magische Welt’ which is published by Wittus Witt, and since I have some knowledge of the German language, I’m actually able to read it! In a recent issue I was fascinated to see an article by Frank Gilka in which he was extolling the virtues of practice and suggesting a whole range of strategies for making that practice effective. One of his ideas was something which I have done for years but which I have never seen or heard of anyone else doing. Let me explain.
I suspect that for most people, the idea of practising a new trick is pretty much the same. Find a suitable mirror, set up a table in front of it (if required), and then endlessly repeat the sequence of moves. This is OK as a starting point but there are a few things which mean that it shouldn’t be the only way that you practise.
For a start, trying to perform and watch yourself at the same time in a mirror is actually teaching you some of the wrong things, because a) the chances are you will subconsciously blink or maybe look away slightly when you need to perform a particularly tricky move thus fooling yourself into thinking that you are doing it invisibly b) you are only seeing what the trick looks like from one specific angle and c) you get used to seeing what you are doing as a mirror image, and so when that mirror is taken away and you can’t see yourself any more, you feel odd and as if it isn’t quite right!
So, the first thing, if you want to use a mirror, is to set up your table, or simply stand, at different angles so that you get to see what it looks like from a wider perspective. You may suddenly find that a move you were convinced was imperceptible suddenly flashes badly from one particular side. The next thing to try, and this is what Frank mentions and is the thing which I have not seen suggested before, is to get rid of the mirror altogether and practise the trick in different rooms.
This is something I have always done. My wife has got quite used to seeing me standing in the hallway talking to a door, or of opening the bathroom door to find me standing there performing a new move to the washbasin, but what it does, is get you used to working with different outlooks. Because when you perform this new item for real, you are not going to be able to see yourself and so you need to get your body used to going through the technical aspects of the trick without the reassurance of being able to see what it looks like.
If it is practical, I will leave the props for a new trick lying on my desk in my office, and then I will suddenly grab the props and perform the effect. It’s almost as if I am trying to catch myself out! It’s all very well practising a trick 20 times in a row, but when you do this you can get into a somewhat unnatural rhythm, unnatural that is, compared to normal working conditions.
When doing a show, you won’t have just run through the trick 19 times and then without a pause be able to turn to your audience and repeat it for the 20th! No, you will have to bring those props out and go straight into it even if you haven’t done the trick for some time. So by grabbing the props almost at random moments, I am attempting to recreate that feeling of only having one chance to get it right.
Going back to mirrors—actually setting up a camcorder and recording yourself is probably a better option. That way you get to really see what it looks and sounds like since you are not required to try and watch it while you are actually performing it. Practice is important, of course, but BAD practice can be a huge hindrance, and so I think it pays to think about practising strategies carefully to ensure that you get the most out of email@example.com
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