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Learning magic

by Smaug1231 min read9th Jun 20198 comments



Magic (primarily misdirection and cold-reading, but also the mechanics like sleight-of-hand) seems like an extremely good case-study in the study of how the human mind works and the predictable ways in which human maps differ from the territory. There are several magicians out there who offer to teach classes and so forth, but are there any who can be vouched for as really "knowing their stuff" as a teacher if I wanted to approach the subject in this light? Relatedly, can anyone vouch for the quality of the Penn and Teller course on the MasterClass platform?

Bonus points for teachers in London who can be hired for small (up to 10 people) groups.

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(speaking as someone who has been into magic as a hobby and as a part time job)

Instead of listing some magic resources, I'll try to point out some things that might lead you to giving up magic prematurely.

A very common beginning magic experience is to learn the secret to some tricks and feel like "There's nooooo way this bullshit will ever fool anyone." You will especially feel this about some of the strongest/boldest misdirection based effects. This can lead to either never performing magic for people, or strong magician's guilt that leads to fumbling magic tricks. Magician's guilt is when your "this is so obvious, I'm going to be caught and it's going to be horrible" monologue manifests itself in body language grossly enough for a spectator to go, "They just did something weird. I don't know what it was, but something fishy happened." Really, it's super hard to predict what will and won't fool people. You've got to do go out and perform for people a lot and see what works.

Magician quip: "Amateurs know 100 tricks. Real pros know about 6."

The pattern this quote is pointing to is that new magicians are normally only performing for a small pool of friends and family. People start to catch on after a week of being shown the same trick again and again (or they get fed up with it). This causes a lot of beginners to move onto new magic tricks before they ever really master what they were just working on. If you interested in building skill, be on the look out for settings that allow you to perform the same trick a lot of times. In high school I did a "Magic Wednesday" where once a week I'd pick one trick and perform it for 8 different groups in a day. This helps you learn much faster than performing 8 different effects for one group.

A general practice mantra is "Practice until you can do it perfect in front of a mirror, practice until you can do it perfect with patter, then the real fun practice begins of doing it in front of people."

Good Luck!