Plans were to be in Italy, France and the USA in these days, with shows, masterclass and a few lectures. But, alas, I’m home like most of you. At least I hope this finds you and your families healthy. We are fine, privileged to live in a house with a little garden, good weather, and two libraries (yes, two!) with over 6’000 books magical and otherwise, so there is not one second of boredom.
Therefore, here is an «Unexpected Secret Newsletter» (with nod to Marlo).
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to the extraordinary situation in the world and especially in Europe, the borders between Switzerland and Germany have been temporarily closed. I usually ship all book orders from Germany as their rates are much cheaper. I won’t be able to do so until they reopen the borders. This affects all books orders, not DVDs, as I can ship those as letters from Switzerland. And of course all downloads are fine. If you have any questions, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer within 24 hours.
In my Secret Letter #5 I discussed the Cull, and got some very positive feedback. Here is one that will be of interest to some readers. David McNay asked, “Whilst my cull certainly needs some work, it is approaching functional, but I (and I’m sure others) struggle with the the correct stratagem if either the target card is very near the face (say positions 1-6) or if two (or more) target cards are very close together?”
I checked Card College 1 and Lesson 18 of Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction (the video pendant to CC 1&2) which both treat the subject, and, shame on me, I did not discuss these problems. So here are a few solutions to the problem. I suggest you follow along with cards in hands, and you will understand and learn (a universal principle).
Problem 1: The target card to be culled is at or near the face of the deck.
Solutions to problem 1: You’re holding the deck face down in dealing position and plan to cull one or several cards. Turn the deck with the faces towards yourself, but in such a way that the spectators cannot see the face-card. This is just in case the target card happens to be on the face of the deck and you did not want them to see it. (Obviously this depends from the context of the trick, for context is always king.) If the order of the rest of the deck can be upset, casually turn the deck again face down as you converse with the audience, and then give it a brief Overhand Shuffle (see details of handling of how to shuffle the bottom card to the top artistically on p. 253 of Card College Volume 2). If the order of the remaining cards must be retained, use a Transfer Cut (chapter 6 in CC1) to achieve the same result.
If the target card is at position 2 from the face, you may either use the same approach as above, i.e. transfer cut it to the top, or try this, and you’ll be surprised how well it works: Start spreading the cards between the hands as you would for the regular Cull. As soon as the right hand has received the first two cards, the fingers of the right hand pull the 2nd card from the face to the right. Less than half an inch is necessary for the 3rd card and all those following to be fed between the 1st and 2nd card. Smoothly continue spreading cards. This move takes merely an instant, and if you look up and make a humorous or otherwise interesting remark (always relevant, of course, to the trick), the action will be invisibilized. But even if they watched, there would be little to see, since they usually don’t know what is coming and therefore what to look for. That’s called selective perception, and is one of our big friends in the toolbox of deception.
If the target card is at positions 3, 4, 5 etc. from the face, use the exact procedure as for the regular Cull. Try it with the card at position 3 from the faces and do it slowly until you understand and learn (this is another universal strategy of learning). You will notice that the first two cards, if kept spread by the right hand, will afford sufficient cover for the culling of the 3rd card, le alone for those following.
Problem 2: Several target cards are together or close to each other. This assumes that you want to cull e.g. four-of-a-kind, or even a complete suit.
Solution to problem 2: There are various cases that allow for various solutions.
Case1: You start spreading and arrive at two or even three target cards lying together. In this case the best approach is to close the spread, obtaining a break behind the target cards with the little finger, and then casually cut or shuffle them to the back. Now start anew and cull the remaining target card(s).
Case 2: You start spreading, cull one or several target cards individually, and then hit on a group of two or more target cards together. If these happen to be the last cards you want to cull, do as above, i.e. close the spread obtaining a break behind the target cards with the little finger, and then casually cut or shuffle them to the back.
Case 3: You start spreading, cull one or several target cards individually, and then hit on a group of two or more target cards together, but there are more cards after that group which you want to cull. Follow along, doing each action slowly at first, so your fingers understand: cull the first card of the group in the regular way as you extend the spread. When you collapse the spread again slightly, as you would to continue spreading, treat the next target card in exactly the same way as you did with the card you just culled, i.e. simply cull it, too. And then do the same with the next card. You’ll notice that this is as easy as pie, and the only “block” you had was a mental one, the fingers can do it. Once you’ve culled the target cards, continue the spread, and then cull any remaining cards, individually or together as you did up to here. Done.
I believe that you now have all the information necessary to solve any type of problem you may run into when using the Cull. And please keep in mind, “Before you practice, understand, but once you’ve understood, practice.”
You can send in your own question, and I’ll try to answer it at some point. You can always write to me at email@example.com, but please do not be offended, if I do not answer, as I get many requests. But I always read you emails (unless I don’t receive them…). Meanwhile let me remind you that I have answered 52 questions in Ask Roberto, available both as an e-book and a printed book. I recommend the e-book, which is very comfortable to read on a tablet, one question a week, for a full year. Click here to see the table of content. Also remember that you can take coaching lessons via Skype (see below).
On Taking Notes & Store Them – Part 1
In Secret Letter #5 I promised to write about how to take notes & store them. This is part of a larger talk on the subject of how to study magic in general. A few days ago I gave a one-hour talk for the Club Magico Italiano (CMI) on their Facebook page, and if you understand Italian, you can watch it be clicking HERE. It was on the subject of how to read magic books and make the most of it, even if you have little time. However, even with one hour at my disposal, I had to realize that this is a huge subject, worthy of a book, or better a full-day Masterclass or a lengthy video. Therefore I’ll have to split this into several parts, currently I’m planing four parts.
Let’s start with a few reading recommendations. How to Read a Book – The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Adler & Van Doren is just what the title promises, brilliant, but 425 pages long. For a quicker and easier read I have eight (!) essays in my (e)-book Ask Roberto that examine the subject from various points of view (the essays are: “4. How to Study”, “13. Creative Process”, “19. Effect Categories”, “23. Practice”, “25. Starting With Card Magic”, “37. “Navigate Info – How to Read Erdnase”, “39. Notebook & Journal”, “40. Repertoire Books”). Secret Agenda and Hidden Agenda have various days devoted to taxonomy and terminology, two important factors that show you how to tag the notes so you can easily find them again. There you will also find plenty of entries that deal with how to make intelligent notes and how to learn quickly and effectively. No more hints, go through the books again, you won’t regret it. Last but not least I’d like to mention Andi Gladwin’s Focusing on Magic, number 6 in the series of “Astonishing Essays” by Vanishing Inc.
Paper & Electronic Notes
You can take notes on paper or with an app. Important: one doesn’t exclude the other – use both! We will discuss electronic note-taking in one of the upcoming parts of this series. For now here a few suggestions for taking paper-notes.
Taking Notes on Paper
Although years ago I switched to mostly taking notes with Evernote app, I also have two dozen paper notebooks, some of them several hundred pages thick, which I wrote in the past 40 plus years, and which I’m still using. I only wear shirts with a breast pocket that always has a small pen in it and one of those mini-notebooks you find everywhere to fit. For short notes I prefer these to the smartphone; I then transfer the notes as soon as possible to a larger paper notebook or to Evernote. The photo below shows two such notebooks (ca. 6.5 x 10.5 cm).
It is important to take the note as clearly as possible, otherwise a week later you won’t know what it means. This is the reason why I try to transfer the note within 3 days to either a major paper notebook or to Evernote. Once a note has been transferred, I strike it through. Detail: I tear off the corner of the each page as it is completed, so I quickly find where to continue…
The notebooks themselves can be of different types. I like various sizes with DIN A5 preferred (4.1 x 5.8 inches). I use bound notebooks, such as the Moleskin notebooks, but also ring books and hanging fill-in to which i can quickly and easily throw any type of document (flyers, photocopies, instruction sheets etc.). If I was to start taking notes today, I would convert to the ADOC Coloredge notebook system, which I assume is obtainable worldwide. Tamariz uses them, and the advantage over a bound book is that you can add, remove and translocate single pages. I’d love to do a Card College Notebook System that combines paper and e-functions, if I knew how…
As to how to write a note down in a notebook, I recommend you have a look at the Cornell Method, which is superb. Klick HERE to see or download the Cornell Method of taking notes – I really urge you to do this.
I did not know about it for years, but from the beginning intuitively designed my notes in a similar way. The photo below shows a page from my very fist notebook, which I started at the FISM convention in Brussels in 1979, and the first note is Tamariz’s Perpendicular Control. I was one of the few to whom he had taught the then unpublished sleight personally, and I practiced it throughout the convention whenever nobody was watching…
As you can see, the notes are taken in a generous way, large writing, with enough space between notes. When you later look back over such a page, it will motivate you to reread your notes. If it was all written in small type and compressed, as I often see others take notes who probably want to save paper, you wouldn’t want to read it again.
Leave a generous border, and similar to the Cornell Method, write in a few words (here in red, which is a good idea) what the note is about. When later leafing through the notebook, you can quickly find an entry if you know what you are looking for. Notice the page number at the end of the page, which you’ll need to put in by hand, a nice Zen-type exercise, and very important. About a dozen pages before you reach the end of the notebook, start a table of contents. Here’s where you can combine the paper notebook with electronic features: create the Table of Contents as a PDF, which can then be searched or automatically arranged in alphabetical order! Creating the table of contents has another big advantage: it will force you to go over each note once again and reevaluate it. Maybe you have a new insight, which you then note on the margin, or as suggested in the Cornell Method, in the space left empty on the bottom of the page (this is a very useful idea!).
OK, that’s it for today, folks. Your assignment (I’m a born teacher, aren’t I 🙂 for our next meeting is to start a notebook, if you do not already have one, and begin to take notes as explained. If you already have one, you might still be able to incorporate one or two of the ideas exposed and make better notes from now on. In part 2 of this series we will discuss how to use the notebook to make notes when watching a video. Part 3 will be about how to read and annotate a written document (book, magazine, lecture note etc.). And in part 4 I shall try to show you how I use Evernote.
What Did Not Go Into The Agendas
This is a new heading in this and future Secret Letters and contains, as the title suggests, items that did fit neither into Secret Agenda, nor Hidden Agenda nor Secret Twitter, for various reasons, but which I believe will be of interest to some of you. If I write enough Secret Letters, and you collect them, you’ll have a fourth Agenda for free! I was inspired by reading a quote from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799), which translates approximately like this, “Of some important authors I would rather be interested to know what they discarded than what they chose.” I apologize for the implicit immodesty, but here we go:
In some effects a spectator is asked to name a card, and it will then be necessary to immediately know the number of letters to spell it. How do you do this? The best way is to know them by heart, of course, by making a list, which I suggest you do anyway and store among your notes. But here is a quick fix: repeat the name of the card, as if to make sure you understood it correctly, and also to tell the rest of the audience who might not have heard it. As you do so, use your fingers under the table to count the letters. I do this by closing my hands into fists, and then stretching out one finger after the other for each letter, starting with the right thumb. If the count goes over “ten”, which it mostly does, I come back to the right hand, which I closed, and then restart stretching out fingers. Easy, quick and safe. (I got this from Daryl’s video series Encyclopedia of Card Sleights.)
Orimotos by Barbara
Orimoto is a kind of book-origami where you cut each page of a book and fold it in a particular way so that a message or design will be visible relief-style. It is quite laborious, as each page is treated differently and by hand. Since a picture says more than a thousand words, here are a few of Barbara’s magical subjects, made with waste copies of the German edition of Card College (nothing less!).
In case you would like to buy one, answer this email, and we’ll give you details. You should budget between $ 80 and $ 160, depending on the complexity of the design (e.g. the “MAGIC” Orimoto is much easier to do than the “JOKER” Orimoto) plus shipping. You can ask for your own design, and we’ll let you know if it doable and what it would cost.
Back Issues of Secret Newsletter
Many have asked where they could access past Secret Newsletters, as in each of them I treat several important topics and answer your questions. My Webmaster Andrea Pancotti, whom I would like to publicly thank at this point for all his help and advice, has set-up a new menu item simply called “Newsletter”, which you can access over the menu bar of the webshop, or simply CLICK HERE. There you can download past Secret Letters as practical PDFs.
Interview With Roberto Giobbi
If you’re interested to know a little more about myself and some of my thoughts on various issues of magic, here is a lengthy interview conducted by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame. I suggest you use “Pocket” app or “Evernote Web Clipper” to download it and read it offline. In such cases I convert the text into a PDF, which I can read anytime on the plane or in the train, and also annotate it or extract relevant text passage (this is already a preview on the subject of “How to Take Notes”, which we’ll deal with in an upcoming Secret Letter). To get to the interview CLICK HERE.
Wer deutsch versteht, findet hier den zweiten Teil eines Interviews, das Semjon Sidanov mit mir geführt hat und das etlichen Usern seines YouTube-Kanals gut gefallen hat. HIER GEHT’S ZUM INTERVIEW.
Want a book signed to you personally?
When you order a book or DVD from me, you can ask it to be signed to your name, but you must mention this in the “comment” field of the order form, please. I do not automatically sign, as I never know who eventually gets the book/DVD.
Personal Coaching Live or via Skype
If you are interested to receive personal advice on anything related to your magic, or if you merely want to ask me questions or chat with me, you can take personal coaching lessons at my studio in Muttenz, Switzerland, or via FaceTime/Skype. It is $ 150 for 75 minutes, so, cheaper than a pimp, and I would bet with better results 🙂 For details contact me HERE.
TCC Chop Cup
TCC is my publisher in China, and we have already seven books together out there, which I’m told are quite successful. They will also soon release the Card College Playing Cards I’ve mentioned before through Kickstarter, and I’ll let you know as soon as this happens. Meanwhile, if you are interested to obtain a fine hand-made leather Chop Cup at an amazing price, klick here. When I did a one-month-tour in China in OCT of last year, I had a chance to visit their premises in Shenzhen and can assure you that they create and produce some of the finest props in the industry, and their business behavior and ethics are top-notch.
The Missing Link
Under this heading I propose one unusual web-link, which you’ll hopefully find inspiring, and if nothing else simply amusing. This one is about “Anamorphic Art Installations” by Michael Murphy, and it is a perfect metaphor for reframing, i.e. experiencing something in a completely different way if we look at it and approach it from a different angle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKfpYVK_r0E
With a mini-projector and an empty wall or similar, you can show the clip, and then use it as a Prologue and presentational idea for a trick. This is just one of the many practical suggestions you’ll find in the Agenda books; for details on this particular idea see the entry “Film Clip Prologue” for February 20 in my Hidden Agenda– to a performing magician, this alone is worth many times the price of the book.
Let your friends know, please
If you believe that this newsletter (and those before) could be of interest to your friends, please forward this Secret Letter to them. To get it directly, they simply have to want to sign up for it HERE, where they can also download previous issues.
More on the next occasion, there are several questions of yours waiting to be answered – take care of yourself AND the others!
I’m very pleased to know that a small “family” has formed who is reading this little newsletter (you can join HERE http://eepurl.com/bMyVIf) of mine – we are now close to 800. Obviously, not being a dealer of things magical, I cannot send you one every week with lots of new stuff. I’m sure you are already receiving your share of that and don’t need one more.
Therefore, in each of my posts, I focus on one subject or question sent in by readers and which I judge to be of general interest. How do I know what is of “general interest”? Easy: if I find it interesting, I assume many others will, too 🙂 That’s also my way of choosing a gift for friends: I only give away things I would like to receive myself. Come to think of it, that might be the best philosophy of how to treat assisting spectators…
This reminds me of what Dan Harlan recently said: “Roberto, what I like about you is that regardless of what subject we touch on, you find a philosophical implication.”
On to this month’s topic:
Ask Roberto: Mentors in Magic & How to Practice Magic
Roger Curtis wrote in to ask two questions:
1. Most professionals refer to having had a mentor(s) in their formative years. How in the current climate would you suggest an amateur learns in the most effective way as whilst books are hugely informative, you still need someone to guide you along the right path?
2. What is the most effective way to practice? How do professionals practice?
These are two BIG questions if we consider all the implications, nonetheless I’ll try to answer to the best of my capacities and within the limitations of this newsletter. And always remember: all you get is my opinion…
What’s a Mentor And How to Find One
Almost 50 years ago, when I started out in magic, you needed mentors to provide you with information, nowadays there is an overabundance of information and (almost) all is available for (far too) little money, so you need mentors to steer you away from the unnecessary towards the essential.
What has remained the same, however, is that associating with people who know more than you and whom you admire is one of the best ways to advance, in any discipline. I had the enormous luck of meeting one of the very few “universal geniuses” in magic, Juan Tamariz, who became my mentor early in my life – that was in 1978, I was 19, and I had been into magic for 6 years. I still visit him every year for a week, and I learn (a lot!). Most mentors, though, are “specialist geniuses”, a term I use most respectfully. It means that some are great inventors, others knowledgeable historians and collectors, other gifted technicians, still others blessed performer, but few are all of that and still fewer look at magic holistically. That’s why you normally need several mentors.
Parallel to having mentors look for exchange of ideas with kindred spirits, people at your level whom you like personally. It’s not necessary that they specialize in the same topics. If you’re a card person, you can get together with a mentalist or a children’s entertainer, provided your ethos is similar. Keep the group small, and get together physically, if possible, although the virtual world offers amazing new possibilities. Discuss all practical questions, and if you are in close-up always keep the instruments in your hands.
The first ten years are all about acquiring the basic skills, mastering the instrument, gaining virtuosity. I’s fine and necessary to discuss philosophical and historical issues, presentation, communication, misdirection, timing, and all these things, but most of all discuss tricks and techniques, for these are the most important things. Unfortunately, as yesterday so today, some believe a lousy trick barely adequately done can be compensated by “presentation”. This has led to the (in my opinion) false belief that presentation is everything. But besides the person (not persona!!!), the most important things are a very good trick, plus an impeccable execution (see “Formula for Success in Magic”, entry for 10th NOV in Hidden Agenda). Once you have that sorted out, the rest will follow. So do a lot of hands-on in these groups. I believe that we become what we do, and if all we do is mostly chatter (keep forum-time to a minimum), we won’t progress humanly and artistically.
How do you find mentors? In the pre-Internet age I went to club meetings in my own city and wherever I travelled to, I attended all conventions near and far I could afford, and respectfully approached those I admired. If I went to a city for educational or vacational purposes, I’d immediately look up “magician” in the local phone book and call them asking if they would like to meet. In this way I met some wonderful people who are friends to this very day. I could write a book on this… And of course once you have one good mentor, he will introduce you to others. It obviously helps if you are polite, sincere and talented. But if you were not, you would not even ask this question!
You could also answer your question by looking at other disciplines. For instance ask: How would you progress in music if you played an instrument? No question, you would take lessons with a music teacher, at least that’s the way it is taught here in Switzerland. You buy the instrument and the scores, you take a lesson, you practice, you take another lesson, you keep practicing, and so on. Same thing when you learn how to drive a car, boat, plane etc. In some disciplines you have to go through a specific curriculum that ends with an exam to be allowed to practice that particular occupation: medicine, engineering etc. Now, magic is as much a profession as any other, but there is no official, formal education. In spite of this, the craft (and art) itself is based on instruments and the basic mastery of it. I’m reminded of Dr. Jacob Daley who took lessons from Dai Vernon.
Big subject, food for thought.
How Professionals Practice
As for your second question, I will give you a number of things you can do when practicing magic, and refer you to sources for information, but I believe there is one thing that towers over all others, and it is enjoyment. There might be several important things when studying magic, but joy and passion will always be first. If you enjoy practicing, it will not be work, but will add to the quality of your life and become one of those things that make you grow as a person and an artist. A joyful practice adds a new dimension to what you are doing and to who you are, and the total will be more than the sum of its parts. The ensuing enthusiasm that will emanate from your performance gives it that extra quality, which cannot be put into words, but is seen and felt by any intelligent audience. So, the very practical down-to-earth pieces of advice I’m about to give you now, should be understood in this larger context.
You ask how “professionals” practice. I never thought about this, I simply live magic the whole day, and I practice similarly as I did when magic was a hobby. But then I might not be your typical “professional”. But one thing is clear: a professional focuses above all on performance material, maybe organized into an act, depending from the venues he performs, and then he will practice just that. Once he has the techniques, the construction and the text down, he will start to rehearse, i.e. to “practice holistically”, as if he was performing for a real audience. René Lavand was a master of this. I’ve always found this difficult and have compensated by going through my performances mentally (sitting and listening to music, when traveling, in bed etc.).
You can do it the way described if you are not a professional, but you still want to perform. However, I insist, that you should only do it in this “efficient” way if you enjoy it: as an amateur you have the privilege that you do not need to make a living from magic! Do you really need to be “efficient”?
The Ten Secrets of Practice
However, I believe that a far more relevant implication of your question is that as an amateur, who wants to perform, you have very little time, as you have a job, maybe a family, and several other obligations. When a professional can devote the complete day to his activity, you may only have an hour per day, and that’s a lot. Therefore, if you insist in being “efficient”, here are my “Ten Suggestions for Effective Practice & Rehearsal”:
Understand before you practice, and once you’ve understood practice. Only correct practice makes perfect.
Don’t practice in one long session, but in shorter sets: 3 sets of 20 minutes are better than 1 hour. This is true for practicing techniques, as it is true for rehearsing an “act”. If you are a very busy person, you might want to get up 20 minutes earlier, do one practice session, and then start into your day (what a great way to start a day). When you come home, do a “relaxation practice session” (what a great way to end a working day). If it doesn’t work for you, do it differently.
Practice a specific set 5 days a week, and pause for 2 days. Practice for 3 weeks, and pause for 1 week. Your subconscious will assimilate and help “install” the skill.
Organize tricks in sets of three. Not only will you remember more tricks better, you’ll also make their performance more substantial and meaningful. As an example of how this can be done on a higher level see my DVD project Favorites.
If practicing a trick that requires a set-up, rather than keep resetting the same deck, have 3-5 decks ready already set up, and then use one after the other.
If you want to practice e.g. a Double Lift, a Coin Vanish and a Rope Flourish Knot, rather than practicing each 10 times, us the “First Time Practice” strategy: pick up the deck, do the Double Lift once, and then set the deck back on the table. Pick up the coin, do the vanish once, and then set the coin down. Do the same with the rope, just once. Then start over again. This prepares you for the use of the technique in the real situation, where you have to “hit” the technique on the very first attempt.
Once you’ve practiced enough and think you got it down correctly, go back to the original description (read or watch it again). If it is a good description from a Master, I guarantee you will find details you left out or you changed to the worse (I just went back to Ganson’s description of “Twisting the Aces” in More Inner Secrets of Card Magic and found two details I had ignored for 30 years and that made me understand the trick better). This reminds me of Al Baker, who said, “Nothing ruins a trick more than so-called improvements.” You can only improve on a Master when you have become a Master yourself. Don’t underestimate yourself, but don’t overestimate yourself either.
Each time you practice or rehearse something, try to do it a little better than before. Beware, though, of over-improvement (see Secret #8).
Use mental practice regularly. Relax, close your eyes, and then run through the flawless execution of a sleight, or of a trick, or of a complete act.
Remember St. Exupéry who said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Or simply trust whoever said, “Less is more.” Reread this once a day if you are on a convention organizing committee.
You’ll find a lot of information regarding the practice and study of magic in both of my Agendas, Secret Agenda and Hidden Agenda(e.g. entry for 1st SEPT “Practice”). Secret Agenda is also available as a PDF-Ebook, which is fantastic, as you can search for “practice” or any other term you need; it is available BY CLICKING HERE.
See Secret Twitter, a PDF-Ebook with lots of information about the subject.
in Ask Roberto, available as a printed book and as a PDF-Ebook, I devote several lengthy essays to the subject (p. 16 “How to Study”, p. 20 “Fear of Starting to Perform”, p. 101 “Why Do Magic?”, p. 115 “Practice”, and several more)
And possibly the most important of all these: read my essay titled “The Study of Card Conjuring”, Chapter 27 “Theory” of Card College Volume 2, p. 476-485.
Besides this month’s topic, here are a few bits of information you might also be interested in:
Card College Facebook Group
Reader Patrick Humeniuk from Canada wrote in to let me know that he and a group of friends have created what they’ve called “The Sunday Card College” on Facebook. Here is the link, if you want to se what this is about, and if you want to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2290954474354088/ It’s obviously an excellent idea, as similarly minded people can meet and motivate each other in the serious and dedicated study of card magic. See my deliberations above!
Want a book signed to you personally?
When you order a book or DVD from me, you can ask it to be signed to your name, but you must mention this in the “comment” field of the order form, please. I do not automatically sign, as I never know who eventually gets the book/DVD.
Table of Content for Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction
I’m glad to see that the 4-DVD-Set Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction, which is now available as a download at a fraction of the original price, seems to be very popular and helps many to get on track when it comes to card magic. The 23 lessons are self-contained and reflect Card College volumes 1&2, but they are also a great complement to the books: the book gives far more details that can be put on a video, but the video shows you that what’s in the book is feasible, and that’s the motivational kick many need. A friend from Australia, aka EndersGame, kindly sent in a table of contents, which many of you will find useful. The first 2 pages are a pure table of contents, followed by a detailed commented table of content. This is an incredible piece of work, and I cannot thank EndersGame enough. To download the PDF CLICK HERE.
If you are interested to receive personal advice on anything related to your magic, or if you merely want to ask me questions or chat with me, you can take personal coaching lessons at my studio in Muttenz, Switzerland, or via Skype. For details contact me HERE.
Many keep asking when The Art of Switching Decks – A Guide for the Beginner and the Expert, my monograph on the subject of deck switches, is back. Well, my publisher, Penguin Magic, promises this will happen this year… I’ll let you know through the Secret Newsletter.
The Missing Link
Under this heading I propose one unusual web-link, which you’ll hopefully find inspiring, and if nothing else simply amusing. This one is about “illusions” in a very original, modern sense. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHJh-GV-RUY&feature=youtu.be
For suggestions of how to use such information in a magic performance, see the entry “Film Clip Prologue” for February 20 in my Hidden Agenda– to a professional who uses this idea, this alone is worth many times the price of the book.
Let your friends know, please
If you believe that this newsletter (and those before) could be of interest to your friends, please forward this Secret Newsletter to them. To get it directly, they simply have to want to sign up for it HERE.
In answer to my suggestion to ask me questions, Mal Simpson wrote in and asked:
“As far as suggestions for future topics, I’d be interested in knowing what you consider to be common mistakes which you see amateur magicians make. Thanks for all your products.”
I shall make the answer to this most interesting question the topic of today’s Secret Newsletter. However, before we get “into the middle of things”, let’s agree on something: I’m fully aware that most of you who are reading this are amateurs (in the best sense of its Latin origin ”amare” – “to love”).
By no means do I want you to think that I, as a professional of many years, am talking down to or patronizing you. I’ve been a hobbyist (since 1973), an amateur, a part-time professional and finally a professional (since 1988), and I remember, know and understand exactly all the struggles I went through. Therefore, please take the following simply as my personal opinion and experience I’m passing on to you. If you agree, you are welcome to use my advice, if you disagree find your own answer to the question I’ve touched on. In either case you should be able to profit. Here we go:
Common Mistakes Amateurs Make
Due to my books, which are now in eight languages, I have many people come up to me at magic conventions and say “thank you”, moments that are sometimes very touching. Or I join a group at a convention. And as the Vice President of my magic club in Basel, Switzerland, I’m quite active, too. In all of these cases I get to see a lot of magic, in 95% of the cases by amateurs.
Thinking about what I’ve seen in the past years, here is an attempt to classify the “mistakes” I witnessed in nine points:
Nervousness. The first thing I notice is that most people get very nervous before and during the performance. Fear not, as this is something professionals suffer from, too. The difference, however, is that professionals know how to control the “beast”, but most amateurs don’t. I will mention three things. First, “stage fright” is a natural stress mechanism that helps us to be at our best in the extraordinary situation of a performance. Understanding this will turn the enemy into a friend. Second, we take ourselves too seriously. The higher we put ourselves, the longer the fall. Compared to the tragedies of life, failing in a card trick is, well, a minor incident. Therefore, relax. Third, find a ritual that involves mental and/or physical exercise before performing. Here is a simple one: Breathe in through your nose, and then breath out through your mouth twice as long. Do this for as long as it feels comfortable. The subject is obviously much more complex. This why I wrote an essay on the topic, “Who is Afraid of the Stage?”, and you can download it as a free PDF from my web shop by clicking HERE. If there is sufficient interest I shall make this the topic of my next Secret Newsletter – let me know.
Understand & Practice. Most amateurs don’t understand the trick they are performing, and then they do not practice enough. Listen to an anonymous Zen Master, who said: “Before you practice understand, but once you’ve understood, practice.”
Presentational construction – Prologue & Epilogue. Most people I ask to do a trick for me demonstrate rather than perform. I have a full-day Masterclass on the subject of how to find a presentation for a trick, so this is a complex subject. A relatively easy way to get the process started is to think of a prologue and an epilogue. Paul Arden, the advertising guru, used to say, «No first sentence without the last sentence.» How can you implement this? Start right now: take a card trick you do, and which you usually introduce by saying, «Take a card…», or, «I have here the four aces.» Well, that’s not such a good start, is it? But that’s how many indeed do start a trick. Now try to come up with something more interesting, amusing, informative or simply more captivating to say. For instance, «In my next experiment I’m going to make all of us younger.» Or, «Who believes that women are more intuitive than men?» Or, «What you are about to see, is the result of serendipity.» Of course you have to express judgment in all cases, or as Vernon kept reminding us, «Use your head.» Once you have that first sentence, it is very probable that it will lead you to the presentational plot of the trick, and this in turn will make it easy to find a «last word», which we call an epilogue. For more on the subject see the entries for DEC 30 and DEC 31 in Secret Agenda (now available as an E-book). Make a resolution right NOW: do not ever again perform a trick that has not a well thought out presentation with a prologue and an epilogue.
The Method is Not the Effect. Dai Vernon used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is that the latter knows what an effect is. This can go so far, that the method is mistaken for the effect. Amateurs have a tendency to judge the quality of a trick by its novelty and intriguing method. They derive their joy of practicing magic from the methods, not from the effect it has on a spectator. This is a huge topic. It requires an understanding of what the effect is and how to pull it off. It has to do with the order of actions (do I show the card has vanished from the deck and then reproduce it, or do I reproduce it, and then show it’s gone?), the timing (where are the pauses?), the text (what do I say, when do I shut up?), how to structure the climax and several other things. Most amateurs I see perform are not aware that these questions even exist, let alone find a good solution to them.
My Reality is Not Your Reality. A child puts his hands over his eyes and says, «You can’t see me!» He thinks that his reality is the same as the other person’s reality. Unfortunately this is not only the source of great aggravation in the world, but also in magic. It goes hand in hand with what I call the «Effect-Method-Split» (inspired by Karl Jaspers’s «Subject-Object-Split»). Some performers happily talk and perform, without ever wondering what the others are thinking and feeling at the same time. But since magic culminates in astonishment, and astonishment is the result of a mental process that eliminates all causes in order to access Wonderland, it is important to understand what happens in the spectator’s mind and how he (mis-)constructs his reality. This is the Constructivist’s approach to magic, and it is the approach of all good magic since its inception, but only in the 20th century was it formalized by the Spanish School of Magic. (Read Ascanio & Tamariz, but also the theory chapters in Card College 2– it’s all there…).
Bad Choice of Tricks. This is closely related to the previous two points. Amateurs get so fascinated by the novelty of a trick and its clever method, which at second look most of the time is not at all so clever, or by a novel gimmick, that they neglect to ask the all-important question, «What is the effect?» This, however, is one of the most difficult questions, not only for amateurs, I should add. Take «Chicago Opener» from Garcia’s Million Dollar Card Secrets, in spite of its controversy an excellent source for professional material. Most of us have done this trick, or are still doing it, rightly so, as it is a very good trick. But what is the effect? Is it a color change? Is it a prediction? Is it a manipulation of the spectator’s will? By understanding the phenomenon at the basis of the trick, the latter can be given the proper presentation, otherwise you risk to confuse the issue, if the given plot (presentation) runs against the inherent plot (contained within the trick). It is similar to when verbal and body language contradict each other, when someone says, «I do magic because I want to give people something», but at the same time they are making a «taking» gesture with both hands. A good trick can be told in one sentence, is memorable, its method impenetrable, and it has a clear subtext (symbolism).
Always New Tricks. You’ve heard it before: «Amateurs perform always new tricks for the same audience, professionals perform always the same tricks for new audiences.» That’s the amateur’s dilemma (one of them…). I answer the question in Ask Roberto in detail (Question 23 – «Practice», and Question 28 “Program Construction of an Act»), but here is a summary: try to keep three very good tricks in your «long-term-repertoire», and keep practicing them on a regular basis. Use 25% of your «magic time» for that. Use the remaining 75% for anything that «amuses» you, because, after all, as an amateur magic is a hobby for you, and you should simply enjoy it without any thought to utility. In those 25% of the time, you will do what you do better, and built criteria, which you will apply to the rest of your «novel» magic, and because of this, with the years, your magic will improve, and you will grow humanly and artistically with it.
Communication, Timing & Pacing. To look, when to look, where to look and how to look is one of the fundamental tools of communication and deception. Many do this intuitively, some do it well, most do not do it so well. There is a grammar of how to look, it is a language of its own (oh my, another lecture!). Very often, when I watch someone in an informal situation do several tricks in a row, they neglect what Ascanio called «the pause of assimilation». When an effect has occurred, you should wait for the effect to register; this means that the spectator has to go through a mental process, albeit a quick one, where he realizes that this is his card, that it is impossible that you could find it, that this is incredible, even impossible, that you are a genius (what else?), and that he should tell and thank you. The amateur more often than not is more interested in showing off what he can do and knows, than to create the experience of wonder, to let the audience enjoy it, and to celebrate this moment of communion. Instead, he runs to perform the next trick, being afraid that otherwise he will miss the opportunity to do it. This also has to do with the lack of self-confidence that characterizes the inexperienced amateur, because he thinks that what he just did was not so good after all. BUT if one thinks this, why perform it in the first place? The solution is simple: only perform tricks that you feel comfortable with, because you think they are good tricks, and because you know you have mastered. If you don’t, practice more, and think.
Don’t Know When to Stop. This refers to the length of an individual trick as well as to the duration of a performance. Due to his fascination with methods, the amateur often neglects to keep a trick short. Take the «Ambitious Card», a wonderful trick, and in my opinion one of the ten best card tricks (download for free my short essay on the subject HERE). In reference to how long one should perform at all, the legendary Nate Leipzig used to say, «Leave them wanting more.» As simple as this reads, as difficult it is to live by. However, the effort it takes us to develop the necessary experience, the judgment and the sure instinct, well, all of this will make us a better and more interesting person, and this is the person (not persona!) that makes our magic unique and fascinating. A subject for life… But here is a piece of advice I read many years ago in an old magic book: arrange three tricks to form a little act, ideally around ten minutes. That’s a good length for an impromptu performance for friends, after dinner, or when having a drink. Usually that’s enough, ten minutes. If you feel that the majority of those present want more, and they explicitly ask you, then, and only then, follow up with another set of ten minutes, or just one more «closer». In order to do this, however, you need the necessary repertoire, a question we will have to leave for another time, if somebody explicitly asks…
Read chapters 1 and 2 of my Stand-up Card Magic, as many of the problems mentioned are addressed in detail, with solutions of how to solve them.
Take one trick from your repertoire and implement only ONE new insight from the reading. Then take another trick, and implement ANOTHER insight. Do this with one trick per week, three in one month. Rest on the fourth week of the month. Do this for one year. At the end of the year notice your growth as a magician and human being, without effort and lots of pleasure – send me your thanks and a bottle of wine. If you are wealthy, send money to firstname.lastname@example.org at Paypal.
Since we spent so much time with the “mistakes” of others, let’s end with an exercise in humility and remember what Confucius once said: “If you see a worthy man, imitate him. If you see an unworthy man, examine yourself.” Amen.
Personal Coaching Live or via Skype
If you are interested to receive personal advice on anything related to your magic, you can take personal coaching lessons at my studio in Muttenz, Switzerland, or via Skype. For details contact me from https://www.robertogiobbi.com/site/infos-contacts/
“Without a doubt, Ask Robertohas been the greatest purchase of my magical career!” (John Holt)
If you liked the answer to the above question, you will love Ask Roberto, available as a printed book, but also as an E-book. You’ll find 52 interesting questions and my detailed answers. Similar to Secret Agenda, Ask Robertois ideal to be read as an E-book on your Tablet or Smartphone.
For the next 72 hours you can get Ask Roberto (the E-book) at 20% off HERE.
Card Magic Masterclass
„Your Masterclass DVDs are getting feedback better than anything we’ve EVER produced. People LOVE it.“ (Andi Gladwin & Joshua Jay, Vanishing Inc.)
If you’re still hesitating to get Card Magic Masterclass read Shiv Duggal’s rave review from Genii magazine HERE. You can get Card Magic Masterclass as a download from Vanishing Inc. HERE, or a physical set from me HERE (ask me to autograph it to you).
A piece of advice, if I may: when studying the videos, use a notebook (paper or app) to write down the items that interest you and the insights you’ve gained. If you do not do that, most will go in and out, and you’ve simply wasted you time. How to study, make notes, and practice is another subject for discussion, if you are interested.
“You are a truly outstanding author: with each sentence you share with us a thought or trail to improve our Art. Thank you for this wonderful work!” Carlos Vaquera
Confidences, one of my favorite books, is going to be out of print soon, and likely not reprinted. Get a signed copy as long as it lasts HERE.
Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction as Download
“This is a masterpiece of reference work!” (Andrew Peel)
The 4-DVD-Set Card College 1&2 – Personal Instructionis now definitely gone and will never again be reproduced physically. BUT you can now download the complete course as MP4 files at a third of its original price (€ 49.95), and you can even have each one of the 23 Lessons individually at € 4.95. So if you are for instance struggling with the Palm or the Top Change, two of the more difficult sleights, get the two lessons for the price of a Starbucks Coffee. I kept the price as low as my dignity allows it and hope it discourages pirated versions.
The Missing Link
Under this heading I propose one unusual web-link, which you’ll hopefully find inspiring, and if nothing else simply amusing. This one is about “trick shots”, however not from the pool table, but from real life. If you show this on your Smartphone or Tablet, you can use it to prologue a performance piece with it. Also see the entry “Film Clip Prologue” for February 20 in my Hidden Agenda– to a professional who uses this idea, this alone is worth many times the price of the book (I had to say that, since nobody else does :-). Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRJmcxCrAOA
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