Archive for June, 2013

FOUR POINTS: Erdnase’s most valuable lessons for magicians

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The mysterious S.W. Erdnase remains one of the most influential authors of sleight of hand to this day. His classic, solitary work, 1902’s “Expert at the Card Table,” is considered a bible to magicians. The study of it led Dai Vernon to dive into the world of the card cheats in pursuit of a more natural form of magic. It inspires to this day: The dark green of the first edition’s cover is used in the Madison Dealers deck.

Even though the book’s main purpose is to discuss methods for cheating at the card table, Erdnase had much to teach magicians, prestidigitators and anyone else performing artifice for the benefit of an audience. These are four of the most important lessons he had for magicians: (more…)

FOUR POINTS: Forgetting what you know? Remember your routines easy

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Something about jokes defy memory. We never learn this until it’s our turn to tell a joke — and then our mind goes completely blank.

What is it about jokes that makes them so hard to remember? They make us laugh our tails off until we are crying. But for some reason, when someone wants to hear a joke, we can remember that there was this one our buddy told at the bar, and it made all of us laugh so loud that the people at the table next to us moved.

But we can’t remember the actual joke.

Magic tricks can be the same way, especially for the casual magician who practices a number of impromptu tricks but doesn’t have a working set ready to go. Someone will ask to see a trick, and the magician will agree with a smile, then lock up — wondering exactly what trick to do.

We’ve been there, and we know exactly what it’s like. Here’s some strategies to help you remember what tricks you know, so that you don’t freeze like an old computer.

WRITE IT OUT ON YOUR MOBILE PHONE: Every phone we’ve used for the last few years has some sort of memo pad app. That’s the perfect place to write down your working repertoire, those tricks you know how to do and what it requires. You can also notate if the trick requires a setup, signature, or destruction of a card (through writing, marking or ripping).

USE A MNEMONIC AID: This can take you far. Whether you make an acronym out of trick names, or assign a trick to a certain card (With aces I can do a Hofzinser assembly, with kings I can do a Cannibals, etc.), a mnemonic aid will help you remember all the tricks you can do almost instantly.

ASSEMBLE YOUR EFFECTS INTO ROUTINES: Now we’re getting somewhere, because we’re talking about planning, and that’s always a better situation for a magician. If you remember one routine, that means you can remember two, three or four tricks. The routine becomes a mnemonic aid of sorts, and you end up giving a more structured performance.

KEEP YOUR IMPROMPTU REPERTOIRE LIGHT: We’ve seen a bunch of magicians swear by nothing but impromptu tricks. The thinking is this: “If the trick is impromptu, then I can make magic with anything anytime and not waste effort in preparation!” That works for casual magicians, but those with aspirations for more need to pay attention to this point: We’ve seen the effect a little preparation, whether through use of a gimmick, gaff or advance setup, has on a magic trick. Think of that setup as an investment that will pay huge returns.

Or think of it this way: Magicians rely on the one-ahead principle — staying a step ahead of your spectators. Check out Justin Miller’s Neo Coin Matrix or Divorce for a master class on this principle. When do you want to gain that extra step, in the middle of a routine? Or before the trick even starts? Keep your impromptu repertoire light — the less you know, the easier it will be to remember when your time to shine arrives.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to

FOUR POINTS: How Adam Wilber tames fear and performs for anyone

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

We’ve talked about how Adam Wilber is a fearless performer — see our story about what happened at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. His ability to perform in every situation also impressed Ellusionist’s Peter McKinnon, who wrote about his first meeting with Adam in the foreword of his book, “Creative Magic”:

“I didn’t realize Adam’s expertise or creative insights until I watched him perform for a large group in the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel (in Las Vegas). One thing you need to know about Adam, is that he is absolutely 100 percent fearless. He will approach any group, any person, any party, any table at any time to perform anything. And he did just that. After watching him perform for these people, and receive a thunderous amount of applause and a slew of expensive, free drinks, it left me feeling one thing: inspired.”

“Creative Magic” will soon be available at The creator of Earbuds has loaded his first book with much more than magic, however. In addition to a collection of Wilber’s workers he uses regularly in his performances, he exposes the wiring that leads to his creative energy. His methods for opening up the mind will inspire you to look at the world around you a little differently, and find your own miracles.

In connection with the release of “Creative Magic,” we mined up an interview we did with him in February and found four ways you can conquer your own nervousness or stagefright, and get on your own path to fearlessness.

KNOW YOUR REPERTOIRE: Learn it. Practice it. Rehearse it. Get sick of it. Learn it again. That’s how important an instinctual knowledge of your repertoire is.

“The most important thing is to know your material so well that you don’t have to think about the moves, actions or presentation as you’re performing. A lot of nerves come from the uncertainty of your material.”

POLITENESS HELPS: We understand that you may have put a lot of work into your dark, brooding, unfriendly performance character, because you are an artist. Ditch it for now. Being a friendly version of yourself goes a long way with people you’ve just met.

“Approach your spectators as a genuinely nice person and a friend first and as a magician second. Introduce yourself and ask them about themselves before performing anything. Be friendly and sincere in your conversation and try to truly get to know this person or group.”

EMBRACE THE SHAKES: Remember Nate Staniforth’s performance on Crash Course 2? How he was shaking more than Shakira’s unlying hips? That’s free energy that you can direct right into a performance.

“Use your nervousness to your advantage while performing. Try and take that energy and turn it into a positive. I used to be very honest with people and tell them straight out that I was a bit nervous. This would help me in the performance because it let them know I was human and they were experiencing something new and untested, so if I made a mistake it was OK. I still get nervous when approaching a stranger, but I have learned to take those nerves and use them as a positive energy that betters my performance.”

KEEP PERFORMING: What, you did the last three things, and the performance was a disaster? Flashed, fumbled and freaked out? Good. Keep doing it. Every magician needs a big stable of performance horror stories. And the more you have, the better you get.

“The more you perform the better you will become at overcoming nerves and using them to present your audience with a heartfelt and entertaining experience that they will remember for the rest of their life.”

RED FLAGS (Bonus point): Adam is fearless, but he isn’t stupid. We asked him if there was anyone he wouldn’t perform for, and what kind of red flags he seeks:

“There are certain situations I won’t walk into … If a group looks very serious and or busy in what they are doing I will avoid them. If I am doing table hopping or restaurant work I won’t approach anyone who is eating, unless they have specifically asked to see me. Just like anybody I have good and bad days. I usually won’t perform if I’m just having a bad day (unless its a paid gig, of course). If you are having fun performing, your good mood will rub off on your audience. Just like if you see someone yawn, your body forces you to yawn as well. If you see someone having a great time instinctively your mind forces you to join in on this good time. It’s always best to perform when you’re in a happy and upbeat mood.”

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to