FOUR POINTS: Reasons magicians get more mileage from practice

May 16th, 2013 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

We’re pretty sure Allen Iverson has never been, or will be, a magician. His legendary rant spells out exactly why.

And yes. We talkin’ ’bout practice.

We don’t know a single magician who doesn’t like to train. Unlike musicians, athletes, artists, writers, gamers or anyone else who pursues some sort of art or skill, magicians have no problem with the discipline of practice.

In fact, magicians seem to embrace the art of practice more than any performer we’ve encountered — and we’ve encountered a lot. All the magicians we’ve worked with, every one of them is always picking something up, working a move, even when we’re talking in business meetings. As every magician grows, they learn the joys of performance AND of practice, to the point that the practice becomes just as important as the performance.

As it turns out, there are four things about magic that gives us a better chance for successful, productive practice. These things help us plow through setbacks, deal with failures and conquer practice fatigue. People could learn a lot about practice from us, but our art gives us an advantage.

We practice techniques unknown to many. Considering the fingering pattern of a guitar piece, or the position of the heel in a martial arts kick. The method is just as known as the end result. But not in magic. The things we do lead to surprisingly different things that laymen would never know about. That thrill of the arcance fuels us. The knowledge of knowing how to do something filled with ruse and subterfuge charges us up to take action and do those things over and over — even if it’s just in front of a mirror.

Progress in failure is easier to see. Though magicians are artists of subtle moves, our mistakes are much more glaring to us. That means we reap many more benefits than the keyboardist does from hitting the wrong key, or the basketball player gets from a proper follow-through with the wrist. That further hones our ability to self-critique and analyze. And because magic is all about details, practice helps us hone our ability to be thorough.

Our methods unlock many more creative options. An actor who plays around with material might discover a new insight to a character. An artist might discover a new sort of mark with a pencil, and utilize it to draw something completely different. But a magician, when playing around, might discover something that unlocks a whole new effect. And that benefit comes during many more times than practice sessions — the act of shopping at a flea market might lead to an incredible new effect or presentation.

The payoff is much bigger. As practitioners of the only art form that challenges an audience to maintain disbelief, our reward is the perfect reaction, where someone goes crazy from having seen something impossible. Every magician craves that moment when they really blow someone away. That moment is so valuable — it goes beyond the thrill of simple appreciation of a performance. It reaches deep into people and affects them profoundly, and so affects us. That’s why we do what we do; why we practice our passes, our palms, our cuts and clips.

What did we miss? Think there’s another way magicians get more out of practicing than other artists? Let us know in the comments.

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

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