Performing magic takes a lot of skill. It takes confidence, a commanding presence, and a whole lot of perseverance. This is especially true when it comes to close up magic tricks. When you perform magic for a small crowd gathered around you, there is no room for error. There are no smoke and mirrors that can save you from a spectator who is standing feet from you.
Though a stage might seem intimidating it actually affords you a little space. The farther the audience is from you, the easier it can be to deceive and misdirect them. Magicians who perform close up magic tricks do not have this luxury, and, therefore, they need to have a few extra skills in their arsenal.
Close up magic is also called micro magic, or table magic, and it traditionally involves audience members that are just a few feet from the magician. The magician is often seated at a table, although in contemporary street magic this is not a necessity.
Most close up magic involves card tricks. Card tricks are called sleight of hand tricks because they rely on quick moves that go undetected by the audience. Other forms of close up magic involve small objects like coins, dice, or even pens.
10 Tips to Improve Your Close Up Magic Skills
For you, close up magic is thrilling and invigorating, but there is still so much for you to learn. Perhaps you’re looking to perform more street magic to help make a name for yourself and break into more permanent opportunities. To wow strangers on the street you’ve got hone your skills until they’re as sharp as the saw that will cut you in half. Here are 10 tips for you to improve your up close magic and take it and you to the next level.
1. Practice in a Mirror
It’s hard to spot the errors that the audience might see unless you can see them yourself. To accomplish this you need to practice using a mirror when you perform your close up magic.
You’ll get a new perspective on your performance, and you will be able to make sure that your sleight of hand works from multiple angles. This is really helpful when you are performing a new trick. A mirror can help you make sure that your secrets remain secret from any angle that an audience member may be positioned at.
Practicing in a mirror can also help you determine if a new trick is right for you. If you find that the angles are too tricky to work with, you might have saved yourself some valuable time. It’s better to realize that now than after months of working through a trick.
2. Pay for Information
Magic is not free. That might seem kind of shocking considering all the things that you can find for free on the Internet. You can find music, movies, and books for free. You can find all the information on just about anything for free.
This is true for some aspects of magic, but overwhelmingly, if you want to learn the secret to good magic tricks, you have to pay for them. This might come in the form of buying lessons or purchasing books, or paying for a series of DVD’s. Paying for magic instruction may take many forms, but the results are the same. You end up with magic instruction that is thorough, tested, and complete.
That’s not to say that YouTube can’t provide you with lots of inspiration and tips, but don’t let it be your only source of instruction. If you’re serious about performing magic then you have to be willing to invest in its secrets. If you don’t put the money in, you can’t get the money out.
3. Examine All Finger Positions
In sleight of hand, everything rests on where your hands rest. If your fingers are not in proper position the trick can often be detected. The eyes of the audience are distracted by your error, and your misdirection fails to misdirect.
So your finger positions matter, and identifying and practicing the proper finger positions is everything. It’s important to spend time watching master magicians perform sleight of hand tricks and making note of exactly where their fingers are during the sleight.
Are they gripping the deck between their thumb and ring finger? Or does it rest between their thumb and index finger? What joint of their index finger is touching the cards? The trick is in the tiniest details, and you’ll need to get used to working on your micro magic on a truly micro level.
4. Work on Looking Relaxed
Sleight of hand takes a lot of finger dexterity and so much rides on such small and imperceptible movements of your hands. With all that pressure it’s hard not to look stressed, but the more relaxed you are the, better your tricks will go.
If you tense up then those magic hands of yours tense up too. Card tricks take a very light hand and the best way to make that happen is to stay relaxed as you perform. This is easier said than done in some cases, but it’s worth creating some of your own relaxation methods.
Some performers mediate before they appear in front of an audience. Some performers listen to specific music, or perform a sort of pre-show ritual to calm their nerves. Be sure to take time from all your rigorous practicing to find ways that clam and focus your energy before you perform.
5. Cut Out Any Extraneous Movements
This takes lots of practice, but one way to get your tricks running smoother and less detected is to cut out any extra movements. Every bend of your finger, every flick of your wrist should be done with an express purpose.
This might seem counter-intuitive at first especially when you consider the value of misdirection, but too many movements may end up making your audience suspicious. Remember, your audience is smart. They know about misdirection, and they may try really hard not to be misdirected. If you add an extra flourish, or an extra gesture you sort of automatically tip-off your audience.
Keep your movements direct and simple, and you will keep your audience guessing at every turn.
6. Talk As You Practice
You are probably pretty used to practicing your close up magic, but how often does your practice just involve the mechanics of the trick? You might not even realize it, but you probably spend a lot of your time practicing silently.
While any practice is good practice, you’ll find your tricks will vastly improve if you work on speaking as you run through your routine. That’s because it mimics a real life scenario better and because you also use verbal cues in your magic.
Sleight of hand falsely implies that your hands do all the work, but the more you practice talking along with your routine, the more you’ll realize how much your patter influences your trick.
The way you speak, the story you tell, and the web you weave with your audience is all a part of the magic. The way you speak and the things you say will draw your audience in just as much as they way you can mysteriously produce the right cards, so don’t leave it as an afterthought.
7. Perfect Tricks Stage by Stage
It’s so tempting to jump ahead when you are learning a new trick, but it’s important to break tricks down into manageable stages and perfect each one before you jump to the next.
Each portion of a trick builds on the previous portion, so think of them as rungs on a ladder. You can’t reach the upper rungs without starting at the bottom first. To do this you may have to force yourself to go over a portion of a trick that you think you’ve mastered. Even if you think it’s perfect, it’s worth practicing just one more time.
8. Practice Morning, Noon, and Night
If you want to take your close up magic to the next level there are no elevators to get you there. You have to practice, and practice, and practice. That’s because sleight of hand tricks are not based on gimmicks as some other types of magic are. You’re not performing a nifty science trick that yields a magical result.
Instead, you are creating magic with your skills. Those skills need to be razor sharp, and practice is how that happens. Give yourself a daily goal of how many times you want to perform a specific trick, and then work to make that happen.
And remember that as you practice to change the scenery and the scenario. Don’t just practice in your home, or studio. You’re doing close up magic, and one of the best ways to improve it is to practice in front of an audience.
Practicing in front of other people can be challenging, especially when you are not feeling confident in your skills, but you have to challenge those skills in order to stretch and build those muscles.
Perform magic on subways. Perform magic in the street. Approach people at parties and attempt to wow them with your skills. Sometimes your routine will fall flat. Sometimes you will meet spectators who are neither impressed nor amused, but what can you learn from those people? What can you do better next time to turn those skeptics into believers?
9. Collaborate with Other Magicians
Whether it’s with a mentor, or a group of aspiring magicians much like yourself, it is important to work through magic routines with the help of others. Magicians are a hard group to impress, and they’ll be even harder than a typical audience.
That means that they can provide even better feedback to give you just the last little bit of polish that you need. Once you have practiced, honed, analyzed, and otherwise gotten your routine in tip-top shape, it’s time to enlist the help of some professionals.
Not all magicians may be willing to help you improve your act because they don’t need to strengthen the competition, but you will find that many magicians are in the same boat that you are. Those are the ones who will most likely trade you some help. Or at least they might not mind criticizing you. Both will help you in the long run.
10. Work on Being Dynamic
In close up magic, you are building an intimate little rapport with your audience. You want them to like you. You want them to be captivated by you. These are things that are hard to teach, but they all fall under having a good stage presence. Even though you might not be on a stage, you still need a persona that can put on a good performance.
The best way to achieve this dynamic, charismatic, larger than life level is to come at your audience with as much confidence and energy as possible. You might not always feel like you can learn confidence, but you can certainly practice it.
It comes from being comfortable. It comes from knowing your routine, and having sharp skills. It comes from your love of magic and your enthusiasm to share it with the world.
Take Your Magic to the Streets and Take it Up a Notch
These 10 tips along with your perseverance and love of magic can help take your close up skills to the next level. Before long you will confidently be able to hold a street audience totally captive with your skills, and you just might get a collection of onlookers who want to see what all the commotion is about.