How To Pick Tricks with Quick Arithmetic

In the following article I propose a technique to examine and quantify magic tricks to determine if they are a worthy fit for your performing repertoire.

On a daily basis I see magicians seeking advice on “the best” of a certain trick or routine. There is no best of any magic trick. The reason so many have been published is evidence of this. In each case the inventive mind of the creator adapted the existing routine to fit their unique situation and needs. The best for you is the effect, presentation, and handling that is the optimum fit for your personal and unique needs.

We are all travelling these magic lands on a unique path. The linking ring routine that works for me, as a comedy-oriented stage presenter, will be wildly different than the ideal ring routine for you, the mystical close-up wonder-worker.

With some thought you can define your personal requirements for a magic routine. Having this written down allows you to look at every magic trick that passes by and score it on a scale of one to “this is perfect for me!”

I came upon the idea of a personal “Magic Paradigm” from the book The Restaurant Worker’s Handbook by Jim Pace and Jerry MacGregor. It is a list of criteria that would make a magic trick suitable for you or disqualify it from consideration.

You choose what is most important to you in a variety of categories; Suitability for the venues in which you regularly perform, the visibility of props, your comfort level with sleight-of-hand, both practical and artistic choices.

Each criterion is extremely personal. I cannot offer “the best” list for choosing “the best” tricks for you! As an example, here is some criteria for a routine that would fit into my stage show. Essentially, I am setting the bar for my perfect routine.

PRACTICAL CRITERIA

  • All props fit within my case
  • Efficient use of pocket space
  • Method is flexible to improvisation
  • Required skill does not require constant upkeep
  • Visible in a banquet hall for 200 people
  • Does not require trained assistance

ARTISTIC CRITERIA

  • Offers a unique visual picture
  • Allows me to express an emotion or viewpoint
  • Appropriate and engaging for all ages
  • The props fit a mid-century aesthetic
  • The magic is baffling
  • The routine is consistently interesting

It’s up to you to build your own list. Start by looking at your favourite tricks (and your audience’s favourites) and determine what makes them work so well for you. Then ask what might make them even better for you. Raise your bar for the perfect trick.

You can use this list as a subjective set of guidelines, or you can get rather analytical about it and use it as a score sheet. For each routine in question, run down the list and assign a number value of zero to three. Zero being “not at all” and scoring three points for “yes, totally!” The higher the score, the more a routine fits your ideal.

Note: If you find a lot of routines are getting a perfect score, you need to raise the standards of your criteria.

The advantage of this objective calculation is that it can break through the sometimes irrational reasons we choose a trick… maybe it fooled you at a recent magic convention… which is not a good enough reason to add it to your show.

Next time you ask your magic friends for ideas on “the best” trick for you, help them help you by sharing your personal criteria. They will be able to help you shortcut the search, and you’ll end up with your ideal magic!

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3 thoughts on “Your Personal Magic Criteria

  1. Rob Vanden Heuvel says:

    Great idea. Scoring your existing repertoire is a great place to start. It’s easy to see how this system could help avoid wasting money on unsuitable purchases. Not to mention wasting precious time practicing routines that don’t suit you.

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