30 min Set, # of effects?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby thumbslinger » 10/25/08 08:46 PM

Hello to everyone-
I'm wondering what the current thoughts are on how many effects should or shouldn't be offered in a close-up set of around 30 minutes.

Obviously, all the 'yada yada' about presentation, a master could entertain with only one, two good mentalism presentations could take up a half our, etc notwithstanding, is there any rhyme or reason why 'how much variety' should or shouldn't be presented?

The psychology behind presenting variety to a well engaged audience versus "as long as their entertained" is what I'm wondering about.

I would suppose the audience and reason for performance is a determining factor....is one trying to get more work and standing in front a group of possible clients? etc
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/26/08 01:18 AM

Each trick should last as long as it needs to last, and no longer.

Then do 30 minutes worth of them.

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Postby Bill Duncan » 10/26/08 01:33 AM

Brad has apparently gone to work for Microsoft Technical Support. His answer is correct, but not very helpful.

Perhaps if you were to provide some information he could offer more specific advise. I suspect that an actual answer would depend on how many people, how they will be viewing the act, how old they are, if they've been or will be, drinking, and so on.

In other words, there's no correct answer to the question, as posed.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/26/08 02:50 AM

I was, of course, paraphrasing Einstein.

And I think the answer is as honest as can be given. If the defining "structure" of your act is something as objective and arbitrary as a predetermined length of time, and if your act's formula consists entirely of a series of tricks/effects presented consecutively, then the answer comes down to the tricks themselves.

As there is no over arching theme, narrative, dramatic, or aesthetic issue to contend with, then the tricks are what's going to make this thing. So, make each trick as strong as possible and then fit them into your allotted time.

Of course, the questions Bill raises are critical to consider when it comes to making each trick as strong as possible.

THAT should be your concern (again, if your primary concern is with tricks and the number of them to present). How many then becomes a simple matter of math.

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Postby cardstuntman » 10/27/08 12:54 PM

you could try the rule of odd. maybe three to five.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/27/08 01:35 PM

cardstuntman: can you please use capital letters in your posts. They make it easier to read.
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Postby MagicBilly » 10/27/08 02:53 PM

One is sufficient in the right hands and therefore, IMHO entertainment trumps variety.
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Postby Tortuga » 10/27/08 05:27 PM

I think this is a great question and worthy of a thoughtful response. That's why I took a little while and thought about it before replying.

Seems to me that the suggestion above about the set having a beginning, a middle and an end is spot on. You could do that with just three routines, or more likely, a fast-paced opener to catch their attention, a little more involved middle such as a multi-phase card routine or such and then a strong closer. Having a theme is sometimes helpful but certainly not necessary.

What I do urge you to do is to avoid a mistake that I see very frequently, not just in magic, but in a lot of public presentations. Make sure to allow time for reactions. Make sure to allow for the 'hopefully' laughter and applause. If you practice a 30 minute set and don't keep this in mind, you will run over before you are 2/3rds of the way through the set.

I just got back from a workshop where several groups of salespeople had to put on a presentation on similar topics. The groups were allowed 15 minutes and the instructor would cut the group off if they did not finish in the allotted time. The audience was allowed to ask questions. This threw a couple of the groups which had so much information crammed into their presentation, much of which invited questions, and they ended up getting about halfway through. Not going to close many sales that way!

So, to sum it up, do a number of effects but don't cram so much in that the audience cannot react as much as you would like.

Also, do yourself a favor. If you haven't done so before, take a bit of advice that John Mendoza passed on to me. Put a tape recorder in your briefcase or under the table where the audience is unaware of it and you can forget it is there. Later, listen to the audience and how they react to you and your effects. Listen also to yourself. Did you speak articulately, did you sound rushed? Did you explain the action or tell your stories in a coherent manner. I have found this to be eye-opening. You can tell what effects went over and which ones didn't. Might surprise you, might not, but it is a great way of getting feedback.

In any case, good luck and have fun. Performing is a way to showcase all of your hard work.
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Postby Richard Perrin » 10/27/08 10:41 PM

I have done performing close up magic for 30 minutes and always end up 45 minutes but they love every tricks. So I guess I better cut down 12 and 1/2 minutes to make it 30 minutes and still 45 minutes! I learned something interesting that everyone is taking my time to please them. They enjoy a lot! I don't know about your performing but it's fun to see their delight.
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Postby thumbslinger » 10/27/08 10:59 PM

Regarding the beginning, middle and end... yes, I expect any effect to have that, let alone an actual act.

I just wondered if anybody actually gave the #of effects performed a thought.

When I auditioned for my Magic Castle membership in 2003, I threaded the idea of my imagination amongst three different effects; the professors nightmare, my own version of a coin assembly and a take on triumph called 'myumph'.

That worked out to about 15 minutes and passed me so I realized it wasn't how many but how well that counts.

I've always been of the 'story-telling' type of presentations rather than describing what I'm doing or what will happen etc., (although I personally don't like sitting through a Sam the Bell Hop no matter who is doing it) but I've seen countless numbers of popular, pros and great magicians who also just perform an effect in and of itself with no relation to the one before or after and their shows are just as entertaining.

So.. it became a question of a bunch of great magic or a bunch of great storytelling with some magic to define what was entertaining.

For me, whatever makes an audience happy and makes them want more is good enough.

But it's interesting to read what others feel behind the curtain!
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Postby mrgoat » 10/28/08 09:48 AM

thumbslinger wrote: I personally don't like sitting through a Sam the Bell Hop no matter who is doing it

You clearly haven't seen Eric Mead's version on the movie The Aristocrats then.

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Postby NCMarsh » 10/28/08 12:15 PM

The number of effects in an act is determined by the act's basic structure. The opening needs to accomplish something, the second piece needs to accomplish something different, and the closing two pieces each have their own function (or, if you're using a three-part structure: the opening, middle, and closing have their own jobs).

Each of these pieces, following Brad's post, is exactly as long as it needs to be to accomplish its purpose. Once you have that skeleton in place, you know how much additional running time you need. You can then add muscle and flesh in the form of connecting material -- each of these pieces, again, "as long as it needs to be and no longer" -- until you are at the running time that you need.

In terms of structuring/composing an act, there are three resources I have found to be very valuable:

1. Roy Benson's writing on the basic structure of an act, included in Roy Benson by Starlight...it is a departure from the prevalent model of "close with your strongest magic," and a departure that -- having seen it used by some very high level acts -- is extremely effective
2. Eric Mead's essay on linking routines together in Tangled Web
3. Milo Frank's How to make your point in 30 seconds or less -- the framework that Frank uses for crafting an effective message is the same basic framework I use for structuring a trick and an act as a whole. Along these lines, Docc Hilford gives a phenomenal script-writing workshop that focuses on the underlying structure of the effect and the structure of the act as a whole


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Postby Marc Rehula » 10/29/08 03:53 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:cardstuntman: can you please use capital letters in your posts. They make it easier to read.

Thank you thank you thank you for saying this, Richard. I fear how effortlessly our culture is slipping into a Blackberry Age of writing.

As for the original question, how many effects in a thirty minute set?


By 'seven', of course, I mean that this is a silly question to ask. As a mere amateur, I am under qualified to address this. But even as a mere amateur, I recognize that the answer would be different for everyone. I'm sure Harry Lorayne could fit fifty effects into a thirty minute set, while a magician with a bizarre/storytelling approach might be able to do a great thirty minute set with a single effect.

It's entirely a question of personal style. There is no easy answer to this. (I'm supposed to add IMHO, right?) Learn your craft, take a theatrical approach to plotting your set, practice practice practice, then come back and tell us how many effects you have in your thirty minute set. Just concentrate on exploring how you can effectively entertain an audience for thirty minutes.

Okay, now I'm just babbling . . .
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Postby mrgoat » 10/29/08 04:03 PM

Marc Rehula wrote:
Richard Kaufman wrote:cardstuntman: can you please use capital letters in your posts. They make it easier to read.

Thank you thank you thank you for saying this, Richard. I fear how effortlessly our culture is slipping into a Blackberry Age of writing.

Language and writing evolve. I am sure that every major linguistic change has faced people saying it is the doom of civilisation. We moved from Early English (Chaucer etc), we moved on from Shakespeare, and we will move on again.

Clearly technology is driving these changes.

Of course you can chose to scoff at the youngsters txt spk but I doubt you can stop the evolution.

Clearly Mr K can and does request people use more formal writing styles on his board. I am not saying this is A Bad Thing.
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Postby Dave Mithaca » 10/30/08 11:02 AM

I can see from the original post that the idea of "variety" is the overriding theme, so I'll address that idea:

Personally, my favorite close up shows have a lot of variety. The shows that stand out in my mind are by guys such as Johnny Ace Palmer, John George (who incidentally is a good friend of Johnny's), Shoot Ogawa, John Carney and Paul Wilson.

These close up shows all have lots of variety. For example, John George's show is a nice blend of cards, coins, and other items. Parts of his show are very visual (eye-candy) and other parts a bit slower and more cerebral.

His card tricks are well balanced. He doesn't, as Johnny Carson warned against, "go to the well too often," so he employs different sleights for each card trick. In fact, watching his show from a magician's perspective, one can appreciate how many different types of skills are utilized. Just off the top of my head I recall the use of culling, double-lifting, top changing, palming, manipulating, false-shuffling, and a clever use of gimmicks and gaffs. His show isn't all cards, but rather a very nice blend of tricks providing most of the major themes of magic: Vanish, Production, Transposition, Transformation, Mentalism, Restoration, etc...

I love a close up show that has one or two well placed uses of a topit, a holdout, and/or sleeving to add to the mystery and variety of the performance.

Most of the close up shows that I've thoroughly enjoyed were fast-paced and had a good number of tricks choreographed into the show. Furthermore, all of the shows which I've considered high quality took into account transitional periods between tricks and efficient management of the props. I'd estimate that a common number of tricks in my favorite shows is somewhere between eight and twelve major routines with a bunch of other 'bits-o-business' thrown in for good measure.

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Postby Lee » 02/28/09 02:37 PM

He asked me if I wanted to see a card trick. I said, "No." He did five.

Number of tricks is wrong question. Number of emotional moments is more important. Do they laugh, or go awwwww, or sigh, or say wow, or at least pay close attention?

Better get a couple of those in per minute...
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 02/28/09 03:00 PM

""Do you like card tricks?"

"No, I hate card tricks," I answered.

"Well, I`ll just show you this one."

He showed me three."

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/28/09 03:27 PM

um...yeah tell me more about those pearls.
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 02/28/09 03:43 PM

OK, I should had used more words ;-)

I was simply correcting what may be the most misquoted literary reference in magic.
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Postby Jon Morris » 03/02/09 01:18 PM

My standard thirty minute card set (always with a borrowed deck)will incoporate an opener, 8 routines, and a knock-out closer -

Opener - A four ace production
Routine #1 - Spectator finds the Aces
Routine #2 - Regal's Straightforward Collections
Routine #3 - Lorayne's Poker Deal #1
Routine #4 - Sandwich effect or Regal's Primate
Routine #5 - Coin Matrix with four borrowed quarters (to shake things up)
Routine #6 - Schulien's Spell It
Routine #7 - Daley's/Lorayne's Magician vs. Gambler
Routine #8 - Hot-Shot card location using Daryl's Hot-Shot cut
Closer - Dunbury Delusion or Lorayne's Great Divide

That'll normally run about thirty minutes or so depending on patter (about 3 min's per routine). That kind of set may take longer for some people but I talk fast. The beauty about that set though is that it requires nothing except of a borrowed deck of cards and four borrowed quarters and can be performed on the fly without any prior set-up.
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Postby Dragon74 » 03/24/09 01:54 AM

Great question. Im a kids party entertainer, (see me at http://www.youtube.com/user/dragon74) and I have my IBM audition tomorrow night. My audition is to go for 10 minutes, and Ill be doing around 11 bits, using 25 props/tricks.

My normal 1/2 hour show has around 27 bits, and uses 52 props.

Obviously patter plays a big part. If theres a kid who the crowd is really having a laugh with, Ill keep the bit running, but if theres no chemistry, or even if a trick goes wrong, This takes minutes off.

I also have a few back up bits if they reallllly want more, and it doesnt hurt to have a few 'roving' type tricks such s flame wallet prediction or vanishing cigarette to do on the parents afterwards...
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