Cups and Balls

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.

Postby John McDonald » 01/17/08 10:00 AM

I would like to learn a cups and balls routine.

Two questions if you have time to spare.
1. What make of cups to buy? I see there can be big differences in price. What would be a good first set?

2. What routine do you suggest - which books to learn from etc.

Thanks for your time.

John
Best John
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/17/08 10:06 AM

John, Mike Skinner used paper cups or coffee cups. Dai Venon has a routine in Stars of Magic using glasses wrapped in newspaper.
Some folks like to buy $1000 copper cups.
It doesn't matter what type of cups you use--it only matters what types of cups you WANT to use.

There are, literally, a hundred good cups and balls routines out there. The Vernon routine (published many places) is the gold standard. His routine in Stars of Magic is also excellent.
There are also a number of two-cup routines by people like David Williamson and Tommy Wonder (and, of course, John Ramsay).
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Postby Guest » 01/17/08 10:29 AM

Michael Ammar has a very interesting 3-cup routine that's for a platform situation (i.e., not surrounded).

See the Magic of Michael Ammar book or the Stevens C&B teach-in video.
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Postby Gerald Deutsch » 01/17/08 04:03 PM

Dover Publications has published some of the older classic books on magic in paperback and one such book is "Hugards Magic Manual".

There is material on the cups and balls on pages 123-135.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 01/17/08 05:26 PM

The most amazing Cups and Balls routine I've seen was at the age of twelve and thirteen (I saw it twice) at Butlin's Holiday Camp in Ireland.

The children's entertainer was Dick Richards from Cardiff and once a week he'd perform a full stage show at the Playhouse Theatre which seated about 800.

The balls changed colour, grew, became multi-coloured before changing into giant balls.

However the most amazing thing was his vanish. He just held the ball at his fingertips and with no cover at all, it just vanished.

When I met him and he put me in touch with Abra and Supreme Magic, he also did the ball vanish. I don't know how he made it vanish but I did catch a glimpse of where it ended up - at the base of his first three fingers. But it didn't look like it dropped, it looked like it vanished.

I've been told he won a prize in the British Ring Shield competition with his Cups and Balls act. A pity Peter Warlock isn't around as he'd probably remember every detail.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/17/08 09:55 PM

If you have not gone to the cups and balls museum, you are missing an important resource for the cups and balls. There are many suggestions for source materials.

For more information, go to www.cupsandballsmuseum.com .
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Postby Brandon Hall » 01/18/08 10:24 AM

I love my JP's (Johnson Product) from Magic Warehouse. They're an excellent mid-priced cup that will last forever. Keep your eyes open because there seems to be a few people at the green place selling off personal collections. There are some great deals to be had.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/18/08 10:57 AM

Originally posted by Quentin Reynolds:
...
The balls changed colour, grew, became multi-coloured before changing into giant balls.

However the most amazing thing was his vanish. He just held the ball at his fingertips and with no cover at all, it just vanished.

When I met him and he put me in touch with Abra and Supreme Magic, he also did the ball vanish. I don't know how he made it vanish but I did catch a glimpse of where it ended up - at the base of his first three fingers. But it didn't look like it dropped, it looked like it vanished...
Would you have contact information for the guy?

THAT calibre of routining and touch on a one handed ball vanish is worth following up.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 01/18/08 12:14 PM

Unfortunately he died a good few years ago. I used meet his widow, Esther at some of the British Ring Conventions.

The only other thing I can recall is that he appeared to wiggle his fingers as the ball vanished, almost like you would with a billiard ball.

I was told (but don't know for sure) that the table upon which he performed the cups and balls had a revolving inside which allowed him to ditch and collect balls as needed.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/18/08 09:44 PM

I wonder if that might not have been Delaporte.
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Postby Terry » 01/20/08 11:08 AM

John,

Question #1 - the type of character you do and the type of routine you choose will determine what cups to buy. Another consideration is the weight of the cups. The Johnson brass are heavier than the Sisti copper, etc.

Your best bet would be to find a magic shop and try out the various makes and weights of cups manufactured. If you don't have a shop close by, find the local magicians and see if they may have different models in their collections.
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Postby John McDonald » 01/20/08 11:43 AM

Thanks Terry, I am just wanting to learn a very basic cups and ball routine to develop. As for wanting to develop a character - that is still ongoing.
I am more of a serious guy than a David Williamson - if that is any use to you offering advice.

I now just want to learn the classics of magic and do them well. I am in a magic club and will ask there but have just purchased a set of Bazaar da magica copper cups for $50. I know they will come with a basic routine but any advice on a good beginners routine would be great.
Best John
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Postby David Alexander » 01/21/08 06:41 AM

Jim Riser is a very generous guy. He provides a lot of good advice on buying a set of cups on his site at www.jamesriser.com

Worth your time to go there and read his thoughts. He also has a nicely stocked collection that he has on-line.

The best "character" for performing is an enlargement of your own best personality features. Your countryman Geoffrey Durham gives much good advice in his new book. It is also well worth your time.
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Postby Jim Riser » 01/21/08 10:18 AM

Thanks for the kind words, David.

Warning!!! All of the cup pages are down for updating. I had done very few updates after they were created in 2001. I have since picked up additional historic cup images that I am trying to include. On the "Selecting a Set Of Cups" web page I need to add and remove a number of images. I specifically want to point out problems with brass and stainless steel cups.

Unfortunately, I can not find the time to get to all of this updating. Every time I start on the work, a stack of orders for various items starts flowing in - which it not all bad.

The pages are being updated; but it is going slower than desired. Hopefully things will be done and back up by March some time. This is all part of a major web site upgrade. 'tis a big project to do between other things. A lot of things are being removed and/or redone.

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Postby David Alexander » 01/22/08 07:52 AM

Jim would be more productive if he would cut out his frivolous activities like sleeping, spending time with his wife, helping his family, etc. ;)
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Postby Terry » 01/24/08 12:03 PM

A mans got to know his limitations. . .
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Postby Richard Evans » 01/31/08 03:20 PM

John & Clay: you both asked about sources for routines.

Michael Ammar's book 'The Complete Cups and Balls' is a good starting point. Although the book went out of print a year or so ago, it's still pretty easy to pick up a secondhand copy. The book starts off with basic moves (and routine) and then moves on to the more advanced. It's got a good annotated bibliography so that you can chase other sources that interest you. The book is complemented by a DVD set (sold seperately) which is also excellent - very comprehensive.

For just a few dollars, there's also a great little booklet produced by FUN Inc, called simply 'The Cups & Balls'. It's edited by Gabe Fajuri and contains a nice intro by Bob Read, who was had one of the greatest cups & balls routines ever. As I said, it's a great little book that contains plenty of sleights and a couple of routines too.

I wouldn't advocate using DVDs alone to learn - books are much better, but there are some noteworthy DVDs out there that will complement the books. Two DVDs well worth considering are the Stevens Magic Cups & Balls 'Teach-In' DVD (it features some of the real greats: Johnny Paul, Charlie Miller and Mike Rogers). The other is vol 4 of the Johnny Thompson 'Commercial Classics of Magic' DVDs. Not only do you get to see one of the best routines ever, but Johnny's insights into the history and past masters is fantastic. More than anything, these DVDs illustrate the importance of being entertaining and developing your own unique routine and style.

Oh - and don't forget to check-out Bill Palmer's incredible collection of cups at www.cupsandballsmuseum.com

Good luck - and have fun!
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Postby Doug Brewer » 01/31/08 05:18 PM

I recommend Ammar's book/DVD on the subject, but I don't recommend his routine (other than his opening sequence). His loads, in my very, very humble opinion, are done on the wrong beat. There is no misdirection when he sequentially loads each cup. None. There are some nice moments in the routine, however.

If you are completely green on cups & balls, you might want to start with a one cup routine (or chop cup routine) to get used to the vanishes and loads. Much less to keep track of and you get a lot more confidence to progress to 2 or 3 cup routines.
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Postby Rick Schulz » 02/19/08 11:19 AM

One could hardly do better than Bob White's DVD on the subject. It has a tremendous amount of good, practical advice from someone who has made his living from performing. He also addresses the subject of the kinds of cups available, the types of balls and final loads to use, etc.
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Postby jmac » 02/20/08 04:04 PM

I have both of the Ammar DVD'S they are very insightful. Al Schnieder has some great cups and balls work.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 02/24/08 11:55 AM

Bob's DVD on the cups and balls is excellent, but I wouldn't recommend it for a beginner. It's really not fundamental enough.

The Ammar DVD's are a better starting point.

Bob's DVD is probably the third one I would buy. I'd go for the two Ammar DVD's, then Bob's.

After that, go for DVD's that are aimed at the specialty field in which you perform.
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Postby Riversky » 08/22/12 08:57 PM

Doug Brewer wrote:I recommend Ammar's book/DVD on the subject, but I don't recommend his routine (other than his opening sequence). His loads, in my very, very humble opinion, are done on the wrong beat. There is no misdirection when he sequentially loads each cup. None. There are some nice moments in the routine, however.

If you are completely green on cups & balls, you might want to start with a one cup routine (or chop cup routine) to get used to the vanishes and loads. Much less to keep track of and you get a lot more confidence to progress to 2 or 3 cup routines.

Doug,
Any books you can suggest for one cup routine other then chop cup?
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Postby erdnasephile » 08/22/12 10:59 PM

Larry Jennings one cup routine from "The Classic Magic of Larry Jennings"

John Carney's Fruit Cup routine from "Carneycopia"

Personally, though, I actually prefer the Benson Bowl-type routines.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 08/23/12 03:00 AM

If you are a member of SAM and can dig out your MUMs, in the March 2010 issue I wrote up a fairly detailed lesson on Paul Wilson's Chop Cup routine (also with my first phase for it). It's also in the Basic Training book.

I would also cautiously agree that starting with a chop cup can help. The slightly automatic nature of the cup allows you to concentrate on the loads and vanishes with less to worry about. You still need to put the same amount of effort into blocking and the like though.
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