Top change noise

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.

Postby Guest » 05/29/05 06:29 AM

I'm learning the top change but neither Royal Road nor Card College specify whether it's supposed to be done noiselessly - can anyone advise? On the one hand, from the spectators' viewpoint nothing is supposed to have happened and therefore there shouldn't be a sound, but on the other hand I can't see how I'm going to brush two cards together without making any noise..?


Postby David Regal » 05/29/05 08:04 AM

A top change should be soundless. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. First, you can perform a style of top change where the cards remain on the same plane. Second, you can perform a style of top change where the cards never touch. You never want the "click" of two cards snapping off each other, or a card being stropped onto the deck.
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Postby Gerald Deutsch » 05/29/05 08:06 AM

I do the top change the way Slydini would have done it - had he done the top change - which he didn't.

What I mean is that I use Slydini's "timing" principle.

Let's say the correct selected card is on top of the deck, the deck is in your left hand and the wrong card is face down in your right hand.

I would do the following:

1 Raise both hands and say "Ta da?" showing the wrong card.

2 Rest both hands so that the card in the right hand goes under the left thumb "in top change position".

You are relaxed and so too will be the spectators.

3 A second later the left hand (with the deck - and the "wrong" card that had been in the right hand) gestures to a spectator as you say, "You took the same card--"

4 Then the right hand with the now correct card gestures to the other spectator as you say, "as you took."

There is no noise.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 05/29/05 08:48 AM

I'm sorry to have to disagree with my esteemed brother Regal, however all Top Changes have some sound associated with them (as does even the most quiet Pass). There is going to be, no matter how well you do it or how softly you hold the cards, some slight sound.
No one performs, as people often practice, in a dead-quiet room by themselves.
Magicians perform in rooms that have ambient sound, while they are talking, and often while laymen are also talking or exclaiming.
The acceptable sound of a well-done Top Change is always covered by ambient sound. If the sound of your Top Change is not covered by ambient sound, then you are holding the cards too tightly or using poor technique.
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Postby Guest » 05/29/05 11:26 PM

I'm not going to take sides with either the esteemed Mr. Kaufman or the esteemed Mr. Regal. However, from someone who has always found the top change easy to get away with, I will say this much: If you're doing everything else correctly, any small sound shouldn't matter.

Talking over the top change is of vital importance, not just to overwhelm whatever sound there may or may not be, but also to attract the spectators' attentions to your words rather than ambient noise that, by the unconscious choice of the spectators, they willingly screen out. They choose to do that themselves! Isn't that amazing?

Other things that help:

  • Holding the card level with the spectators' eyes, so that there is less of a top change to see.
    Gesturing appropriately and naturally while doing it, so that whatever movement occurs is dismissed as part of the gesture.
    Looking at people's eyes. Strange that I never hear this being mentioned as a key to the top change, but I find it absolutely essential. Just before you execute a top change, it is an easy thing to glance around the crowd to gauge several things. First, are they looking at your hands? Secondly, how closely are they paying attention in general? And thirdly, a judgment call: Will the top change be noticed, or must you change the moment, to reference Erdnase, as well as bring other advantages to bear on the situation?

Postby Pete McCabe » 05/30/05 12:12 AM

The question, if I may be so bold, is not "can the top change be done noiselessly?", but "how can I minimize the sound my top change makes?"

Here are two things that will help. First, hold the cards lightly. If you've ever seen guy Hollingworth, try to hold the cards as softly as he holds cards. Second, make sure that after the exchange, the deck moves away from the single card in the same plane as the card itself. Don't pull the card up or drop the deck down. Either of those will increase the friction, and the sound.
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Postby Matthew Field » 05/30/05 02:58 AM

As both Mr. Kaufman and Mr. McCabe have pointed out, the thing to be avoided in all card work is what Mr. Kaufman refers to as "the death grip."

Dai Vernon referred to the importance of holding the deck in a very light grasp -- after all, cards are delicate (he continued) and should be treated delicately.

In many card moves, the Top Change and Pass included, a light touch will reduce the noise to a whisper.

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Postby mrgoat » 05/30/05 03:49 AM

I have been working on a trick with this move for years. My Uncle and mentor kept telling me it worked and I never got the timing quite right.

I did last night.

All I can say is it was a reaction FAR to strong. It freaked me out. They acted as if it was a mircale.

My uncle was right. Again. It took 6 years or so for me to believe him that sponge balls were a good opener.

Maybe I should listen next time!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 05/30/05 08:12 AM

The Top Change required a change of fingers on the taken card until Robert-Houdin figured out that your thumb and first finger could just as easily take the new card as well as leave the old one. This was 150 years ago!
Jean Hugard is responsible for ignoring that, and continuing to describe the Top Change method where you take the new card between the first and second fingers.
This is akin to someone in Detroit 60 years ago deciding that the new system of brakes just wasn't working very well, and once again cutting holes in the floor of the driver's side of a car so you could stop it by slamming your feet on the pavement Fred Flinstone style.
There is no excuse for using poor technique, and taking the new card with your first and second fingers is stone-age stuff and should only be used by people who don't know better. Your only excuse could be if you learned it that way as a kid and it's burned into your brain, otherwise, use your thumb and first finger.
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Postby Guest » 05/30/05 10:09 AM

In his trade show video from Steven's, Mike Rogers demonstrates the top change. He switches fingers and says that he takes a lot of heat from fellow magicians, but doesn't let it bother him. "I just do it," He says.
I like the David Williamson change. On the Magic Farm DVD he has a couple of T.C. lessons that are worth the price of the disk IMHO. Work on gestures, tension and release.


Postby NikMikas » 05/30/05 06:33 PM

Hmm... I wonder who Invader could be...

Mr. Kaufman,
Although Hugard certainly ignored the improvement, do you really think he should take much blame? Countless sources before Hugard and after Robert-Houdin have written up the inferior method. Why blame Hugard?
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Postby Guest » 05/31/05 02:19 AM

The Top Change My Way-Ken Brooke. Ken Brooke's Magic,The Unique Years.
Learn from a master.

Postby John Carey » 05/31/05 04:01 AM

Hello there

The best lesson on the top change that i have seen is by andrew galloway of scotland.

It was written up in his book diverting card magic.

I believe it is also described on his dvds available from international magic in London.
This man is brilliant!!!!
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Postby Pete Biro » 05/31/05 03:02 PM

Oh if you all could only have seen Frank Shields do the top change...

He told me he would practice it for 20 minutes every morning as soon as he woke up.

Can't describe it, but it was silent and invisible. You could burn his hands and not see anything.
Stay tooned.
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Postby John Carey » 06/01/05 12:19 AM

Hi Pete,

Did Frank Shields publish any of his ideas/routines?

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Postby David Regal » 06/01/05 07:56 AM

Hi - I haven't checked on this thread for a while, but back to the esteemed Mr This and That...

If I hold two cards between the first finger and thumb of one hand and slide them around with a cigarette-rolling action, I hear nothing. That, to me, means a Top Change can be silent, and I believe Krenzel wrote it up.

But then, I never shut the hell up, so I don't know if mine is silent or not.
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Postby Temperance » 06/01/05 07:59 AM

Sometimes you want sound in a top change. The Hofzinser top change for example.
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Postby Guest » 06/01/05 08:12 AM

Originally posted by john carey:

Did Frank Shields publish any of his ideas/routines?
In 1974, Jeff Busby published an eight page manuscript transcribed by Gene Matsuura called Notes on the Magic of Frank Shields. Contents included Four Card Display Move, Pass Cut, Slydini-Shields Cut, Top Change, Card on the Forehead Handling, Dime on the Wrist, Shields French Drop, Handling of Double Lift, Handling of Vernon's 2-6-4, Rub-a-dub-dub, One Hand Center Cut, 10 Coin Star, Top of the Head Coin Vanish, Pivot Coin Vanish, and Showing a Whole Cigarette as Only a Half.

I have an extra copy of the notes I might be persuaded to sell.

Contact me at if interested.

Postby Fred Zimmerman » 06/01/05 12:02 PM

I've been using a top change for many years now, and after trying to learn it from several different aources, I landed on one that spoke to me, so I thought I'd share it.

It's Eugene Burgers early pamphlet, "Audience Involvement." It is a purely in-view change that is done on the off-beat and perfectly misdirected. To this day, I would rather perform a top-change than a double-lift, when possible.

Check out this pamphlet, and the trick within which he teaches it. I still do the routine, modified over the years, and it is still strong. I've even adapted it to an envelope switch in my mentalism, but that's another post.

And to my knowledge, this top change makes a minimal amount of noise. But then, it doesn't matter because the card has very little heat on it at the time of the change.

I've read many, many other handlings, and have not found a single one to beat this version.

Granted, it probably isn't his, and I do not recollect if he credited it to anyone (he probably did), but if you check it out, I' sure you'll be pleased.

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