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Charlie Miller: Lessons from the Master

From the article you will learn tips on learning magic from the brilliant Charlie Miller + short comments by Roberto Giobbi to them. These are the recommendations the Master gave to his students. Here we go!

Lesson #1: Always strive for simplicity of effect and method. Make the effect easy for the viewer to understand.

R. Giobby’s comments:

  • Miller’s advice reminds me of what Dai Vernon said: “The difference between an amateur and a professional is that a professional knows what an effect is.
  • Simplify the viewer’s understanding of the effect so that in one, two sentences he could tell someone else about the trick effect, later. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how many words the viewer needs while they can tell you what you did. Too often, the audience doesn’t even remember what was shown, let alone tell it.
  • Simplicity in method and effect promotes beauty and elegance. It’s the aesthetics of artistic magic.
  • The magicians progress in a spiral, returning to the same point, looking at it more mature. We begin the magical journey with simple things, because we know nothing else. Then we complicate things by thinking it’s a progressive path. And then we go back to simplicity because it’s the road to purity.

Lesson number two: First, learn the mechanics of the trick. Master all the techniques; know the trick well. Then work on the presentation.

R. Giobby’s comments:

  • The advice is relevant to both books and videos. Advanced magicians, because of the knowledge they have already acquired, quickly read/view the explanation and think they have understood the mechanics of the trick. This is how you miss vital details. Here are seven steps to learning the card trick from Ascanio:
  1. Understand .
  2. Practice .
  3. Correction
  4. Correction training.
  5. Skill .
  6. 6. Internationalization and full ownership
  7. Perfection .
  • Too many magicians consider presentation to be the most important part of the job, while first you need to pick up a very good trick (effect) and come up with the best method to protect the secret. Only after these two difficult issues have been resolved can we move on to the production and presentation.

Lesson 3: Read as many magic books as possible.

Comments by R. Giobby:

  • Charlie preferred books on magic published for the public. Because of their simplicity.

Lesson #4: On a piece of paper (tablet, notebook, etc.) that you can see and read during the presentation, write down the order of your show or act. Place the sheet on the floor, behind the props, or in a similar place.

Comments by R. Giobby:

  • This advice is especially useful for amateurs who show different tricks to the same audience, while a professional shows the same tricks to different audiences. However, the recommendation is also useful for professionals, for example, when holding lectures, meetings, etc.

Lesson 5: Practice a trick before showing it to an audience.

Comments from R. Giobby:

  • There’s nothing more obvious, is there? However, given my years of experience, I became so confident that I decided I could show a new trick the next day! How wrong I was. Even if you are an expert, you have to rehearse the work for a certain period of time before you can present it to the public.
  • Use a “mental rehearsal”. On the way to the show, while waiting to enter the stage, mentally run through different situations in real time. This will increase your confidence and is a useful exercise against fear, which remains a challenge, no matter what level you reach.

Lesson 6: Practice until the routine is perfect, and then practice a little more.

Comments from R. Giobby:

  • There’s a fact that makes you remember. The ancient Persians made a small mistake on purpose when they wove carpets because they believed only God had the right to perfection. Perfection is like the stars in heaven – you can’t touch them. But if a traveler orients himself towards the stars, he will eventually reach his goal.

Lesson 7: Work slowly – never rush into a trick or presentation.

R. Giobby’s comments:

  • I used to think that hurry was a problem only for amateurs. An amateur wants to do a trick faster to get to the next one. Or he thinks he’s bored showing tricks (lack of experience and self-confidence). But over the years I have met many professionals who have accelerated their demonstration so much that they have lost all the beauty of action and presentation that they had. It has to do with the fact that professionals have shown the same trick a thousand times or because of commercial work in places where the audience does not have time to listen to something. Once again, discover the beauty of being slow!

Lesson 8: Watch the magicians perform. Magicians of all varieties and kinds. So you can always learn something new.

R. Giobby’s comments:

  • On this subject Confucius wrote: “If you see a worthy man, imitate him. If you see a man who is not worthy, test yourself.”

Lesson 9: Show the tricks you like. Love what you’re doing, because it affects communication with the public.

  • As Picasso said, and Ascanio often repeated: the merchant does what he can sell. The artist sells what he does. Indeed, the merchant uses marketing to take something from people, and the true artist creates an experience to share it with the public; shares what he has dedicated his life to.
  • You don’t have to be a professional to live magic. On the contrary, an amateur who does not need to make money out of magic can show the magic he likes personally. And do not care about the “entertainment” of the public or “challenge laughter, smiles.

Lesson 10: Look for tricks that aren’t critical angles.

R. Giobby’s comments:

  • Let us never, never forget that, as performers, we create false realities, fiction, idealized art in the minds of viewers. Let us realize that every moment carries an idea and an emotion. We are the architects and directors of these moments.
  • Always keep two things in mind: first, the effect must be very good. Second, the method, as well as its execution, must be unavailable to the public. If at least one viewer in the audience sees something related to the method, the illusion is destroyed.
  • Identify each movement in the trick, depending on the angles of the demonstration. Find out exactly where the bad angles are and how to hide them with your body, redirect your attention, etc. If you can’t do it, change the method.