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Five Steps to Perfect Your Sleight of Hand Moves

Got a new move? Here are ways to practice and perfect it

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Five Steps to Perfect Your Sleight of Hand Moves
One of the joys and challenges of being a magician is working up new effects and sleight-of-hand moves that you present to your audiences. If you're developing a new move, whether it's a color change, side steal, pass or other, here are five steps that will help ensure success.

1. Learn and slowly walk through the move until your fingers learn it

When you’re first learning a move, allow your fingers to slowly perform it. Depending on the complexity of the move, you may have to adjust your hands and then turn the page in a book or advance a DVD to the next section. The idea at this stage is to simply teach your hands the basic steps and allow your hands and fingers to learn to work together to carry out the move.

Repeat the move until your fingers have some knack for executing the basics.

2. Slowly perform the move in a mirror

Once your fingers have acclimated to a move, you can now perform the move in a mirror and examine it to make sure that you're not showing something that you shouldn’t. Just perform the move and look at it from different viewpoints that mimic those of your spectators.

If you have to make adjustments to your fingers, this is the time to do it. You must learn how to correctly execute the move, even if it's slowly. Once you can correctly perform the move and it looks convincing in the mirror, it’s time for step three.

3. Repeat the move until you don’t have to think about it

This is the time to continually repeat a move until you can correctly execute it without having to think about it. And if it's a move that spectators shouldn’t see, you'll need to be able to execute the move without looking at your hands. Depending on the complexity and difficulty of the move, you can work hours, days, weeks or more. I often carry out this step while watching TV.

4. Show a Magician Friend

When you think you have the move down pat, you can show it to a magician friend who can provide feedback. If you're doing something wrong or exposing a secret, you must make adjustments and repeat step three until you can execute the move correctly. Of course, if you have the luxury, you can perform this step at any phase.

5.Refine Your Patter and Presentation

Work up your presentation, particularly at the moment that you execute the move and then repeatedly practice it. If you're saying something at the moment of a move, make sure that you’re not changing the tone of your voice or suddenly speeding-up your delivery. Also, make sure that you are not blinking your eyes, which is a common problem. If you tend to do these things, your spectators may not know what you did, but suspect “something” because of some hesitation or something subliminal from you.

When you’re confident with the move and patter, you're ready to try it in front of an audience. At this stage, particularly with close-up/strolling, choose your audiences wisely. Pros have a definite advantage here as they work for lots of audiences. If a group of spectators is friendly and going with the flow, it’s a good time to try out a new move or routine.

But if an audience is hostile, it's better to fall back on proven material. Amateurs have fewer options in this regard, but can still perform newer material for crowds who are friendly and courteous, not the office or family crowd who may be watching your every move and constantly critiquing and interrupting you.

With some work and practice, you’ll soon be performing a new move and adding yet another new routine to your act and repertoire.

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