How do we learn magic? How does anyone learn magic? To be successful in the art of magic I feel you need to start at the right place. The Beginning. Where is The Beginning you ask? Well the beginning is as anyone would suspect: the basics.
One needs to learn the basics in order to move forward. I know you agree with me. If you don’t try this: type in YouTube Ambitious Card Routine, or Reset by Paul Harris and try and learn the moves and sleight of hand involved in those effects. You will fail miserably and will probably never pick up a deck of cards ever again. Yes, those effects are mind-blowing, however you need to learn to crawl before you can walk and in this case you need to learn how to crawl before you can run!
This is my biggest issue that I have with people learning magic off YouTube. I was incredibly fortunate enough to learn the basics from a book that I found in my school library. Then, my late grandmother bought me volume 2 of Michael Ammar’s Easy to Master Card Miracles. I never knew it then but that was already intermediate level and boy did I struggle at first. That darn Elmsely Count took weeks and weeks to learn, and then I took weeks and weeks to build up the courage to perform The Professor’s Twisting The Aces. You can see Michael Ammar perform it below. The first effect is the Twisting The Aces.
So I learned from books first and then I progressed to DVDs and now I use DVDs and books to learn new effects. But it is 2013, we live in a world that survives on instant gratification. So “Avada Kadavra” books and hello DVDs… But DVD means DVD player….mission!.. “Avada Kadavra” DVDS, hello Youtube. You get it on your phone and at home. What more can we ask for?
Magical books and DVDs are relatively expensive. PenguinMagic have a great website where you can buy magic online but unless you live in the States the shipping can add up. So YouTube wins this because it is free.
Someone learning magic off YouTube does not have the cognitive ability to know what the basics are and if they are learning the basics. I could learn a trick and be learning multiple shifts before learning breaks and I would have no clue (as much of you who do not know what magic is – these are moves that you should never learn about). YouTube has extensive material but it requires the watcher to sift through what they are capable and ready to learn and what needs to be bookmarked until they are skilled enough to tackle the task.
YouTube teaches how to do the effect, but YouTube doesn’t teach how to perform it. THAT is where personality and creativity comes in. I suppose that forces the performer to think up their own patter and story, which is good. Watching off DVDs and watching the magician perform the effect in front of an audience gives you the patter and storyline, which negates any effort in creating your own way to perform. It can be done but it is hard. Often magicians in DVDs say that you can use their effects but the way they perform it is their way and it will probably not work for you. Michael Finney springs to mind. He explicitly says that his way of performing the trick will not work for you because you are not him.
An issue with YouTube is that the performer who you are watching might not be THAT good and actually has a few bad habits that are ingrained in them and you will learn from them and pick up those habits. So you have to be able to know what differentiates a good performer from a bad one. That is tough!
Overall I think YouTube is a great source of material that is economical. But just as anything you get that is free, you have to be careful. If a trick mentions sleights that are foreign to you – research them first and see if you are ready to perform them. Make an investment in buying Bill Tarr’s Now You See It, Now You Don’t book on sleight of hand. It will take you from basics straight to advanced. Use YouTube by all means but do not forget that nothing beats watching the pro’s performing the effect and nothing beats reading about it. Check in with a magician who is more skilled than you are to see if you are performing the effect correctly and just remember what makes an effect yours is HOW you perform it. Find your flare and embrace it.