Making it Look Like Real Magic !

Making it Look Like Real Magic
David Neighbors

I am always trying to push the envelope. I try to make an effect cleaner, cutting down on the excess or re-handling’s to make it look more like magic.

Someone once said (probably Marlo), “If it were really magic, how would it look?”

Of course, in trying to make something look more like real magic, you have to consider the circumstances.

Sure, if I had real magical powers, maybe I could just make a million dollars appear, or teleport myself to the Bahamas, or be loved by a few beautiful women.

But, maybe magical powers aren’t that easy to come by and use. Maybe it’s like the Force in Star Wars, it’s just something we can tap into. If you’re familiar with Willow the Witch on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she didn’t get the mastery of time and space at the drop of a hat. She had to work hard for her powers. Early on she wasn’t sure that she’d be able to float anything more than a pencil. Only later did she learn to do more.

So, sometimes we can get it to work like we want and sometimes we can’t. Suppose I do a false placement of a coin into my hand. Perhaps it doesn’t vanish the first time I try, giving me motivation to open my hand just a little, to see why it didn’t go. Psychologically, this works to tell the audience that the coin is still there. Why would I look into my hand if the coin wasn’t there? Then I close my hand again and make it vanish on me “second” attempt.

I want the effect to look like trick photography, just like you might see in a science fiction movie. I am probably never going to get to that exact point, but it’s what I’m reaching for. I’m always on that road, always on the journey, always trying to get better. And I think you should be, too.

The Three Levels of Coin Magic !

The Three Levels of Coin Magic
David Neighbors

I believe there are three levels of coin magic.

Level One: Just doing gaffed stuff where the gaffs do all of the work. There is no — or at most very little — sleight of hand work. This seems to be what everyone starts with. Really, though, they should start with:

Level Two: Sleight of hand with regular coins. This should be learned first for two reasons. First, so that when you handle a gaff it will looked natural and not like you’re “doing something.” Second, having some skill with sleight of hand will help you get out of trouble should you need to; for instance when a gaff isn’t available or doesn’t work properly.

Level Three: Using what WORKS and what LOOKS LIKE MAGIC. This is where we get into the combination of gaffs and sleights. To do this, you have to know not only HOW to do it, but almost more importantly WHEN to do it. You have to know when to switch in a gaff and when to switch it out. You have to know when you can get away with doing a coin routine where there are gaffs on the table ALL of the time — what I call “walk on water” stuff where the spectators already know you are good. When they already know you can “walk on water” gaffs won’t be suspected. But the WHEN takes a lot more work than the HOW and it’s best learned from the School of Hard Knocks. You just have to get out there and put in your TIME. And no, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

I would say I am best known among magicians for my work combining sleight of hand (even hardcore sleight of hand) with a gaff. The best of both worlds. Spectators will think something can’t be a gaff because of this or that, but it also can’t be sleight of hand because of such and such; leaving no answer but the impossible.

To learn when to ring in a gaff and when not to, when to ring OUT a gaff and when not to, and even when to do a particular trick and when not to, all takes real world work with real laymen. They are often harder to fool than magicians.


David Neighbors

Hi gang.

Someone once said to me, “I don’t use gimmicks when I table-hop because they don’t reset.”

Just because it’s a gimmick does not mean it can’t reset! I know lots of cool stuff with a shell and 3 or 4 coins. So I don’t think it’s the seasoned pro staying away from gimmicks — they know how and when to use them. (The old masters used to say, “The only one who can get away with the judicious use of a gaff is someone who does not need one.”

I think the only time you might “trick” the audience into thinking your performance is real is with mental ism. For cards, coins, and stuff, they know that it’s sleight of hand. The non-seasoned pro often sticks to resetting and ungaffed stuff because it’s easier to “sell” as sleight of hand. Gaff/sleight-combo stuff takes more skill to “sell” as sleight of hand. Plus, you have to know when to do it!

Guys just starting out have a hard time in their heads with a gaff. As Ed Marlo said, “Magicians are afraid to be bold.” The newer guy just starting out often has no faith in his ability to “sell” a gaff, or even handle an audience. But, no matter what the dealers say, self-working tricks do not work themselves. You have to work them. That same skill can be applied to a gimmick.

But getting back to the topic, yes, in table-hopping or walk-around, you do want stuff that for the most part resets. If you have a killer trick that you really want to do, put 2 or 3 setups in your pocket and some backups in your case. Then don’t do it at every table. Save it for a big table, or the table of the owner’s friends, or the people on who you want to make a big impression. You don’t have to do the trick all the time. You just have to ask yourself is it worth the price to do this trick at this particular table. Or, can I do it just a cleanly (i.e. make it looks as much like real magic) with out the gaff or reset problem? The key word here is “cleanly.” If you can, then go for it! Otherwise, use the gaff.

There are ways to reset stuff on the run. For hopping half, for instance, you can have 2 small pockets in your pocket and just put the gaffs together as your putting it away. And save the killer stuff that does not reset for the big table or a formal set show so that you something special to offer people who want to hire you for a paying gig.

Take it from a seasoned pro (45 years and counting): Take the time to learn to “sell” a gimmick with your body language. It pays off in the long run. Does it take more time to do it this way? Yes. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If you are just starting out you may need an extra boost of confidence, but as you go along in magic, and if you’ve done your homework and worked the routine a thousand times for people, you will gain that confidence.

Okay, so that’s my two cents.

Best David Neighbors

The Coinjurer

Backfire Reverse

Want to learn this?  You can find it in the following book:

  • $25.00

    Dave Neighbors on the Double Coin Gimmick


    • Section I: Sleights
      • Handling for Marlo’s Spider Vanish
      • Palm to Palm Switch
      • Flip Down Steal
      • Dingle-Schneider Pickup Move
      • One Ahead Load
      • Soft Palm Technique
      • The Pop Up Move
      • Gleason’s Shuttle Pass Variant
    • Section II: Matrix Routines
      • Backfire Reverse
      • Two Card Backfire Reverse
      • Sympathetic Backfire
      • Complete Backfire Reverse
      • Instant Assembly and Vanish
      • Succession Matrix
    • Section III: Miscellaneous Routines
      • Coins to Pocket
      • Tabled Coins to Pocket
      • Succession Chink-a-Chink
      • Just Hanging Around
      • Surprise Coins Thru Table
      • Backfire Visible Coins Thru Glass

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