In this article, we’ll explore the topic of impromptu magic.
Why is it sometimes so hard to perform magic ‘on the spot?’ How can you make sure you’re never caught out again? What makes for the most impactful impromptu effects?
First of all, what are impromptu card tricks?
Impromptu simply can be broken down to being able to perform the trick at any given moment, using any given deck of cards.
They’re are some of our personal favourite style of card tricks, because you can perform them at a moments notice without stressing about elaborate set ups or getting gimmicks into exactly the right position.
Before we get deep into impromptu card tricks, let’s talk about how you can make ALL your magic feel impromptu.
How To Make ALL Your Magic Feel Impromptu
Let’s discuss an incredibly important rule every magician should follow to make their magic feel organic, impromptu and powerful…
What’s the rule?
Never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards.
What do we mean by that?
Many (if not all) card tricks work by learning or manipulating the order, identity or arrangement of the cards in the deck (or a single card.)
So the LAST impression we want to be giving our audience is that we’re taking meticulous care over how we or they are handling the cards.
Laypeople are not stupid.
They can tell if you’re worried about the deck being shuffled, or if you’re taking just a little too much care over how you handle the cards.
They might have no idea what the actual method is, but they’ll feel that something is up.
This raises a question:
If you’re performing an effect that requires a set-up, and the spectator asks to shuffle the cards immediately before you begin…what do you do?
We think the rule we outlined above—never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards—takes precedence.
There are many ways you COULD handle this situation, but we would probably just let the spectator shuffle the cards and then go on to perform a different effect.
For us, it’s more important to maintain the atmosphere that all the magic they see is organic and impromptu then it is to perform the effect we had planned.
About a month ago we found ourselves performing a close-up magic show in west Idaho…
The set had gone about as well as we could have asked, and we were getting ready for the finale—an effect called ‘Sense’, created by our good friend Ollie Mealing.
Since this effect is a ‘color sense’ routine, we handed the deck to a spectator and asked her to hold them under a chair so we couldn’t see the cards…
As she put her hands under the chair, she fumbled the cards and the entire deck came crashing down to the ground, cards spilling everywhere.
For a moment, we were frozen.
Fortunately, the method for this effect is so versatile and impromptu that we were able to ‘get ready’ in the mere seconds it took to pick the cards up again and hand them back to the spectator.
This is a great example of the rule we outlined yesterday:
Never make the spectator feel like you care about the playing cards.
If the spectator drops the cards or otherwise does something that prevents you from being able to perform the effect you had planned—the best way to respond is to simply switch effect or method and act as if it was ALWAYS the plan to perform it the way you do.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Ollie Mealing’s ideas, we were still able to end our show with a powerful finale.
Ok, back to impromptu tricks…
There are pros and cons to both impromptu and non-impromptu (any trick that can’t be performed on the spot, so gimmicked tricks and those that require set ups fall within the category) tricks, so we thought we would spend a bit of time breaking these ideas down.
So without further ado, here you are:
The Pros of impromptu card tricks
- Perhaps the most obvious pro is that they can be performed at any time, in any location, using any set of regular playing cards.
- They are often less stressful, as you only have one thing to concentrate on, and that is the trick itself, not the set up.
- They are better ice-breakers or conversation starters if you can borrow someone else’s cards- it gives it a more personal connection and feel.
- They take up less space- you don’t have to carry additional items to assist the trick.
- They often give you a greater feeling of accomplishment, as you’ve achieved an effect using only your two hands.
- They are examinable- you can (most of the time) hand back the cards afterward. You have much less to hide, and can prove that you aren’t using gimmicks, which will usually impress you’re audience more!
The Cons of impromptu card tricks
- They are often more difficult, as they often require you using a more complicated method for a result that a gimmick could solve in seconds.
- As a result of this, they are often more likely to mess up.
- A lot of impromptu tricks don’t deliver the same ‘WOW’ factor that set up or gimmicked tricks can.
- Gimmicked tricks are most often easier, which leaves you with more time to practice other effects.
- They are often longer, as you need to justify giving yourself enough time to mess around with the deck enough to pull them off.
- Some would argue that gimmicked tricks are better ice-breakers, as they are usually more flashy and immediately impressive.
At the end of the day, however, it just comes down to personal preference. Have a play around; experiment with both impromptu and gimmicked tricks.
Some people prefer the natural style of impromptu, others prefer the eye catching gimmicks, but the only way to develop that taste is to go out there and use both!
Another Reason It’s Important To Know Impromptu Magic
Did you know that nearly 30% of people have never seen magic in person?
(source: 526 people polled in ‘What Do Audiences Really Think?’ by Joshua Jay and The College of New Jersey)
In perhaps the biggest and most unreliable extrapolation of all time…
…that would equal roughly 2 and a half billion people across the world that have yet to watch magic live.
This number is of course just an estimate, but it makes a very powerful point:
As magicians, we have the chance to show something to people that they’ve NEVER seen before.
We’re fortunate because unlike many other professionals, we can demonstrate our craft in the most ‘casual’ of settings—from family events to just over the table at a bar.
(when was the last time you saw a ballerina get up on the bar and give an impromptu rendition of Swan Lake?)
As soon as we had this realization, we set ourselves a simple rule:
Whenever someone asks to see a magic trick…we can’t say no!
We haven’t been perfect at following this rule— but it’s been a game-changer for the amount we perform, and it helps us feel like we’re doing our part to help more people witness quality magic in real life.
This is why we think it’s so important to always be prepared to perform strong magic in any situation.
This is why it’s so important to have powerful impromptu magic as part of your repetoire.