In truth, practice makes progress - but the path to mastery will require a few more steps.
3. The Cold Start
Practice is the obvious starting point. To begin the process of learning any move, effect, or routine - we need to start with rote practice. I’ve always applied a “Rule of Ten” when it comes to learning a new move. I work to attempt the move as perfectly as possible ten times in a row. Any failure requires me to start back at one. This process is repetitive, but must be executed with a conscious attention. We’re not only working to achieve a result – but trying to improve with each attempt.
To be clear, getting something right ten times in a row is simply an arbitrary number – it certainly doesn’t denote mastery. But I’m goal oriented and it helps me chart my progress.
Once I can easily execute the move or effect ten times in a row - multiple times. I move the process to the rehearsal stage.
Rehearsal is where the move or effect is put into the context of an actual performance. What will I say? Where will the props be? How will I introduce them? Will I stand or sit? Once I’ve worked out the details of the performance. It’s time to rehearse all of these aspects as one cohesive act. The goal is to continue to make progress not just on the move I’ve practiced – but on the performance as a whole. The “Rule of Ten” works here too and can really help hone your performance.
This is typically where many will stop – but the most important step is still ahead.
We’ve all practiced and rehearsed endlessly only to have it all crumble when it comes time to execute in front of a real audience. When it comes time to truly stand and deliver, you will not have just performed the routine ten times - you'll only get one shot for each audience. It's time for the "Cold Start" process. In short, I keep my props handy and try the routine “cold” at various points in the day. No more “Rule of Ten”. The idea is that I need to be able to do the routine on demand without any warm up. I just pick up the props and do it – once. I’ll come back later in the day and do it again. I’ll use this approach over the next few days or weeks – as long as it takes for me to be satisfied with the outcome. It's not perfect but it's the best way I've found to replicate what will be required for a real performance.
This may not be a particularly original or ground breaking approach but I’ve found it useful for learning a wide assortment of skills – not just magic. If you give it a try, I hope you’ll share your experiences. Better yet, I'd love to hear how you approach your practice and rehearsal. I’m always on the lookout for new tips and techniques!