Technical Considerations

So far, we've reviewed the basics of how to choose and compile the magic effects for your shows. It's also important of course to consider the many technical elements of a live performance, all of which you will need to make decisions about ahead of the show.

In general terms, the development of habit is of paramount performance in the performance of magic also. What do we mean by this? No matter what kind of magic you perform, the props should ALWAYS be put into the same place EVERYTIME, and in the same relationship to each other. In this way, your hands will never have to fumble as they reach onto your table, into your case, or even into your pockets. Rummaging for props does not look good!

Even the greatest magical clown of all times, Tommy Cooper, had detailed drawings made to show the stage crew exactly where his tables went, and exactly what props were on those tables. Although watching Tommy perform, it may have appeared random, every detail was planned and implemented.

Music has incredible power when used properly. It can enhance your magic immensely by stimulating additional senses. It really can be a powerful emotional tool. However, music always needs careful thought. You can't just play your favourite thrash metal album and expect the audience to follow along as you head bang your way through the show. (Okay, we exaggerate but you get the point.)

Even music that you think will work really well, will often create a very different atmosphere or mental imagery when played in the context of your magic show.

The music you choose should fit the mood of each effect.

A comic trick needs comic music, a serious death defying feat needs dramatic, serious music and so on. Used in this way, the music enhances rather than detracts from the magic.

Endeavour to vary the way the music is used too. For example, for some effects you might use the music purely as a subtle background that you talk over, whilst for others the music might play a central role, with the magic being performed silently in time with the music. On other occasions, the music is used as a theme to introduce an effect.

Where do you find suitable music for magic? It's all around you already! If you have a CD collection, search through for instrumental tracks (without vocals) without prejudging the content or the artist(s). You will likely be amazed at not only the amount of songs you come up with but also the variety.

Movie soundtracks are often ideal because they tend to be written specifically to engage the viewers' emotions, with amazing results. If you need any proof, dig out a scene you know from your favourite movie, and watch it first with the sound down, then with it up, you'll experience an amazing difference.

A danger to watch out for in choosing any music is that it is not so well known that it detracts from the magic. Some melodies, even from films, are so powerfully attached to the original image that the audience will tend to think of the more powerful association, with the result that your effect could be spoilt in the process.

Sometimes you might find a great piece of music that is just too long (or too short). If that's the case, take a look in your yellow pages for an audio-visual company, they can easily edit it for you to make it longer or shorter. They can also compile a custom CD for you with all the tracks for your show conveniently in order.

Copyright issues are not a great problem for most performers as most venues have a general agreement that covers all the performers. However, if you are in any doubt, ask the manager of the venue.

This brings us on to the next technical area - the P.A. or audio system...

about as a minor detail, just think how effective your show would be if no one could hear you! Accurate audio reproduction is important. You may be surprised to know that even in rooms of a relatively small group of people, you may need a microphone to be clearly heard.

You should never have to shout to be heard, but very often un-planned factors come into play when you least expect them such as air-conditioning, traffic, or other noises that suddenly cause people to struggle hearing you. Don't risk it if you are unsure.

A good quality radio microphone is ideal, as you can almost forget you are wearing it, but be warned that decent ones are very expensive.

Don't bother with cheap radio microphones as they are not worth the hassle of the likely occurrence of being interrupted every few minutes during your performance with a blaring request through the speakers that someone is taking a taxi to Walthamstow.

If you use a hand-held cabled microphone, be aware of the cable, and the need to hold the microphone consistently at a distance of around 4 inches from your mouth. Any closer and you'll get pops and booming, and any further away and you'll increase the likelihood of feedback as the sound technician struggles to get enough volume.

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