As a Filipino magician, you probably have heard of the hoary advice that, to improve your performance, you have to “practice, practice, practice”.
The triple repitition denotes long and hard practice sessions.
But how long? And how hard?
Let me tell you a true story. It may help you gauge the amount of time and energy you spend on perfecting your craft vis-a-vis other performing artists.
My son, Kevin, who has been my assistant since he was four years old (he’s now 20), has fallen in love with the guitar. First he bought an acoustic guitar out from his savings and taught himself how to play it. Then when he got a little proficient, he nagged his Aunt Lily who’s working on a cruise ship to buy him an electric guitar, complete with a 15-watt amplifier.
Kevin can now play the electric guitar with a proficiency that intrigues me. From the day he bought his acoustic guitar to the day that he is playing the electric guitar spans a little over six months. He has no teacher. He taught himself by watching rock artists on YouTube. The rest of his learning strategy involved practice, practice, practice.
His practice sessions look like this: When he gets back home from school around 8PM, he picks the guitar and plays it until around 12 midnight. When there’s no school the following day, he practices until 4AM. On school days, he practices another two hours before attending his classes. All in all, I think he practices six to eight hours during school days, and maybe 10 hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
The electric guitar playing drives his mother (and probably the neighbors, too) up the wall with all the attendant noise of rock music. But I leave him be. I even encourage him to keep on practicing. I think he has developed the compulsion for practice from his stint as my magic assistant. We always worked long and hard on new tricks before we introduced them to our program. We even practiced tricks that we have been doing for years (say, the sub trunk). Not surprisingly, he has acquired the discipline to perfect a performance through sheer hard work and endless, focused practice.
His improvement as a guitar player is amazing, if not phenomenal. I have been playing the guitar throughout my college days, but in all those years I have not reached Kevin’s level of proficiency that he has attained in less than one year.
This reminds me of another story. It’s about Sam, my brother-in-law. Sam is a professional musician, playing several musical instruments. He was member of a band in Hong Kong, and for years he played at night clubs in that erstwhile British colony.
As a professional band player, Sam logged in eight hours a night, playing from around 7PM to 4AM. His usual daily schedule included sleeping in the morning, and then practicing the guitar five to seven hours in the afternoon.
Now just think about it. He played the guitar eight hours a day because that’s his job. Still, he practiced five to seven hours when he’s home. That means, he played the guitar for a total of 12 to 14 hours daily!
And hey, what about us Pinoy magicians? Do we practice that long and hard? When we get our new magic props from Hocus Pocus, how many hours do we spend before we include it in our repertoire?
This is not a sermon-type of post. I’m not here to preach. I’m here to point out an eye-opener. If you think you don’t need practice anymore because you have reached a certain level of proficiency, think again. Compare yourself to musicians. Or to athletes. You’d probably feel small at how wanting is the time you spend on practice compared to musicians and athletes.