To become a magician, you obviously need to learn magic. But what does that mean, exactly?
I’ll tell you what some very experienced magicians told me when I first decided to take the leap into becoming a magician. And it was a terrific piece of advice – for starting. That advice was “Tarbell.”
What is Tarbell?
In the 1920s, the magician, Harlan Tarbell, started a magic course. He would deliver a kit for each new lesson that contained the various props for that lesson.
Theses days, you wouldn’t be easily able to get ahold of the bits and bobs for the kits. But you can VERY easily get started with the Tarbell course immediately. Just CLICK HERE to grab a pdf of the original 60 lessons from the mail order course.
Ultimately, over the decades from 1930 through 1995, the Tarbell course was printed in hardback volumes. In total, the entire collection now includes 8 volumes.
So Why Tarbell?
What is great about the Tarbell Course is that it isn’t just about teaching tricks. That is how too many people go about it. And there is so much more to becoming a magician that just learning tricks.
Tarbell says: “I could teach you 50 tricks and you would be happy to know them — and perhaps you would think you were a Magician when you had learned these tricks. I know, however, that you wouldn’t be a Magician.” He’s right. A magician needs to understand more than mechanics. Just as important (in fact MORE important) are things like:
Understanding WHY magic works. What is going on the a spectator’s mind that makes things seem like magic?
Being able to perform. A magician is an entertainer. So if you are not a performer – at least on some level – then you are not a magician.
Taking the concept of “exposure” seriously. Exposure is the term used to describe revealing the secrets behind a magic trick. Yes, it is super easy these days for people to just go to YouTube and learn some of these secrets. But a magician should not be the person giving these secrets away (unless you are teaching a magician in training or selling magic to people who want to learn).
So the Tarbell course includes everything that goes into becoming a magician, going much deeper than just the teaching of tricks.
What Do You Get?
The original correspondence course was 60 lessons covering stage illusions to close-up magic and everything in between. that also includes discussions of stagecraft, developing a show, making your audience laugh and marketing yourself. The electronic version HERE (you can choose instant pdf download or CDROM) includes that original 60 lesson course (almost 1300 pages and nearly 2900 illustrations).
Some time after that original course was developed (in the 1920s), the Tarbell course was redone in order to create that 8-volume hardback series I mentioned above. That was called The Tarbell Course In Magic; For The Professional, Amateur and Beginner. Many other lessons were added to the original 60 lessons. So you can’t really directly compare the original course with the hard cover books.
Speaking of the hardback Tarbell Course, you can get yourself a set from eBay (like I did :-)), Amazon (see the link in the pic on the right) or from a number of used book dealers.
So even though there are lots of ways to learn magic, Tarbell is one of the best ways to start. It has been for almost a hundred years.