Nov 28 2015
Back in my youth, I used to watch a guitarist regularly play at a pub in Sheffield. (He was called Frank White, and the pub was the Pheasant at Sheffield Lane Top – I’m not making it up!) What impressed me when I look back is that Frank (who was one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen) used to wow the crowds using a really rather cheap guitar. (A Squier Stratocaster). Back in the day, me and all my other guitar playing pals were all really keen to own wonderfully expensive deluxe vintage guitars. Frank was a revelation – instead of spending time dreaming of owning a priceless instrument, he squeezed every ounce of value out of his Squier. In hindsight, if I’d spent more time practicing guitar instead of working to earn enough to buy a lovely but expensive Fender guitar, I might have been as good a player as Frank!*
Also in my “pre-magic” days, I developed a fondness for cycling, and spent nearly all of my hard earned cash on fancy bike bits and go faster components. It was quite demoralising to then get beaten up every climb by a guy in the cycling club named Wez. Wez rode an old, heavy and far less flash bike than me. He’d picked up on the same vibe as Frank – it doesn’t matter how expensive your gear is, it’s what you do with it that matters.
I’ve finally learned my lesson from these guys. When it comes to magic, I’ve come to the realisation that spending more on kit does not a better magician make. I was watching a stage magician recently and my pal was not impressed. He came to the (not entirely incorrect) conclusion that the fellow had just bought some rather expensive boxes that did the work for him. In fact, when it comes to magic, the more you spend, the less magical you can seem. The “boxes do it “ mentality can make expensive kit actually work against you. Think back – what’s more astonishing; David Blaine’s early work on the streets of New York, armed only with a pack of cards and some small everyday items, or his lavish stunts with pricey (and sometimes slightly suspicious) props.
I’m pleased that now, instead of spending cash on props, I devote time to practicing routines that utilise nothing special. I even give everything away at the end of a performance to show there’s nothing suspicious. Instead I spend my cash on maintaining my magic library and gleaning advice from the masters about creating astonishment using sleight of hand, psychology and misdirection alone.
I bet Frank and Wez would be proud.
* As a footnote, I also know a chap called Alex who did both – bought a beautiful guitar AND learned to play it really well. Now he is WELL worth seeing!