How to Do Close Up Magic- The Complete Guide

Close up magic is when magic tricks are performed up close and personal, right in front of your spectator’s eyes. There are many types of tricks, for example cards, coins, watches, rings, money, mind reading, dice, sponge balls, etc. Your spectators can be seated or standing, as long as they are at close range and can see your magic tricks.

I absolutely love close up magic and have been making my living performing it for over 20 years. I am as passionate about close up magic today as I was when I first started. I will teach you what I have learned from my real world performance experiences.

CLOSE UP MAGIC

Close up magic can be performed for up to around 25 people yet it is much more common to perform for smaller groups, usually 1-3 people. Generally the props used aren’t big so your spectators have to be close in order to see everything. At times I have performed close up magic for 50 people. This only works when everyone gathers around and packs in very tightly. This tends to happen around a table at some events I’m hired for.

Click to watch me perform a close up magic show for Justin Timberlake

In my opinion close up magic is the purest form of magic. It is the most impressive and definitely the most practical. There are so many amazing benefits. Here are the reasons I love close up magic-

  • Many tricks happen in your spectator’s hands.
  • You can immediately hear and see your spectator’s reactions.
  • No expensive props are required.
  • Close up magic can be performed anywhere, any time, at any event.
  • There is no need for any special lighting or a sound system.
  • You can always practice your tricks and try them out on people.
  • Most great close up magic is based on skill, not big boxes.

CLOSE UP MAGIC TRICKS

YouTube Video of me performing close up magic at an event

What are the best tricks for close up magic? There is no right or wrong answer here. You can perform any type of magic tricks for your spectators. I will tell you the general criteria I have when choosing a trick.

  • The trick has to fool and amaze.
  • I have to feel comfortable performing it.
  • Angles have to be good (where your spectators can view it from).
  • Has to be cool, not cheesy.
  • Has to use minimal props and be easily portable.
  • Has to be somewhat repeatable.
  • Trick has to easily reset.

The single most important factor is that the magic trick gets great reactions. If not, there is no point in performing it. There have been many tricks that I have worked on and practiced yet no matter how hard I try it never goes over well. This is normal. What works for one magician might not fit your style. Know when to abandon a trick, no matter how much time you have spent on it.

A true artist has the courage to reject his/her own work.

I see a lot of magic tricks performed online that look amazing yet are not practical. They are filmed over and over, just for the camera, until they look perfect. When performing close up magic, most of the time, you cannot control where your audience stands. If the angles are bad and your spectators have to be in a certain spot, the trick is probably not worth learning.

When I choose a trick to work on I have to like it. I perform sponge balls yet I don’t perform the sponge bunnies. Totally not my style. I always carry a deck of cards. If there is a great card trick, yet it requires a special deck, for me it isn’t worth it. I already know a ton of card tricks. The less props I have to carry, the better.

Some tricks catch your spectators by surprise and are not repeatable, for example when a coin changes in your spectator’s hand. Use these tricks sparingly. The second time your spectator sees the trick is a lesson. It is best to perform tricks that don’t require much reset time. I like to move from one group to another without having to go in the corner and set things up.

CLOSE UP MAGICIAN

Most great close up magic requires sleight of hand. What I recommend is practice, practice, and more practice. Your audience is right there and can see everything you do. You must spend time in the mirror working on your sleights. This is what I mean when I say I have to be comfortable performing a trick. If I can’t get the moves down for a specific routine I won’t perform it.

Learn some easy and powerful sleight of hand here. There are also a bunch of easy to do close up magic tricks that don’t require any sleight of hand. It is good to have some of these in your arsenal, especially when you are starting out. Check out Easy Magic Tricks That Anyone Can Do.

I only perform standing up, never seated. When you stand you command more attention. As the performer you need to lead the crowd and be the focus. Most of the time it isn’t possible to sit so for the rare occasions when I can, I still stand. Nobody cares. Tricks that require you to be seated aren’t worth learning, you’re better off spending your time working on a trick you can perform all the time.

Vary the types of tricks you perform. I love card tricks, yet when performing for a group I only do a couple card tricks. Mix it up with a coin trick, a rope trick, a mind reading trick, a ring trick, etc. Not everybody loves card tricks as much as I do.

Click to watch a Close up Magic Performance

CLOSE UP MAGIC SHOW

When people gather around to watch me perform that is a close up magic show. This happens at most every event I perform at. Most of the time at events I try to keep my performances informal. If it turns into a show, great! I don’t like to formally schedule a show at an event because it isn’t always appropriate. You don’t want to be in a position where you are supposed to perform a show and there is a band you didn’t know about playing.

CLOSE UP MAGIC CARD TRICKS

Sometimes for the right crowd I will do a boatload of close up magic card tricks. It depends on the situation, you really have to feel it out. It is important to make sure your spectators are into card tricks. Some people love watching card magic, and others don’t. Many times toward the end of a magic gig, after I have covered the crowd, I will let the beast out and do a ton of card tricks for a group.

Check out this Free Video and learn my favorite 4 Ace Trick. It is easy to do and perfect for close up magic. I perform it all the time at my paid events.

Click to watch some amazing card magic

CLOSE UP MAGIC WITH COINS

Coin tricks are usually good for small groups. I tend to use half dollars when my spectators are right in front of me and silver dollars when performing for a larger group. Keep your coin tricks simple. Long complicated coin tricks confuse spectators. The best coin tricks are ones that happen in your spectator’s hands. I also like certain coin tricks as visual openers, see video below.

Click to see me perform some amazing coin tricks

CLOSE UP MAGIC PAD

I love using a close up magic pad, also known as a close up magic mat. It is perfect for focusing your spectator’s attention in a specific area, sort of like a mini show. Check out this article I wrote to learn everything you need to know about magician’s close up pads.

CLOSE UP MAGIC TABLE

Many times at events I like to find a table and place my close up pad on top. When I start performing for a group other people see something going on and come over to watch. This is a great way to gather a crowd. I do have an awesome close up magic table and on occasion bring it to an event. It is great when I have it yet I really don’t like having to carry it. I mostly use my close up table to practice on at home.

CLOSE UP MAGIC BAG

I always bring my close up magic bag to events. I know a ton of tricks and the bag allows me to bring many of them. I like to have extra tricks with me so I am ready for anything. I have been at events where the host asks me to do a couple things in front of the whole group. As long as I have my bag I am always prepared. Your guests don’t care if you have a bag or not. They just want to see magic tricks.

CLOSE UP MAGIC NYC

I live in Midtown Manhattan and luckily there are a ton of events going on. From corporate events to private parties, there is no shortage of people looking to hire amazing entertainment. This is great for a working magician. There are also many wonderful magic shows to go see. Here is a link to find out more about NYC magic shows.

CLOSE UP MAGICIAN OF THE YEAR

There are awards given out by the Academy of the Magical Arts at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. I don’t know much about this because I live in NYC and have only been to the Magic Castle a few times. You can find out more information here.

Matt
Matt

Hi, I'm Matt Furman. I have been a full time professional magician for over 20 years, ever since I left medical school to pursue my passion of magic tricks. I have a ton of real world experience and I am constantly practicing and performing new mind blowing magic.