There are many kinds of magic tricks, but most fall into one of a few categories. Oftentimes, a magician will specialize in one or a few areas. For those who employ a range of techniques, they will often develop some type of persona or specialty act to differentiate themselves from other performers. Just as other entertainers often find a niche, so too do magicians.
While no type of magic is particularly easy, some types are common for beginning magicians, such as learning sleight of hand tricks. Most magicians know a core base of tricks, and then develop their particular repertoire from there.
Magic is based on illusion and mystery, and all types of magic tricks employ this mystery. This is what is so alluring about magic! Secrecy is of course another major element of magic. Practicing magicians are very selective about who they share their secrets with. People who work with magicians are often required to sign contracts stating they will not share the magician's secrets with anyone else.
What types of tricks do magicians perform? The following list is a basic overview of magic tricks that are commonly associated with the practice of magic.
Sleight of hand tricks are those that involve skilled hand movements where objects seem to appear and disappear in the hands of the performer. One of the oldest sleight of hand tricks originated in Ancient Egypt. In this trick, the performer hides balls under turned-over cups. As the performer moves the cups around, the balls change positions under the cups. The observers try to watch and guess where the balls will appear, but the magician fools them every time!
Sleight of hand tricks are used with a variety of objects, including card, coins, balls, and other objects. Some magicians have even used live animals. A magician skilled in sleight of hand can perform magic almost anytime, anywhere.
Illusions are those where the seemingly impossible becomes possible. Some of the better known illusion tricks include those where a woman is sawed in half and levitation tricks. Other illusions involve making people, animals, or objects reappear. David Copperfield, a modern-day magician, has made such large objects as the Statue of Liberty and a jet airplane disappear in front of live audiences.
Escape magic is just as it sounds. The most famous escape artist was Harry Houdini, who performed a number of daring escapes in front of large audiences in exotic locations. Suspended high in the air, Houdini would be handcuffed and placed inside locked or otherwise sealed containers and emerge moments later. Escape magic is intriguing not only because of the amazing feat, but also because of the danger involved.
Mentalists are another form of magicians who appear to read the minds of strangers. In front of live audiences, mentalists will recreate drawings done by audience members that are unseen to the magician, but visible to the audience. They will also read the minds of strangers and perform an array of amazing mental tricks. The mystery of the mentalist lies in the performance in front of a live audience. Some mentalists in modern times have even created tricks for television where they seem to read the minds of viewers!
How and where magicians perform varies a great deal as well. Street magic, close-up magic, and stage magic all offer amazing performances in vastly different settings. Street magic is as it sounds, performed outside and in the spur of the moment. Street magic often includes sleight of hand tricks, although a variety of magic is performed this way. One of the most famous current-day street magicians is David Blaine, who performs a wide range of card tricks, disappearing acts, and even levitation on the street.
Close-up magic is performed indoors or out, and often involves such things as card or coin tricks. It is performed just as it sounds--in close range. The audience is small, and the magician sits or stands in the middle, which adds to the allure--when people surround the magician, he or she has little room to "hide" anything. Additionally, when the audience is so close, one might assume the observers could easily see the magician's tricks--but this isn't the case!
Finally, stage magic is just as it sounds--magic performed onstage. These magic tricks date back in history to the 1700s, and are often very elaborate performances. Stage magicians offer an extensive range of tricks from sleight of hand to making large objects float or disappear. Oftentimes large animals are involved. There are a number of present-day famous stage magicians, including Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield, and Penn and Teller.