Practice is not only necessary if you want to have the techniques ready when you need them. It is necessary for complete routines, acts or tricks. This seems logical, but is rarely put into practice.
There are many ways to practise: a drill, a run-through, a short practice run, mental training, and many more. In the theatre, there is the ‘dress rehearsal’, which is rehearsing in full costume from start to finish. Unfortunately, this practice is rarely seen in magic (at least by amateurs).
Practice routines. After you have learned the most important technical things, such as moves or gimmicks, rehearse the entire routine. The full range of movements, the order in which they happen, the patter or music.
Whenever you start a rehearsal, make sure it is a complete rehearsal. Don’t go through the routine sloppily. Go through it with all the patter, gags, presentation, costume and props. Act as if you are performing for a real audience. Imagine an audience sitting in front of you in your rehearsal room. Cut out eyes and faces from magazines and stick them on the wall. It will fool you into thinking you are addressing real people.
The difference is that rehearsing gives you the timing and feel of a routine. If you do it from start to finish, it will feel awkward at first. This is more work on your part than just imitating a few moves and rushing through the routine.
But it will give you a sense of timing, duration and technical problems. Only by rehearsing thoroughly do I discover many small technical details that I would never have found otherwise. These would have been disastrous in performance, but I was able to avoid them by rehearsing.
Just practising individual moves is not enough. You have to go through the whole routine and presentation.
The world’s greatest cellist, Pablo Casals, is 95. One day he was asked why he continued to practise for four or five hours a day. Casals replied, “Because I think I am making progress.