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Effect Classification

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Effect classification is the process of assigning individual magic routines to systematic groups or categories, in order to establish a better overview. Numerous classification methods have been established over the years. The usefulness of each category depends on the performer's individual goal in examining the effects in question.

Regardless of the objective desired and the system used, individual effects sometimes cross the boundaries between classifications. Also, any classification system should remain flexible, and not used to limit options.

Venue Classification

Venue classification is the organization of effects by their intended venue. This system of classification is the main one used to organize MagicPedia.

Venue classifications include:

Show Position Classification

When organizing a show, it's often helpful to know where a particular effect works most effectively. For example, a longer routine might work well in the middle of the show, but be very ineffective as the very first routine.

Many performers have worked out their own particular categories over the years. Some examples are included below.

Dan Harlan

Dan Harlan, on his Pack Small Play Big videos, used the following system for Stand Up Magic routines. It involves three major sections, each divided into three subsections.

Dan Harlan's show position classification is:

  • Warm up and learn about the audience
    • First impression
    • Get acquainted, involve the audience
    • Wrap up the first section and get to the point
  • Display your versatility and skill
    • Unique and different routine
    • Visual and quick routines
    • Dexterity, skill or classic
  • Create some positive memories
    • Relaxed routine, or a lead-in to the showstopper
    • Showstopper, blockbuster
    • Lasting Impression

Ray Pierce

In the Genii 1988 October issue, Ray Pierce authored the first of an 11-issue series called Pansophical Production. In this first article, he describes his 5-part structure for a 15-17 minute act. Each section is intended to average 3 minutes, and to be self-contained for ease of introducing new material, as well as eliminating old material.

Ray Pierce's show position classification is

  • Opener - Acquaint the audience with you as a performer
  • Personality - Acquaint the audience with you as a real person
  • Ballad - Display emotion, and let your audience know you care about your craft
  • Rouser - Wake up your audience as you begin to close the show
  • Closer - Encapsulate your style, personality and talent in one punch

Card Magic Classifications

Classifications specific to card magic include Roberto Giobbi's Card Magic Classification, which he published in Genii.

Occurrence Classification

Occurrence classifications are organization of effects by the main magical happening in the effect. As with show position classification, numerous performers have devised their own categories for occurrence classification.

Harry Blackstone, Jr.

In The Blackstone Book of Magic & Illusion, author Charles Reynolds listed 13 different effects. It is simpler in nature than many of the other occurrence classifications.

Harry Blackstone, Jr.'s occurrence classification is:

  • Production
  • Vanish
  • Transposition
  • Transformation
  • Restoration
  • Animation
  • Penetration
  • Anti-gravity
  • Sympathetic Reaction
  • Time Control
  • Escapes
  • Mentalism
  • Invulnerability to Physical Laws

Dariel Fitzkee

Dariel Fitzkee published his list of 19 basic effects in his classic book, The Trick Brain.

Dariel Fitzkee's occurence classification is:

  • Production (appearance, creation, multiplication)
  • Vanish (disappearance, obliteration)
  • Transposition (change in location)
  • Transformation (change in appearance, character or identity)
  • Penetration (one solid through another)
  • Restoration (making the destroyed whole)
  • Animation (movement imparted to the inanimate)
  • Anti-gravity (levitation and change in weight)
  • Attraction (mysterious adhesion)
  • Sympathetic Reaction (sympathetic response)
  • Invulnerability (injury-proof)
  • Physical Anomaly (contradictions, abnormalities, freaks)
  • Spectator Failure (magician's challenge)
  • Control (mind over the inanimate)
  • Identification (specific discovery)
  • Thought Reading (mental perception, mind reading)
  • Thought Transmission (thought projection and transference)
  • Prediction (foretelling the future)
  • Extrasensory Perception (unusual perception, other than mind)

Winston Freer

Winston Freer first published his occurence classification in an issue of The Linking Ring.

Winston Freer's occurence classification is:

  • Production
  • Vanish
  • Change in position
  • Change in material
  • Change in form
  • Change in color
  • Change in size
  • Change in temperature
  • Change in weight
  • Magnetism
  • Levitation
  • Penetration
  • Restoration
  • Remote control
  • Sympathy
  • Divination (all feats of mentalism and/or mental magic)
  • Prediction

Penn and Teller

Penn explains seven principles of Sleight of Hand in their routine which Teller apparently disposes a cigarette and lights a new one. Teller is, in fact, simply hiding and replacing the same cigarette without ever putting it out. The Seven Principles are:

  1. Palm - To hold an object in an apparently empty hand.
  2. Ditch - To secretly dispose of an unneeded object.
  3. Steal - To secretly obtain a needed object.
  4. Load - To secretly move an object to where it is needed.
  5. Simulation - To give the impression that something that has not happened, has.
  6. Misdirection - To lead attention away from a secret move.
  7. Switch - To secretly exchange one object for another.

Robert Neale and Dariel Fitzkee (combined)

Using the Dariel Fitzkee occurence classification as a starting point, Robert Neale created an interesting list, and published it in The Magic Mirror, which he authored with David Parr.

This classification is unique. In this method, the effects are first broken down by symbolic concerns, and then into the various categories of their main magical occurence. The intention of this method is to make it easier to connect the ideal the performer wishes to portray with a particular effect. Some of the same basic effects show up under more than one concern, demonstrating that even a single effect can be radically altered by shifting the concern.

This system uses three basic symbolic concerns, each of which has three sub-concerns. Each of these sub-concerns is then broken down into one or more of Fitzkee's 19 basic effects.

The combined Neale/Fitzkee occurence classification is:

  • Being
    • existing or not existing:
      • production (appearance, creation, multiplication)
      • vanish (disappearance, obliteration)
      • control (mind over the inanimate)
    • characteristics changing or not changing:
      • transformation (change in appearance, character or identity)
      • penetration (one solid through another)
      • physical anomaly (contradictions, abnormalities, freaks)
      • control (mind over the inanimate)
    • holding together or falling apart:
      • restoration (making the destroyed whole)
      • invulnerability (injury-proof)
      • control (mind over the inanimate)
  • Doing
    • moving or not moving in space:
      • transposition (change in location)
      • identification (specific discovery)
      • animation (movement imparted to the inanimate)
      • anti-gravity (levitation and change in weight)
      • extrasensory perception (unusual perception, other than mind)
      • thought reading (mental perception, mind reading)
    • moving or not moving in time:
      • prediction (foretelling the future)
      • extrasensory perception (unusual perception, other than mind)
    • functioning or not functioning according to one's nature:
      • animation (movement imparted to the inanimate)
      • anti-gravity (levitation and change in weight)
      • control (mind over the inanimate)
      • extrasensory perception (unusual perception, other than mind)
  • Relating
    • attracting or repelling:
      • attraction (mysterious adhesion)
      • thought transmission (thought projection and transference)
      • spectator failure (magician's challenge)
    • agreeing or disagreeing:
      • sympathetic reaction (sympathetic response)
    • union or disunion:
      • penetration (one solid through another)

S. H. Sharpe

In his 1932 book Neo Magic, S.H. Sharpe created a list he called his Analysis of Conjuring Feats.

S. H. Sharpe's occurence classification is:

  • Productions
  • Disappearances
  • Transformations
    • a totally different object
    • ...of color
    • ...of size
    • ...of shape
    • ...of design
    • ...of substance
    • ...of weight
    • ...of state
  • Transpositions
  • Natural Science Laws Defied
    • anti-gravity
    • magical animation
    • magical control
    • matter through matter
    • multi-position
    • restoration
    • invulnerability
    • rapid germination
  • Mental Phenomena
    • prediction
    • divination
    • clairvoyance
    • telepathy or though transference
    • hypnotism
    • memorization
    • lightning calculation


  • Dan Harlan's Pack Small Play Big video
  • Genii 1988 October
  • Blackstone Book of Magic & Illusion by Charles Reynolds
  • The Trick Brain by Dariel Fitzkee.
  • Winston Freer's occurence classification in The Linking Ring.
  • Robert Neale's list published in The Magic Mirror.
  • Neo Magic by S.H. Sharpe (1932)

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