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Juggling Music, or Music to Juggle to

I’d say that the number one criteria for any music I listen to is that I have to be able to juggle to it.  Juggling to music is fun, it feels more dramatic and matching the music is neat to watch.  You juggle in different ways to different types of music: what tricks do you use to match the feeling of slower classical music?  What patterns let you keep tempo with electronica/dance music?

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How to Pick Good Places to Practice Juggling

One of the reasons juggling is such a great hobby is that you can really do it anywhere.  I’ve juggled in public spaces, gymnasiums, boardwalks, beaches, and airport terminals; usually there’s nothing stopping you from doing it.  But just because you can do it anywhere, doesn’t mean that all spots are created equal; here are the things I consider when choosing a juggling spot.

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The New

The NEW and IMPROVED that is.  This will be the 5th revision of some kind of website.  The original (which I can’t seem to find an image of) was a pretty spartan white/red design, that I really only hosted funny pictures on.

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Live Juggling Practice

I’ve been broadcasting some of my juggling practice sessions live via Ustream lately.  I thought I may as well post the recorded videos here after I’m done.  I post the link to the live broadcast to twitter when I start, in case you want to see the real thing sometime.  There’s a few more videos of my practices up on that Ustream page as well.

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Why I Hate 5 Ball Juggling (And Why I Still Do It)

I’ve never been very interested in numbers juggling.  I respect the skill and practice required to juggle 5 or more balls, but it’s never been for me.  There’s an element to juggling beyond how many objects are aloft; something more artistic and difficult to quantify.  Much like a figure skater who is scored on both their technical skill and artistic display, juggling has a artistic element alongside the technical.

I love 3 ball juggling because of the immense library of complex patterns, the transitions between those patterns, and the spare time available for contact stalls/music beat matching; things which numbers juggling lacks.  These are the allowances for interpretation in juggling, the artistic element.  So to me, when I do numbers juggling, it feels rote.  Half the fun is gone.

So do I even bother with it?  Yes, I do.  I think of 5 ball juggling as more of a juggling exercise than a pastime in its own right; it’s great for improving your hand speed and consistency.  Also, it makes me appreciate 3 ball juggling again.  When I practice juggling, I’m always cycling between 3 and 5 ball, and my best 3 ball juggling always happens right after I’ve finished with 5.  The change makes you feel free, and more able to appreciate the beauty in what you’re doing.

Night Falls

Me juggling with my new silicone juggling balls.  It’s probalby the longest video I’ve done, and for that reason it’s not very heavily edited (it would have taken a long time to really sync it up).  There are some patterns I’ve never really recorded before in here, including burke’s barrage, mills mess, weave, and boston mess variations.  There are a few pretty fancy double throws in there as well.

New Equipment

I don’t go through juggling equipment very fast; every year or two I buy a new set of beanbags (usually from Dube or Todd Smith), and over time I just got used to that equipment and stopped trying different balls.  That was until today, when I received a set of silicone juggling balls as a very generous gift.

These things are unbelievable.  Just the little weight added on makes them perfect for my style of juggling because they allow me to move a little faster.  The grip is also a nice upgrade as well, despite the fact you need to clean them to maintain it (it’s worth it).

Of course the property silicone balls are known for is how consistently they bounce, which is something I’m looking forward to playing with more.  Bouncing probably won’t make it into my next video, but the new balls definitely will.

Bhangra Freestyle Juggling

This is an older video of me, doing a REMAKE of an EVEN OLDER video of me juggling!  The techniques are a little old, but things like the elbow bounce are pretty neat.  The song is probably my favorite part about this video.  This was the song I made my first juggling video to, so if that song weren’t around, I probably would never have taped myself.

Epiphanies and Consistency: Learning Juggling

I’m pretty good a juggling, because I’m awful at tennis.  The first time I ever juggled was during a summer tennis camp when I was 13.  As I remember it, the tennis instructor more or less gave up on me, and I spent most of the day at camp sitting on the bench waiting for the day to end so I could go back home.  While I was on the bench with nothing to do, I picked up a canister of tennis balls and started to play around with them, and accidentally figured out juggling.  I was just goofing around, and it clicked.

Juggling isn’t like most activities, where you slowly progress through hard work.  In fact, I find that the longer I brute force practice a routine, the worse I get at it.  Juggling is something that you learn in a sequence of epiphanies. You can work forever at something, and then it will just click, and you’ll get a feel for how to do it and have no trouble at all.  What I have discovered, is that those moments just don’t happen when you’re frustrated.  I get the best results if I work to the point where I’m about to get frustrated, then come back to it in a day or two.  More often than not, I’m better at whatever I was doing than when I left off.  I don’t understand why that is with juggling, but it’s been true for me since I started.

That being said, I think another big part of learning juggling is effort based, and that is achieving consistency in what you’re doing.  When I started to juggle, I picked up a bunch of the basics like columns, backcrosses, and tennis at the same time, and then spent a long time working on moving between the tricks without too much difficulty.  During college, during graduate school, and after graduation I had similar periods where I learn a ton of new techniques in a short amount of time, then nothing for a while.  The nature of juggling is that you can learn something new accidentally or without a lot of effort, but gaining consistency in it is where the effort is spent.  Learning to throw at the same height, learning to throw accurately behind your back, these are things that you have to nail down through practice and repetition, but they’re also things that you don’t really get frustrated with, because you can show gradual improvement.

I don’t know everyone else experiences juggling this way; but if you do, I think there’s value in understanding that driving yourself to frustration with a new trick isn’t necessarily the best way for everyone to learn juggling.  Learn something new casually, and keep it fun; and once it clicks, drop the hammer and practice it until it’s perfect enough that you’re bored with it, and repeat.