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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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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.

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.

The Tao of Juggling

These are some tips to keep in mind when learning how to juggle. Different people juggle in lots of different ways, but these ideas are general enough to apply to technical and artistic jugglers alike. A lot of what I mention has to do with impressing an audience, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from these if you aren’t a performer. Everyone juggles to impress, whether imressing others or simply yourself.

More is not better, better is better
I don’t support the mentality that once you can juggle 3 balls, move to 4, once you can juggle 4, move to 5. Watching someone juggle three balls skillfully is worlds more interesting than if they try to struggle through a 5 ball cascade. Skill is not limited to tricks either; a skilled juggler should be able to make whatever they do look easier or harder on command. It’s that kind of control that really impresses.

Focus on the throws, not the catches
This concept applies mainly to new jugglers, but everyone should be able to appreciate the idea behind it. Having quick reflexes and being able to catch any wildly thrown ball will only get you so far in juggling, but the ability to throw accuratly will allow you to accomplish anything. If the ball can be thrown so well that the catching hand doesn’t even have to move, then juggling will be that much easier and complex tricks will be possible. Read On »