While some jugglers focus primarily on numbers juggling (juggling as many objects at once as possible) and stick to the standard patterns (the cascade for odd numbers and the fountain for even numbers), far more jugglers are interested in learning many different tricks and patterns. In this document, we offer help for those wanting to add more tricks to their juggling. Of course it would be impossible to list every juggling trick and we're not trying to do that. We do hope to offer you some tricks that are new to you, or give you some ideas to help you create your own original tricks.
First, we offer help choosing tricks to try. After that is a little advice on learning how to do new tricks.
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Finding Tricks To Try
The majority of popular juggling tricks are just variations of a handful of juggling pattern elements. Many tricks involve changing just one aspect, like throwing the props from a different position, such as behind the back.
Some Elements Of Juggling Patterns:
There are of course tricks that are not easily categorized as variations of the above elements, so we also offer a few miscelaneous tricks.
Many of the most fun and impressive tricks are the result of combining variations of multiple pattern elements, and there are an endless assortment of combination tricks waiting to be discovered. As you practice your favorite tricks, think about how you might combine them with variations in other elements of the pattern. For example, if you like the 4 ring half shower, consider making some of the high throws overhead on the plane parallel to your chest. Obviously we could never list all the possibilities, but here are a few of our favorite combinations.
Of course juggling with "dangerous" props like knives and torches will win you some points with an audience, but there's a lot of variety available in "safe" props too. Whether you use balls, rings, clubs or some unconventional props, don't forget that a trick done with one type of prop can be entirely different with another. Take a simple three ball cascade and do it with 18 inch diameter play balls and you'll have a pattern that doesn't look or feel like any 3 ball juggling you've done before. At any juggling festival, you'll see people doing backcrosses with clubs, but seldom with rings, and you don't often see patterns like Mills Mess done with anything but balls, yet they can be done. Juggling with a mix of props (like one ring, one club and one ball) can also open up lots of possibilities.
Pattern Height and Tempo
Audiences of non-jugglers seem to like high and fast juggling, and they often ask jugglers to juggle higher and faster at the same time. Of course juggling higher means the props will be in the air longer with each throw, slowing down the pattern, so they can't have it both ways. Still, such audiences always seem to be impressed with high throws. So much so that a single 30-foot high throw with a club can get a better response than complicated, truly difficult patterns. There's a lot to be said for low patterns too, however. For example, Mills Mess done with throws well above head height doesn't look nearly as fluid and hypnotic and it does when it's juggled very low and fast. Practicing high throws will help you develop better throw accuracy and practicing juggling very low will build up your speed, making the same pattern at a moderate height feel easier. The bottom line: simply juggling extra high or extra low can be effective tricks to perform and useful to practice.
Throw Heights and Sequences (Siteswaps)
Many juggling patterns consist of throws of varying heights and siteswap notation is a method of describing such patterns. A siteswap is just a series of numbers, each representing one throw in a pattern and your hands take turns throwing. The basic idea is that a number is used to describe each throw and the higher the number, the higher the throw. See the JIS for a full explanation of siteswap notation. If you're not already familiar with siteswaps, it will open your eyes to a world of juggling possibilities.
Don't forget that the siteswap being used is only one aspect of a juggling pattern. Chops, backcrosses and the Boston Mess all have the same siteswap as a cascade (3), serving as reminder that there's a wide range of possibilities for variation with any siteswap. Also remember that any siteswap can be done as a repeating pattern or just once as a trick, though some siteswaps require "transition throws" to enable you to get in or out of them from cascades and fountains. Many patterns (those not requiring transition throws) can also be modified by adding one or more N throws where N is the number of props.
Some Favorite Siteswaps
- 3 --- The 3 prop cascade
- 4 --- The 4 prop fountain
- 5 --- The 5 prop cascade
- 4 4 1 --- An easy and popular pattern for 3 props
- 5 3 1 --- Another fun 3 prop pattern; Keeping the 3s low is the key
- 4 2 3 --- Cycles of 2 in one hand, then the other
- 5 3 4 --- A rather tricky 4 prop pattern
- 5 5 2 --- A crossing 4 prop pattern
- 5 5 5 1 --- A crossing 4 prop pattern with a handoff
- 5 1 --- The 3 prop shower
- 7 1 --- The 4 prop shower
- 9 1 --- The 5 prop shower
- 5 3 --- The 4 prop half shower
- 7 5 --- A 6 prop half shower
- 6 0 --- 3 in one hand
- 5 5 5 0 0 --- 3-up flash
- 5 0 5 0 5 0 --- The chase (a 5 prop cascade with 2 gaps)
- 7 1 3 1 --- A high-low alternating 3 prop shower
- 5 2 5 1 2 --- One prop is never thrown, only handed off
Some Less Common But Interesting Siteswaps
- 4 5 6 0 1 2 3 --- 3 props gather over one hand, then the other
- 4 5 1 2 3 --- A pretty, fairly easy 3 prop patter
- 5 3 5 0 5 3 0 3 --- Silly, but fun- a 4 prop half shower with a gap
- 6 6 6 6 1 --- A 5 ball trick similar to the 4 4 1 and 5 5 5 1
- 7 1 6 2 --- Bits of 3 in one hand and a 4 prop shower
- 9 1 5 1 --- A high-low 4 ball shower
Many patterns include throwing 2 or more props from one hand at once. Multiplexed props can be thrown to split, or stay close together in flight to be caught together in one hand. One type of siteswap notation shows multiplexed throws in parens, like (4 3), which indicates throwing a 4 and 3 together. In theory, any two or more siteswaps can be overlapped, resulting in juggling both patterns concurrently. In practice, most multiplexes are the result of overlapping a fairly simple pattern with a trivially simple one. For instance, a popular split multiplex with 5 balls is with (3 2), the result of overlapping a 3 ball cascade with a 2 ball fountain (in this case, the 2s are actually thrown, not held.) Another example is (3,3) 3 3, 4 balls being juggled in a 3 ball cascade (2 balls staying paired the whole time.) Multiplexing is often overlooked, and there are endless undiscovered multiplex combinations. Whether run continually or used a single tricks, they can add a lot of variety to your juggling.
One multiplex that we should mention is the 3-up start: Throw 3 props from one hand at once to begin juggling. With clubs, hold the clubs together with both hands, two paired side to side and one below sticking out a few inches. Throw them together, releasing them with a low snap so two do doubles and one does a triple.
In case you're looking for more siteswaps to try, here are
The Siteswaps With Up To Four Digits:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 31 51 71 91 20 42 62 82 53 73 93 40 64 84 75 95 60 86 97 80 411 711 201 312 612 912 441 714 501 531 615 915 741 771 801 831 861 918 420 720 522 822 423 723 552 825 642 726 852 882 942 972 300 330 630 930 633 933 534 834 603 663 936 753 837 903 963 993 744 504 645 945 774 804 864 948 750 855 756 885 975 600 660 960 966 867 906 996 807 978 900 990 5111 9111 2011 4112 8112 5511 9115 6011 6411 8116 9511 9911 5120 9120 3122 7122 5124 9124 6312 7126 8512 9128 3001 4130 8130 7131 4013 4413 8134 5313 7135 8013 8413 8813 9313 9713 9151 5201 5241 8152 5551 9155 6015 6415 8156 9515 9915 6051 9160 6231 7162 6451 9164 6631 7166 8516 9168 7001 7041 8170 7401 7441 8174 7531 7571 8017 8417 8817 9317 9717 9201 9241 9281 9551 9591 9601 9641 9681 9951 9991 4202 8202 5520 9205 6020 6420 8206 9520 9920 6222 5223 9223 6622 7522 9227 3302 4233 8233 6235 7023 7423 8237 9623 8242 5524 9245 6024 6424 8246 9524 9924 6352 9263 6662 7526 9267 7302 7342 8273 7562 7702 7742 8277 9627 8552 9285 8602 8642 8682 9528 9928 5300 9300 5304 9304 6330 7306 8530 9308 7333 6334 7733 8633 5340 9340 5344 9344 7346 8534 9348 9353 6635 7535 9357 7063 7463 7773 8637 8053 9380 8453 9384 8673 8853 9388 9663 9753 9793 4000 4400 8400 4440 8404 7405 8040 8440 8840 9740 8444 7445 8044 8844 9744 6455 7045 8457 9645 6460 7746 8646 8004 8480 8574 8804 8884 9748 9564 9704 9784 9964 9555 6055 8556 9955 9560 7566 9568 7005 8570 8057 8857 9757 9605 9685 9995 8606 9960 9667 7706 8677 9968 9700 9708 9780 9788 8000 8800 8880
Throw and Catch Positions
One of the simplest variations is to throw and catch with the hand held further to the outside of the pattern than usual. For throws, that means throwing the prop over the path of an incoming prop in stead of under. Depending on how often you throw from the outside, that gives you some common patterns:
One prop is always thrown from the outside while the rest are thrown normally. With 3 balls, that means you throw from the outside on every third throw.
- Reverse cascade
With an odd number of props, make every throw from the outside and the catches toward the inside of the pattern. You can make the throws nearly vertical and have the horizontal movement occur in your hands, which looks especially good if you make the pattern as wide as possible.
- Half-reverse cascade or half-shower
One hand always throws from the outside while the other always throws from the inside. If the throws are of the same height, it's considered a half-reverse cascade. If one hand throws significantly heigher than other, it's a half-shower.
Just as crossing throws can be thrown from the inside or outside of a juggling pattern, non-crossing throws can be made to circle inward, outward, or go straight up, resulting in "columns" (where each prop has its own vertical lane of travel.)
- Over the head
Hold your hand high over your head. Doing this with one hand while the othre remains low is often called the "Statue of Liberty." Doing so with both hands is called overhead juggling.
One hand is held fairly high and the other very low. The high hand actually throws downward.
Make throws away from or toward your. An example is to juggle with one hand held close to the center of your chest and the other out in front of that point.
Many of the most common tricks involve reaching around part of ones body to throw a prop. Less common but also a lot of fun is to reach around part of ones body to make a catch. You can do consecutive throws and catches (exchanges) in these positions. Also, handoffs (a 1 in any siteswap) can be fun to do around-the-body. Around-the-body moves can be faked for a comedy effect, moving a prop around the body, but bringing it back before the next throw or catch. Some of the common around-the-body positions include:
- Under the leg
Either hand can reach under either side of either leg (except maybe for a hand reaching under the far side of the opposite leg, but some props can still be thrown that way.) Usually the leg is lifted quite high to make it easier, but it can also be done with the feet planted on the floor. A front-to-back under-leg throw with the feet on the floor is called an Albert, and a back-to-front under-leg throw with feet on the floor is a Trebla.
- Behind the back
Either hand can reach behind the back for a throw, catch, handoff or exchange. Throws behind the back, especially with clubs, are often called backcrosses. A prop can be thrown over the shoulder, usually throwing and catching with the hand of the same side of the body, making either the catch or the throw from behind the back. Behind-the-back moves can also be done under the arm, like throwing a prop from your right hand behind your back so it passes under your left arm.
- Under/over the arm
One arm reaches under or over the other to throw, catch or exchange. As arm A reaches under arm B, arm B can be brought down over A with an exaggerated hacking motion, creating "chops", which is often done continually with 3 clubs. Juggling with one arm continually under (crossed arm juggling) is a popular trick. If one hand continually does under-the-arm throws while the other does continual over-the-arm catches, you have a "false shower." Mills Mess is a very popular pattern essentially amounting to a false shower that reverses directions every 3 throws. See the JIS for details. Juggling columns (each prop has it's own vertical lane) while the arms continually cross and recross is called Mills Columns, or the Boston Mess.
Catch or throw overhand. Overhand catching is often called "clawing."
The way a prop is gripped can be varied to create tricks. Some of the possibilities include:
- Bottle-neck (clubs)
Grip a vertical club (body pointing downward) by the handle with your hand in hand-shake position. A club can be thrown underhand from this position or brought back over the shoulder and thrown as a head-first "spear", which is more often a pass than a solo trick.
- "Wrong" end (clubs)
Grip a club by the body in stead of the handle. A lot of tricks become much more challenging from this grip, and it can look very comic.
- Reach-through (rings)
Reach forward and grab the far side of the ring rather than the near side. As you bring the ring down before the next throw, twist it in your hand to flip it 180 degrees, changing the side the audience sees (a color change, if you have 2-colored rings.)
Prop Flips or Spins
You can vary several apsects of the flight of clubs, rings and similar props. They include:
You can do single flips, doubles, triples, etc. Partial flips (creating "wrong-end" catches) can be an element of tricks as well. No flip at all (floaters, fish, spears, etc) is another option. Rings can be thrown like clubs ("pancakes") or with the normal spin, on their own plane. They can have a variable amount of spin, but it won't show unless your rings have some high-contrast decorations.
The flip or spin of a prop can be done in the opposite direction for a change of pace.
Props can flip or spin in a plane parallel to your chest (the "wall plane"), a vertical plane perpendicular to that, on a horizontal plane, or some slanted plane. Varying this aspect of a pattern can greatly change a viewers perception of the pattern, especially with rings.
Some tricks are done while a prop is held or resting on some part of the body. A "set and get" is a trick in which a prop is simply placed on some surface (body part or other surface) and the picked back up at the time it would otherwise be caught. Also note that while one prop is held in some way, tricks can be performed with the others. Some examples of tricks using held or placed props include:
- Head bop
A prop or props is brought up quickly to whack ones own head.
- Head roll-off
A prop is placed on the head and allowed to roll off immediately. One popular version with clubs is to place the club nearly-balanced on ones chin or nose, so that it tips over and falls off.
Two props are whacked together. Hey, we never claimed to offer only exciting tricks.
One hand does columns with 2 props (this is usually done with balls) while the other hand holds another and moves it up and down just above one of them. A comedy variation is the Oy-Oy in which the held ball is kept just under the juggled ball in stead.
An oldy but... an oldy. Include an apple or other food item in your pattern and bring it up to your mouth for a bite now and then.
- Prop trap
One prop is caught and/or thrown between two others. A good example is to hold two stage balls and grip a third between them. Cigar-box tricks can then be included. Another example is to catch a club such that it hangs by the knob between two others.
- Body hold
A prop is placed and held between the legs, under the arm or chin, or anywhere else you can.
- Ring pull-down
A ring-only body hold is to place a ring around your neck. Pulling all the rings down in rapid succession makes a great finish.
A held prop is swung for a lap or more around an airborne prop. Rubensteins Revenge consists of chopping every third throw and orbitting the chopped balls for a lap and a half, starting with downward and inward motion, then passing under the ball and outward, etc.
A club can be twirled like a baton or spun on the palm. Rings can be swung around on the finger or wrist.
- Palm spin
Holding a club at the center of gravity, give it a horizontal twist so it spins once or more on your up-turned palm.
Other tricks involve catching, bumping or launching a prop using a part of your body other than the front of your hands. Some examples include:
A prop is caught or thrown from the back of the hand, or just whacked with it.
A prop is caught and thrown or tapped with the elbow.
- Head Bounce
A prop is thrown up to the head and allowed to bounce off.
- Neck catch and throw
A prop (beanbag or ball, usually) is caught on the back of the neck while taking a bow. With a snap of the neck it can be thrown back up. The neck catch is a very flashy and popular finish and is surprizingly easy to do with any number of balls you can consistantly perform.
A dropped prop (intentionally or not, either before or after it hits the ground) can be kicked back into the pattern.
A prop can be placed or caught on the knee, and popped back up into the pattern from there.
Some tricks don't involve the props at all. Some of these, like the pirouette (spinning 360 degrees) are used as a demonstration of speed. Often they are done under a high throw, or even under a "flash", a series of fast, high throws so that all the props are airborne when the body move is performed, sometimes repeatedly under one flash or high throw. Partial pirouettes (180 or 520 degrees, etc) are great ways to turn quickly while juggling. Other independent tricks are a matter of performing non-juggling skills while you juggle. Some examples are riding a bike or unicycle, skating, ball spinning, or balancing another prop.
Balls (and in some cases, other props) can be bounced off the floor, wall or ceiling effectively. These moves can of course be combined with other elements of juggling patterns to create a wide variety of tricks. The basic types of bounces include:
- Lift bounce
Throw balls upward and toward the other hand and allow them to bounce before catching them. This gives them the equivalent "air time" of very high throws.
- Force bounce
Throw downward. It's much faster than lift bouncing.
- Wall bouncing
Bounce balls off a wall. Good practice for beginning ball passers.
- Ceiling bounce
Bounce balls off the ceiling. They come down moving faster than they went up.
Here are some that didn't seem to fit in any of the regular categories:
Juggle with your eyes closed or covered.
Intentionally cause two or more props to collide in mid air in such a way that you can recover.
Use another prop as an extension of or substitute for your hand and catch and throw with it. An example is using a cup or a book to catch and throw balls. Another is the "kangaroo" in which you bounce a ball off your shirt, stretched in front of you. Props can also be balanced on held props, including stacking several props in a complicated balance for a start. For rings, catch one fast spinning ring on another held horizontally. The first ring will continue spinning for several seconds, and it can be thrown back up from that position or allowed to spin to a stop for a finish.
Do a three ball cascade while rocking your arms back and forth together, wrists up and elbows out to the sides. Exaggerate the swaying motion, and release a ball with the inside arm each time your hands peak. It's an easy trick with a comic posture.
Some Combination Moves
It would of course be impossible to list all the possible variations of the elements of juggling patterns. We'll list a few that we feel are worthy of note, however.
- Multiplex body throws
Multiplex 2 or more props behind the back, under the leg, etc.
- Multiplex kick-ups
Stack several props on one foot and kick them up together to start a pattern.
- The Loop
While juggling 3 balls, one is always thrown under-the-arm by one hand and thrown from the outside ("over the top") with the other, so it loops around the rest of the pattern.
- 4-to-3 foot catch, 3-to-4 kick up
Juggle 4 balls and let one drop to a foot catch while continuing to juggle the other 3. Then the easy part: kick it back into a 4 ball pattern.
Throw two balls over the shoulders simultaneously so they follow the paths of an imaginary set of suspenders. This can be done front to back or back to front. It would be a great trick done continually with 4 balls.
Juggle tennis with rings, doing the outside throws with the rings nearly level like a frisbee.
- Ball Through Ring
Juggle 3 props including a ball and a ring. Do 2 simultaneous crossing throws, like [4x,4x] so the ball passes through the ring.
- Claw Multiplex Under-the-arm
Use a swooping, clawing motion to gather a second ball, then continue the swooping motion to multiplex under the other arm.
- 4 4 1 with back-handoff
Do the 4 4 1 siteswap as a trick or continually with any 3 props and do the 1 behind your back.
- Backcrossed 5 3 1
Do a 5 3 1 siteswap as a trick from a cascade with clubs, doing a triple on the 5 and a single on the 3. Do any one, or better yet, all three moves behind your back.
Cycle between a 4-with-a-gap pattern and the 441.
- Body throw bounces
Allow a body-throw to bounce, or encorporate the around-the-body move with the ball as it bounces, like passing your leg over it.
- Siteswap bounces
Try patterns like the 531 with lift bounces on the 5s (throw them the height of 3s and figure the bounce will add about 2 beats.) Other fun bounced siteswaps include: 7131 with bounced 7s.
- Bounce pirouettes
Letting one or more balls bounce gives you a lot of time for half, full or multiple pirouettes.
- 2-up, 1-down bounce
Each beat, throw a ball from each hand (in synch) slightly to the right. The right hand catches the left hand throw and the left hand reaches over to catch the ball thrown the time before by the right hand, which has since bounced.
- 3-down (floor flash)
Lift bounce 2 balls and as they fall, force bounce the other so all 3 hit the floor at once.
- Pirouette neck-catch
Throw a ball high, pirouette and end by neck-catching it.
- Body throw/body catch
Do a body throw and catch the same prop with a body-catch. In particular, try an underleg double with clubs, catching it with the same hand behind the back.
- Three-up and knee-up
Do a 3 ball multiplex, possibly behind the back or under the leg. Catch 2 of the balls and let the third fall further, then knee or kick it gently into the pattern.
- Mixing numbers
While juggling N objects, you can switch to patterns using fewer by holding the others in your hand or elswhere on your body and switch back. For example, drop from a 5 ball cascade into 3 ball chops with an extra ball in each hand, then quickly pop back up to the 5 ball pattern, then switch to 3 in one hand while the other hand holds 2. Or while running a fountain with 4 props, place on into a chin (or other) balance and continue to juggle the others. Later let it drop back into the pattern. With a loose-filled beangbag, you can throw one to a catch on top of your head and juggle the other 3 props.
- Diagonal back drop
With 3 clubs, reach one over your shoulder and hang it behind your back while your briefly juggle 2 clubs in the other hand. Throw both clubs as doubles toward the first hand and drop the first club behind your back. Reach the other hand behind your back to catch it.
Some Advice On Learning Tricks
Once you've decided you want to learn a particular trick, there are a number of things to consider that may help you master it more quickly:
The Coulee Region Jugglers and Unicyclists (email@example.com) 5/02
- Watch someone who can already do it.
Seeing the trick performed can help a lot. In the case of siteswaps, watching a computer simulation can be very helpful too. See the JIS for some siteswap simulators.
- Mime it. Try the trick in slow motion with imaginary props. When you juggle, your hands are going through the motions mostly subconsciously. Mastering a trick is a matter of getting familiar enough with the proper moves so that your body can do them without much thought. One way to help this process is to do the moves slowly (more slowly than you can with props in the air) and then gradually getting faster until you're up to the speed you need to actually perform the trick. We've found this to be especially true of siteswaps and combination tricks.
- Break it down.
Most tricks are best learned one piece at a time. Even simple tricks, like an under-leg throw, can be broken down and practiced in steps. In that example, first practice the throw with only one prop. When that is working consistantly, try juggling and ending on that trick to get the hang of moving from your standard pattern to the trick. Then try starting the pattern with the trick so you can concentrate on recovering the pattern after the leg throw.