After you've been juggling three balls for a while, you'll inevitably encounter someone who asks the dreaded question: "Can you do 4?". The answer to this is, yes, of course you can. Learning the basic 4 ball pattern is about twice as hard as learning the three ball cascade, but it is still quite possible.

Unfortunately for you, after learning the basic four ball pattern, you'll discover that

  1. That person is still there, they give you no extra respect, and their question has simply changed to "Can you do five?"
  2. It is unclear where to go next.
The remainder of this writeup will address only point number 2, because if your self esteem depends on getting admiration from snarky jerks like that guy in point 1, you have other problems.

With three balls, there are several paths you can follow, but most accomplished three ball jugglers end up learning Mills Mess, Burke's Barrage, Rubenstein's Revenge, the three ball shower, false shower, eating the apple, two in one hand, chops, claws, reverse cascade, and many others. These tricks are pretty well known, and the teaching thereof is pretty well mapped out. Add an extra ball in there, and the whole situation becomes more murky.

With four balls, there are a few basics that you should learn - they'll improve your juggling as well as look good - these include the four ball synchronous fountain, four ball columns (both synchronous and asynchronous), and the four ball reverse fountain. But once you have these down, and they all occur pretty naturally in the course of learning four, you might hit a brick wall. What next? Well, you could learn to juggle five balls, but that's really, really hard. Don't do it for the admiration of others - the time investment is just not worth it. If you want to stick with four, however, I suggest checking out any of the following tricks:*

Crossing patterns
All of the 4 ball patterns previously talked about didn't have the balls crossing. Try throwing synchronous crossing throws. Make every other throw a synchronous crossing throw. When done well, the latter is called the umbrella and it looks particularly nice.
534, 53, 633, 5551, etc...
Once you hit 4 balls, siteswap notation becomes a lot more interesting, and many siteswaps actually become interesting to look at, which is more of a rarity than many technical jugglers wish it were.
multiplexing
Now, when you collect more than one ball in your hands, the juggling doesn't have to stop. This can be used to your advantage to create patterns that are both fun to juggle and tricky to the eye.
switching to three from four and vice versa
You can start juggling four, and then retain one of the balls in on of your hands and begin juggling three. From this pattern, you can then go back to four. Done properly, it looks like balls are just appearing and disappearing from your pattern. Try juggling three with the fourth one on top of your head, then nodding your head and going into four!
four ball Mills Mess
This is something of a holy grail to many four ball jugglers. Unfortunately, it is also freaking hard. It's also one of those tricks that is nigh impossible to describe, so it is quite difficult to find someone who can teach you. I recommend juggling a reverse fountain, and then throwing one of the the balls under the opposite arm, and then going in instinct. As a technique, it works far better than it should.
four ball shower
Yet another one in the very very difficult camp. It works just like it sounds. You "simply" do a three ball shower, but with one more ball.
Once you can do all these tricks, why not try learning some stalls or some body moves. Try doing pirouettes! Try applying these new techniques to three balls! Change your style into a quick little tight pattern or a crazy swooping one! Change back! Jump, change, and it's on! And always remember why you are doing it. As a method of impressing girls, juggling pretty much fails utterly, so hopefully you are doing it because you like it, not for some external carrot or stick.

Juggle on!


* - If any tricks that you would like to learn have not yet been noded, I recommend you go out and purchase a copy of Charlie Dancey's Encyclopaedia of Ball Juggling. As a matter of fact, you should probably purchase a copy of it anyway.

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