There you are, juggling
three balls expertly, practicing your moves, and some bystander says it: Now do four
. There is so much more to juggling than the number of balls in flight, but someone will always judge it on the basis of numbers
Four balls is also a barrier between the casual juggler and the dedicated fan. Most people can work out the basics of the three ball cascade in an afternoon, but even the simplest four-ball juggling requires an investment of some time and effort. So do some three-ball patterns like Mills mess, but your bystander won't know that. Anyhow, if you want to juggle four balls, here are my suggestions on how to get there.
Learn to juggle three balls. Not only should you be really solid on the basic three ball cascade, but also you should learn some of the other three ball patterns. This is done for the following reasons:
- Juggling is fun. The weaving and interplay of complex patterns will help you appreciate that there's a lot more to juggling than the number of balls that are in the air.
- In learning the easier juggling patterns, you will learn how to learn a new juggling pattern.
- Some of the techniques learned are similar enough to help. Try particularly two in one hand, columns and one-up two-up.
Four-ball juggling has lots of patterns, tricks and variations, but just as you can claim to be a three-ball juggler if you can do a passable three ball cascade, the entry point to the realm of four-ball juggling is pattern called the four ball asynchronous fountain.
There's nothing to the four-ball asynchronous fountain. Compare to Mills Mess - for the mess, you follow a complex drill, learning the movements of hands and balls over and over, further and further until it all joins up and you can start to commit it to rote body memory and finally it becomes just like riding a bicycle.
However the four ball fountain is simplicity itself: it is two in one hand in the right hand, and two in one hand in the left hand. The balls do not change hands. When you get good enough to worry about style, the balls should all come down towards the centre, so that this is not as obvious as it would otherwise be.
The asynchronous variation, where that the hands do not throw at the same time, is much easier. You should be aiming for a fast and even left-right-left-right pattern of throws, and the balls should go up a bit higher than with your three-ball cascade. The siteswap notation for it is 4444, meaning that all the throws are the same.
Simple. There's not a lot to describe, but there's a lot of practice to do. Get ready to drop a lot of balls.
Start by practicing two in one hand, also with the columns throwing style. Do this with your best hand (if you are right handed, then that's your right hand, if not then it may not be), and importantly become good with the other hand too. Unlike with the three-ball patterns, the weak hand doesn't get time off, so any sloppiness here will hinder you. 1
www.juggling.org recommends practicing the 3-ball pattern of columns where one hand does two in one hand and the other hand throws a single ball up and down in sync with one of the other balls. According to some, this is a variety of one-up two-up. It is also is a four ball synch fountain with one ball missing. Once you can do that, do the variations. The extra ball, i.e. the one out of sync, can drift around the pattern, on the inside or outside column of your good hand. Throw it over the top or through the middle, into your weaker hand and back again.
After that there's not much else to do but find a good place to practice2 and try the four-ball fountain until it starts to work. If you feel you are not making progress, leave it for an hour or a day. When you come back, your unconscious mind may have had time to catch up.
I found the four ball synch fountain easier to start, but it's a devil to keep up. It all changed when, the balls got out of sync, and fell into a different pattern, an even alternating sequence, and I found the rhythm of the asynchronous fountain. Suddenly it worked. Sure I am still dropping a ball once every
five six seven ten throws on average, but that is improving over time. The rhythm, the foundation is there.
I don't know yet. You could try throwing in sync. You could try shifting into the columns
throwing style. Four ball async columns looks really cool, a bit like a four-piston engine, and it's easy to get to from the fountain.
1)The sloppiness of my left hand is in fact the usual downfall of my four-ball fountains. I will have to spend some time practicing left-handed two in one hand on it's own until it comes close to the flexibility and precision of my right hand.
2) The canonical good place is over a bed - nice soft place for the balls to land, at waist height so you don't have to bend over to pick them up again and again. Next to a wall so the balls can't drift too far. A couch would be almost as good. An example bad place is over a wooden floor, in a second story flat, late at night, with keen-eared downstairs neighbours.