Lessons in ventriloquism
Basics and difficult letters
So you want to be a Ventriloquist. First thing you have to learn is to speak without moving your lips. you create the illusion your puppet is talking while you intently listen to him and carry on a conversation with he or she. youve probaby been a ventriloquist when you were angry at someone and gritted your teeth and said something under your breath. well we dont want you to be in angry mode to do your ventriloquism, but i want you happy and relaxed. to accomplish this you need to have your teeth barely touching and your lips almost closed. this creates a gap for the air to flow out that makes the sound audible. ok im going to give you a crutch to use while you practice. well i wont give it to you. you probably already have it in your home in the kitchen cabinet. a toothpick. yes your read it right a toothpick. ok go get your toothpick. ill wait. ok put it in your mouth and hold it. see you now have a gap and your teeth arent touching. now say the alphabet. oops there were some letters that were hard to say without moving your lips. You'll notice that the letters "b," "f," "m," "p," "q," "v," and "w" will make your lips move. To say these without moving your lips, you must use substitutions. For "b," say "d" or For "f," say "th." For "m," say "n,"For "p," say or "t." For "q," say "koo." For "v," say "th." And for "w," say "ooh". You may think the new words with the substituted letters sound ridiculous, but if you learn to put the stress on the syllables that don't contain these letters, the words will begin to sound natural. so PEANUT BUTTER becomes TEANUT DUTTER. The audience will hear peanut butter if you stress more on the NUT so the small letters is less loud as in teaNUT butTER. if you are carrying on a conversation with your puppet you would ask him or her "Do you like peanut butter? yes i like Teanut Dutter and jelly. so when the audience hears you say peanut butter as you would normally say it, when your puppet says Teanut Dutter the audience having just heard you say it will hear it as peanut butter. so they create the illusion that they heard it normally although you said Teanut Dutter. see what i mean. practice your vowels A, E, I, O and U without moving your lips . practice 2 words that begin with the same hard letters like BILLYS BOAT. becomes bilLYS boat. after that you can make a sentence biLYs bOAT is bLUE. notice that when you say blue it will be dLUE. you have to almost say the D then stress LUE. yoy blend them together as d..LUE. it woukd be do..LUE. no day lue or deh lue. so just subsitute the way the B in blue is normally pronounced just add the D. later on you can practice tongue twisters. when you first start out practicing dont overdo it. even when you become well seasoned at it. still dont overdo it.
Changing your voice
To create more of the illusion that you are speaking to someone else is to give your puppet a different voice. The basic voice to use starting out is called the Drone voice which is produced in the nasal area. Pretend you are a bee and make a buzzing sound increasing the pitch and volume concentrating the sound to come from the nose. Now while buzzing about start to say sentences in that buzzy voice . sounds different from your own voice. Right? Now try toning down the buzz while you speak to find that spot where it still sounds nasaly but not too much of a buzz then you've found your drone voice. Variances in pitches will give a different character voice. Now practice the drone in ventricular voice as in substuting the letters and not moving your lips. Another character voice is the raspy old man voice. You have to be careful doing this for very long cause you use your throat and speak in a lower voice. You have to muffle the sound coming out, but still be clear on what the character is saying. A video follows in this lesson with my old man puppet Wilson. This will give you an idea how I use the old man voice.
Giving life to your character
If you was talking to another person wouldn't you nod your head or shake your head yes or no or turn your head to them as they speak to you. Well same goes for your puppet. While you are talking he or she is looking at you nodding their head, jumping up and down if excited, moving their arms. Puppets can be adapted to move their arms by attaching arm rods. Some use 2 and some use only 1. It takes practice to use arm rods to animate the puppet, but for now keep your puppet moving, I'm not saying every second, but ever so often let people know they are still breathing. The number one rule never to break is at the start of your show, don't take your puppet out of the case or behind a table until its on your arm and already moving or speaking. Never! Ever put it on in view of the audience . keep the illusion through out the show. Its speaking and moving until you put it away.
So now you have your puppet and your voice. Now what. Time to put on a show, but before you do that you need to find out what your characters personality will be like. He or she should be the opposite of you. Jeff Dunham's Walter character is always mad about something, but is funny at the same time. He puts down his wife and so on. At first try developing a funny character by using jokes you can find in books or online. Don't tell the jokes as they are written, but build a script around the joke and tell a story that way. By asking your puppet questions you then can get some funny remarks. For example, at vacation Bible school I do the armor of God theme with my little boy puppet Kenny. I say those are nice shoes you are wearing.(shoes of peace) are they Michael Jordan's?
He says "no not Michaels. I wouldn't wear his stinky shoes!!"
This got a big laugh from the audience. You see Kenny thought I meant they were Michaels personal shoes and I was talking about the brand. So misunderstandings can make for great humor.
Brian Smedley and the gang
Ventriloquist lesson with old man Wilson
Who do you like the best
I'm ready to do my Ventriloquism
So now your ready to do your first show. My advice is to keep it about 10 mins and under until you gain experience. How much will I make? Your first time out should be free until you've developed more characters and routines. I always never charge benefits or churches. So maybe a church party or a birthday party is a great start until you develop your craft. Try out your Ventriloquism on friends and family, but always know they won't always tell you the truth if your bad. So doing a free show at the church or library puts you in front of strangers and will help you with any stage fright or nervous jitters. Just relax and breathe deeply in and out a few times before you go onstage and say to yourself " I know what I'm doing and I will get through this" or other affirmations to help you. Best of luck on this fantastic journey.