Ventriloquism for Beginners/Dummies: Learn How to Be a Good Ventriloquist
Ventriloquism is a performance art where the ventriloquist (sometimes called a puppeteer) projects his or her voice to an object to make it sound as if the object is speaking and not the performer. A ventriloquist does this by learning to manipulate the sounds of their speech and by learning to speak without moving their lips.
Ventriloquism is a mind trick, first and foremost. The ventriloquist uses a prop in the form of a dummy, using their hand to maneuver the mouth of the dummy. Doing this tricks the viewer into believing that the sound came from the dummy's mouth, when really it comes from the ventriloquist.
Learning to Talk Without Moving Your Lips
The first thing a budding ventriloquist needs to learn is how to speak without moving his or her lips. It sounds hard, and it really is. The vowel sounds are the easy part, so let's try that first:
- Close your mouth.
- Relax your jaw.
- Now only very slightly part your lips, rest your bottom lip against your teeth just a bit, to keep it steady
- Say the vowels: a e i o and u
- Say them slow, fast, then add accents of all kinds - you can do it, even a three year old can!
The rest comes with practice, and it's almost like learning to speak all over again. Just remember, relax your jaw, only very slightly part your lips, and the rest will come.
How to throw your voice
Choosing your "voice"
A carpenter has a hammer and nails, a painter has canvas and brushes, and a ventriloquist has the ability to throw his or her voice and... a dummy!
Choosing your dummy is like choosing your style of clothing or your haircut, as a ventriloquist it becomes a part of who you are. Since the object is to use the dummy to divert the attention of your audience away from the odd shape your mouth makes when you throw your voice, it's best to use a dummy which is eye catching.
The best way to figure out what kind of dummy to use first is to take a look at yourself and your interests. For instance, if you're a person with a bright and energetic personality who is always on the go, consider using an old man or woman dummy for your first. This will help you to get over that "first show" hurdle of getting people to pay attention to your dummy by creating a wide gap between yourself and it.
There are many resources for acquiring a ventriloquist's dummy, beyond the hard task of making your own (called puppetmaking.)
Here are just a few:
Beyond being a form of illusion, ventriloquism gives a person the chance to become something else for a little while. You have the unique opportunity to use your whole personality with just a few words thrown into a variety of dummies. So aside from learning how to make funny voices, how to project your voice and how to appeal to your audience visually as well as verbally, it is important to have entertaining material. The backbone of your act is not the words you say - but rather how you say them!
One last tip for the beginner ventriloquist: Write up some comedic material, and practice it! Don't be afraid of anything - if anything goes wrong, blame it on the dummy.