Ventriloquism and how to do it!

Writing is my passion, my life – but while I continue the search to find the right publisher for ‘Tortoise Soup’ it is good to have other interests to pursue. Hobbies are important, and as far as I am concerned the more unusual hobby the better! That is why I have taken such an interest in ventriloquism – maybe after reading this blog you will decide that ventriloquism is the perfect hobby for you as well?

Ventriloquism is an ancient art, but it is surprisingly easy to master. If you follow the tips below then you too can learn all of the basic skills that you need to make a start as a ventriloquist. I myself have only been ‘venting’ for a few months but already I have reached the final of the Yorkshire Best New Act 2012 competition: I will be performing live on stage at Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre this Thursday (13th September) at 8pm. If you are in the area then please come along and give me your support – I need all the help that I can get!

The first thing for a budding ventriloquist to do is to purchase their ‘dummy’. Buy one that you love and cherish, that fits your personality. There is a wide variety of vent dummies available online, I myself have a tortoise puppet (of course) that I call ‘Sheldon’. Here is a picture of us on our visit to the London 2012 Olympics last month.

Once you have your dummy practise in front of a mirror every night, try to ensure that your dummies mouth moves in a co-ordinated fashion with the words that they are saying. Just ten minutes of practise a night should soon have you at a level where you can impress friends and family.

Now we come to the art itself: speaking without moving your lips. This is surprisingly easy – there are only six letters that require any movement of the lips at all. That’s right – only six. Say your alphabet in the mirror now and try to keep your lips apart, relaxed and unmoving. What letters did you have difficulty with? W, F, V, B, M and P. These are the only problematic letters. ‘W’ can be circumvented by saying ‘oo’ in front of the word – ie, instead of ‘water’ say ‘oo-ater’ and instead of ‘wedding’ say ‘oo-edding’. Easy peasy. When saying the letter ‘F’ simply say a soft ‘Th’ as in ‘think’, and when saying ‘V’ use a hard ‘Th’ as in ‘then’. These ‘th’ sounds can easily be said without lip movement and are indistinguishable from ‘F’ and ‘V’ when used in a sentence.

So now we see that in reality there are only three difficult letters: B, M and P. Did I say difficult? I actually meant impossible. Even the best ventriloquist in the world could not say these letters without moving their lips – it is physically impossible. So what do we do? Well, we substitute different letters with similar sounds. For ‘B’ we use ‘D’ (ie ‘dottle’ for bottle – not ‘gottle’ as is commonly thought), for ‘M’ we use ‘N’ (so ‘nask’ instead of ‘mask) and for ‘P’ we use ‘T’ (so ‘terfect’ is ‘perfect’). When saying this ‘substitute’ sounds place your tongue against the back of your upper teeth and this will help to create the effect that you are saying the impossible letters. This does take a bit of practise, but after a while substituting will become second nature. Of course, you can help yourself by using words that don’t contain these troublesome letters: for example instead of saying ‘Bring me a pint of milk’ have your dummy say ‘fetch me a glass of water’.

Now that you can speak without moving your lips how do you throw your voice? You don’t – again it is an illusion created by a skilful ventriloquist. To create a ‘distant’ voice speak softer and for a ‘near’ voice speak louder. It really is that easy.

So there you are – thanks to Tortoise Soup you now know all the basics that you need to begin your life as a ventriloquist. It is such a fulfilling  hobby – you get a real sense of satisfaction as you see and hear yourself improving day after day. I hope to use my puppet when I am doing talks and book signings for ‘Tortoise Soup’, my fantastic upcoming children’s novel, so in this way I will get to combine my career and my hobby! Give it a go, it’s lots of fun – please comment below and let me know how you get on. And don’t forget that Sheldon and I will be doing a brief routine at Huddersfield’s Comedy Cellar night this Thursday from 8 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre! Come along and say ‘Hi’!

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