Ventriloquism is the art of seemingly bringing an inanimate object to life. The first step to becoming a good ventriloquist is to choose a doll that fits well with the type you want to develop. You should also learn to speak 'pinched', use a different accent or tone, and talk without moving your lips. Another aspect of ventriloquism is bringing your doll to life, so practice moving the doll's mouth and body in sync with what he (or she) is saying. Come up with an act and a dialogue between yourself and the doll – including good jokes. Keep practicing and have fun!
Method 1 of 4: An education in ventriloquism
Step 1. Look closely at other ventriloquists
Watch videos or go to another ventriloquist's show. You could pick up some tips and learn the dos and don'ts. Jeff Dunham, Ronn Lucas, Jay Johnson, or Terry Fator, for example, are excellent ventriloquists from whom you can learn a lot.
Step 2. Take ventriloquism lessons
If you really want to become a ventriloquist, it's a good idea to take a few lessons. You will then learn more about the different types of dolls and also how to make them move in a realistic way. These lessons also focus on voice technique and can help you learn to speak like a pro without moving your lips! Look on the internet for ventriloquism lessons in your area.
Step 3. Study the performing arts
Ventriloquists are performing artists, so it makes sense that you would look into the performing arts. Take theatre, improv, music or acting lessons to hone your stage animal skills. You could also take voice lessons. Comedy lessons, or comedy writing lessons, could also come in very handy when putting together a funny act. Search the internet for classes near you.
Method 2 of 4: Choose your doll and bring it to life
Step 1. Decide what kind of partner you would like to have
You can choose a person or an animal as your partner. You should always make sure that the doll's personality is different from yours, to create the illusion that you are not the same person. For example, if you are a kind, responsible person, let your partner be an annoying prankster.
- If you are sporty yourself and like to watch sports, make your partner someone who hates football and prefers to go to the opera.
- Make your partner a scientist or math teacher, if you yourself are someone who likes to paint or sculpt.
- Think about the act you would like to make and which character would complement you best.
Step 2. Find a doll with the right character traits
Look at the doll's shape, size, age and facial expression. Also pay attention to the clothing and accessories. Choose a doll that best suits the character you have chosen as your partner. For example, if the character you're imagining is a young guy full of energy, don't take a doll that represents an old man or a young woman. And if you're imagining an old, cranky dog as your partner, don't choose a young and playful puppy.
- You can choose a doll with a hard body (of wood) or a soft body (of fabric), but you can also opt for something special (for example a jalepeño pepper).
- Online you will find a wide choice of dolls.
Step 3. Take a doll with a movable head
You can control dolls in many different ways, but one with a movable head is best for beginners. Pick one that you can stick your hand in from behind, grab a stick to the head, and press a button to move the mouth. This is what bringing your doll to life is all about and it works better than a doll where a cord is used around the neck to control the mouth.
Some dolls have other abilities, including moving their eyebrows, lips, ears, and eyes
Step 4. Make sure your doll is alive
From the moment you choose it you have to act like your doll is alive. Don't treat your doll like a toy, make it part of your family! Play games with your partner, watch TV together and take him to family outings.
Step 5. Create a life and background for your doll
Let your doll tell stories about his life and experiences. Ask about his likes and dislikes, his family, education, what he wants to achieve, his hopes and dreams. Even if you are actually making this up yourself, it really helps if you believe that there is life in your partner.
Step 6. Turn your audience's eyes to the doll as soon as it 'talks'
Ventriloquism, like magic, uses deception to make an act believable. When the audience looks at the doll, they don't see that it's you talking. Line up your doll's mouth exactly with each syllable you say and use the doll's arms or body to make the movements appropriate to the conversation.
Make sure not to move the head too much when the doll is talking, as that will distract the audience from what is being said. Look closely at what real people do when they talk and have your partner imitate those moves
Step 7. Keep your doll moving
It's important to keep your doll moving, even when you're talking yourself, so that the audience believes it's real. Also make sure that the amount of movement suits the character. For example, if he is young and energetic, move his head quickly back and forth when he talks. If he is an older person or a sleepy child, move the head slowly and less often.
If your partner just moves his head, he doesn't seem real to the audience. Let the rest of his body move as well. For example, have him slide over your knee or the stool he is sitting on, bend over or stretch
Method 3 of 4: Working on your voice
Step 1. Learn to talk without moving your lips
Walk through the alphabet without moving your lips. You will notice that the letters 'b, ' 'f, ' 'm, ' 'p, ' 'q, ' 'v, ' and 'w' make your lips move. To pronounce those letters without moving your lips you have to use substitutes. For "b," say "d" or "kuh." For 'f,' you say 'th.' For 'm,' you say 'n,' 'nah,' or 'neh.' For 'p,' say 'kl' or 't.' For "q," say "cow." For "v," say "th," and for "w," say "ooh."
- You might think the new words with the substitutes sound weird, but if you learn to stress the syllables they aren't in, the words will naturally start to sound more natural.
- To keep your lips from moving, hold a finger to your mouth, as if to tell someone to be quiet. It also helps keep your teeth together.
Step 2. Practice "pinching" your voice
Take a deep breath through your nose. Lift your tongue close to, but not against, the soft palate at the top of your mouth. Contract your diaphragm by tightening your abs and keep your airway constricted so that the breath is trapped in your throat. Speak while exhaling slowly so that your voice sounds distant.
Step 3. Change your voice
A convincing ventriloquist voice must differ significantly from your own voice. Listen to yourself when you talk. Do you speak loudly or softly? Fast or slow? Do you have a low or a high voice? Try to make your doll's voice different from your own on all these points. To change your voice, you need to speak from a different area, such as your nose or throat.
- A good way to change your voice is while you talk air through your nose instead of squeezing your mouth.
- Another option is to let the sound come from your diaphragm. Contract your abs as you speak in a deeper, raspy voice.
Step 4. Choose your ventriloquist voice with care and depending on the doll you have chosen
Ask yourself if your character has an accent or talks in a different way than you do. If your doll is smart and smart, let him be eloquent without stuttering. If he's dumb or slow, let him talk in a low, slow voice.
- The voice you choose enhances your doll's character and brings it further to life.
- For example, if you have a soft G, you could develop an Amsterdam accented voice for your partner.
- Conversely, you could use a lilting Limburg accent if you come from the North yourself.
Method 4 of 4: Put on a good show
Step 1. Develop a credible dialogue
You need to have a realistic conversation with your doll on stage. Pay attention to the way you talk to your friends or how other people converse. Add pauses, "uh-s" and "mmm-s" and sigh and puff into your conversation. Not only will this make your conversation more believable, but you can do it quite easily without moving your lips!
To make your conversation more believable, practice interrupting your doll and vice versa
Step 2. Practice your act
Although some people are able to improvise quite a bit, it is better to practice your jokes and act beforehand. Practice pinching and talking without moving your lips in addition to making your doll move realistically and in sync with what he is "saying"
If you want to make ventriloquism your profession, you have to practice every day
Step 3. Look at yourself in the mirror or on video
Practice in front of the mirror so you can see what the audience sees. You could also record your performance and watch it later to get a good idea of what you look and sound like to the audience. Adjust your act based on these practical exercises so that you are all set for a live performance.
Step 4. Develop a strong stage presence
People like to look at charismatic people, with an optimistic streak and positive energy. You (but also your doll!) can make use of the space on stage, make eye contact with people in the audience and be animated during your act. Use lots of gestures and facial expressions to draw attention to yourself and your doll.
- Choose an outfit that makes you feel good and that gives you confidence and make sure your doll has that too!
- You could have your doll talk to someone in the audience. People often enjoy being involved in the show.
Step 5. Have fun
An important factor in good ventriloquism is passion. If the audience sees that you're having fun, they will too. Whether you want ventriloquism professionally or just as a hobby, make sure you enjoy it yourself.