The mysterious and highly entertaining art of ventriloquism is not a gift but can be readily learned by anyone who give their time and attention to the following pointers, and will carefully follow the instructions given therein. This accomplishment is very rare and is practised only by a few professional entertainers. They are highly paid and are the means of giving enjoyment to thousands of people.
THE FIRST STEP IS IN LEARNING THE ART OF VENTRILOQUISM
Before beginning the first exercise the learner should stand before a looking glass and try to maintain a fixity of countenance and rigidity of the muscles of the face and lips, so that no movement may be noticed while in the act of speaking. As the base vocalization is the vowels, the learner should being by saying very distinctly each vowel by itself. These should be repeated over and over until there can be enunciated easily without any visible movement of the face. A – E – I – O – U and AH.
Now close the mouth, and rest the upper teeth on the inner part of the lower lip, and at the same time, try to keep the expression of the face as natural as possible. Then practise the sounds of the vowels without disturbing the facial expressions. You will find that you can produce several different tones on the same vowel. Force the sound against the front part of the roof of the mouth, then force the sound against the palate, or back part of the roof of the mouth. Keep practising this until it becomes easy to produce the vowel sounds without disturbing the expression of the face.
Now try to shut off the sound by the upper part of the windpipe. The exact spot may be ascertained by swallowing, and the locating the spot where there is a subdued noise or cluck. This is the spot where you must develop the power of inward speaking.
You will find in practising this, that you are apt to strain the throat, so we would recommend that this should be done little at a time as the expansion nad contraction must be developed gradually. You will soon realize the importance of the above lesson, and the muscles of the throat should be fairly well developed before proceeding farther.
Now proceed to pronounce the sub-vowel sounds in the consonants D, G, K, L, N, R, S, T in connection with the sound of the vowels. As for instance ah, lay, lee, lie, loe, lu or sah, see, sie, so, su, etc.
You will find that the consonants B, P, F, V and M, need some degree of facial movement to articulate. To stop this they must be left alone as much as is possible, and the vowel sounds emphasized.
For example, the sentence, “The party has been here” should be spoken “The ‘arty has ‘en here,” emphasizing the vowel sounds. This is not necessary when the profile is turned towards the audience, as you can then talk from one side of the mouth only, drawing down the lips on the side from the audience and keeping a natural appearance on the side facing the audience. Have some friend watch you from the audience side and see if he can detect any movement of the face.
Short sentences may be now practised, following the preceding instructions carefully. Keep the mouth closed, with the upper row of teeth resting unperceivedly, lightly and firmly on the lower lip. Keep steadily in view the injunction to force the sound, first against the roof of the mouth and back part of the palate. When practising to shut off the sound by closing the windpipe, extend the stomach at each abrupt ejaculation, and it will be found to give forth increased power and volume to the sound. The lungs should be always kept amply sustained with a reservee force of breathing power, and each syllable have its due yet economical apportionment of breath. It has been shown that
“by a voluntary power over the muscles of respiration the breath in speeach is dealt out to successive syllables in such small portions as may be requisite for the time and force of each. In thus guarding against waste the necessity of frequent inspiration is obviated, and the ability of pausing freely in the course of expiration between syllables and words allows a subsequent abrupt opening of the voice whenever it is required for the purpose of speech.”
The act of coughing may be made by a series of short abrupt efforts in expiration, or by one continued impulse which yields up the whole of the breath. When freed from abruptness it is like the voice which accompanies gaping, a hollow ringing sound, different from colloquial utterances. By practising this artificial cough, as distinguished from the natural cough, its clearness and smoothness will be thereby improved, and a good basis will be obtained for ventriloquial exercitation and in discovering vocal force.
A few weeks practice of the foregoing will enable you to select a tone of voice best suited to your powers. Having done this, practise on that tone and in that voice until your ear becomes well accustomed to its sound and character.
And now there will be difficulty to be met by those who are unacquainted with music – the question of of the pitch of the voice. a good ear, however, and patient practice, will overcome in a measure, this difficulty. The pitch of the natural voice – that is, its rise and fall – will not correspond with the assumed voice for one will be of a higher pitch than the other. In ventriloquizing each voice must necessarily possess a pitch adapted to it, to maintain a regulated rise and fall corresponding to its tone. Hence the learner will do well to cultivate one assumed voice at a time, and not venture all at once into a medley of voices. The quality of the voice must be strictly maintained, so that all the tonic and sub-tonic sounds will correspond to it, to mark the differences between it and the natural voice, or any other voice afterward assumed. It will be understood, therefore, that the pitch and quality of an assumed voiced must be observed throughout. Impress well on the ear the exact tone nad pitch, not only of the natural voice but of the ventriloquial one also. When this is achieved great progress has been made, and the road to sucess is fairly clear to the learner. The transition from one voice to the other is then made with certainty, and with that distinction which will mark well the one from the other – so necessary in alternate conversational dialogues.
The falsetto voice in ventriloquism in very different from the falsetto voice in singing. The singer produces it by compression of the larynx. The smaller the orifice through which the air is forced the shriller the note. But the ventriloquist not only compresses the larynx, but directs the sound to that part of the roof of the mouth which communicates with the nose. It must be observed that where this voice in speaking is wanting, no amount of practice will acquire it. If any have this falsetto on the voice it can be made of good use in amusing ventriloquial effects; but where it is not, it is useless, as has been experienced, in wasting time and breath in the effort to acquire it. The simple rule for this falsetto speaking voice is to practise according to the preliminary instructions: look in the glass – keep the face quite still – and then direct the sound into the nose. This will not only aid in acquiring certainty and celerity in its production, but it will give a peculiar tone to the voice which is very effective.
Another effective voice is the guttural, whether used as ordinarily or ventriloquially. It expresses the most powerful disgust, contempt, and hatred. In exploding this voice abruptly the speaker feels, from the vibration of the vocal chords, that they convey an intense feeling, that the effect must spread wide, and whilst the air is assailed with its percussion.
The distant voices, whether above or below, on the other side of a closed door or outside the window, are produced the same way. There is but one DISTANT VOICE; the place which it seems to come must be suggested by the acting of the performer and the imagination of the hearers. We may as well, right here, dispel the popular notion that a ventriloquist can throw his voice any distance within the range of hearing and have it come out loud and soft at the desired point. This is not so. The acting of the ventriloquist must make the audience IMAGINE the voice comes from the desired place. For example: –
The performer while talking looks under a couch, the audience naturally thinks that the voice comes from under the couch. Or he looks up at the ceiling while talking and the people think the voice comes from the room above. The ventriloquist has to acquire something besides the ability to vocalize inwardly. In all of his performances he must enter into the spirit of the occasion, and has the double character to play of identifying himself with his hearers in their curiosity, acting as their inquirer, and as their spokesman, and on the other hand, responding without appearing toe respond; acting without appearing to act.
To illustrate this more fully, and show how the judgment of both ear and eye may be deluded, let us suppose that the learner is about to manifest his powers before a company who, it must be remembered, are all predisposed to be entertained, which very fact renders their curiosity and eagerness auxiliary agents to the illusion, because they are going to witness something which, contrary to their previous experience, goes against the actual evidence of their sense.
The performer takes his stand at one end of the room, (the larger the better), the audience being at the other. He prefaces the subject in a natural, easy manner, which must be done with considerable confidence. He begins by determining the voice which he is going to imitate, and in that voice, without any attempt at disguise or ventriloquial effect, calls out “Hello!” prolonging the sound of O and holding it steady. Then close the mouth with the teeth, as before described, and in that identical pitch and tone, repeat with force the answering “Hello!” shutting off the sound at the back of the throat, and at the same time pressing, as it were, with the stomach the sound upward against the top of the windpipe at the spot where the “cluck” is made in the act of swallowing. If the pitch of this suppressed voice is exactly one octave higher than the open one, it will have the effect of the same voice at a long distance, or it may appear as from a room above, or from the roof.
Whenever there is an intense desire to mimic there is certain to be some latent power which only requires developing. Such voices as may be with little difficulty so copied, are invariably such as a learner can easily turn into ventriloquial illusions.
A natural aptitude for mimicry, and expressing the emotional feelings naturally, which is, in fact, the essence of histrionic art, are just the qualifications to cultivate on the furtherance if of the ventriloquial effect.
Until next time: – VENTRILOQUISM AND WHAT IT MEANS