How to Be a Good Ventriloquist

Ventriloquism is the art of making an inanimate object seem to come alive. This article provides tips and instructions for becoming a good ventriloquist.


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    Learn to speak without moving your lips. Hold a finger over your mouth as if trying to tell someone to be quiet. This will help prevent your lips from moving. Gritting your teeth together may help. Then, go through the alphabet. 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 "geh." For "f," say "th." For "m," say "n," "nah," or "neh." For "p," say "kl" 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.
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    Change your voice. A convincing "vent" voice must be very different from yours. Try to listen to yourself speak. Do you speak loudly or softly? Fast or slow? Do you have a low voice or a high voice? Try to make your partner's voice different from yours in all or most of these categories. To change your voice, you must use different functions in you body. For example, notice that when you speak and pinch your nose, your voice changes.
    • One excellent way to help change your voice is to force air through your nose instead of your mouth when you speak.
    • Another good way is to force the sound from deeper inside your throat, and also force the sound from the diaphragm. To force the sound, pretend you are about to cough. You can also pretend to be lifting something heavy. You'll notice that the muscles around your stomach will tighten. Now, using those muscles, try to speak. This will result in a deeper, raspier voice, which can also be handy, depending on what type of personality you want your partner to have.
    • Choose your "vent" voice carefully depending on what type of partner you want. If he or she is smart and witty, have him or her speak quickly, without stuttering. If he or she is unintelligent or slow, have him or her speak in a low, slow voice. The voice you choose helps to amplify your partner's personality and helps bring him or her to life.
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    Bring your new friend to life. Decide what kind of partner you want. You must always make sure that his or her personality is different from your own, to give the illusion that you are not the same person. If you are a kind, responsible person, make your partner a mischievous jokester. Just choose something that will contrast your personality.
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    Try to find a dummy that will fit that character. For example, if your imagined character is a young, energetic boy, don't pick a dummy that's an old man or a young lady. Make sure to pick the right partner for your needs.
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    Convince yourself that your partner is completely alive. Once you've done this, it will be easier to convince an audience. Try to make sure that, from the moment you pick him or her up (take him or her out of his case, bed, etc.) and grab the controls, he or she is totally alive. Have him or her tell you stories about what he or she has been up to, where he or she goes to school, etc. Even though you are technically making this up, it will help you believe that there is life in your partner.
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    Animate your partner properly. There are many different control schemes for dummies, but a good, average one that is excellent for beginners and even for advanced vents is one with a moving head. Be careful while purchasing your dummy that you don't buy one with a string on the neck to operate the mouth. Buy one where you put your hand in the back, grab a stick attached to the head, and push a trigger to move the mouth. This is key when animating your partner. When your partner speaks, make sure his or her mouth moves with every syllable that he or she speaks. Also, keep your partner moving, even when you are speaking. This will make the audience think that he or she is real. Also, be sure to remember the amount that he or she is moving. If he or she is young and energetic, have his or her head move quickly and shake while he or she is speaking. If he or she is an older person or a sleepy child, have his or her head move slowly and not very much. Be sure that the head isn't moving too much while he or she speaks, or this will distract the audience from the actual speech. Try to observe real people as they speak, and have your partner mimic those movements.
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    Have fun with it. A big factor in being a good ventriloquist is having passion. You must always practice the art. Practicing every day will eventually make you a fantastic ventriloquist. You also don't have to practice only by sitting and speaking with your partner. Play games with your partner, watch TV with him or her, bring him or her to family get-togethers and have others meet him or her. Whether you are taking up ventriloquism for fun or for a career, make sure you are having fun with it. The illusion of life doesn't come easily, but you just have to believe in your friend to make him or her come alive. Don't treat him or her like a rock. Treat them like they are you brother or sister!


  • Watch yourself and your partner in front of a mirror while practicing in order to see what you're doing wrong and right. Also, ask your friends and family to watch you so that you can get feedback from them.
  • We all have a little bit of a child in us. The audience wants to believe your partner is real, so don't give hints or actions (e.g. turning his head in a full circle) that will remind everyone that he or she is not truly living.
  • Try to have the rest of your partner's body move, not just his or her head. For example, have him or her shift around on your knee or the stool he or she is sitting on. If your partner doesn't move, he or she will seem unrealistic to the audience.
  • Try to talk with your little dummy like you are talking with who your dummy's personality is. For example, if it dummy is funny, act like you are talking with a funny friend you have.
  • Remember that most of what the audience looks at is how well you perform, not your fancy partner
  • Look on TV and look at famous ventriloquist comedians such as Jeff Dunham and observe certain actions from these people.
  • NEVER get down on yourself. You won't do as great as you could be doing!
  • In order to avoid moving your lips, grit your teeth behind your lips and push your tongue between your teeth.
  • When you put your finger over your lips, try to make a peace sign and put each finger at the corner of your mouth.
  • Try putting chapstick on before you show so if you secretly have to close your mouth it opens easily.
  • If you're new to all of this just keep trying, it takes years of practice to be as good as these guys!
  • You don't need a 1,000+ dollar vent dummy to do a good act. Shari Lewis used a sock and made an enormous sensation.


  • Don't buy a dummy with lots of features just for the sake of having the features. You will probably not use them often, and it is very expensive to have them added on. Also, they will confuse you while you are operating the controls. Remember, many of history's most famous ventriloquists, such as Edgar Bergen and his partner Charlie McCarthy, had no features at all.
  • If you have lots of features, be sure only to use them when they are needed. Some ventriloquists have had their dummy's eyes, eyebrows, and even ears move while it was simple speaking. This is very confusing and distracting for both you and the audience.
  • Do not use your dummy to insult anyone. Not only is it mean, but they'll know its you saying it.

Things You'll Need

  • You'll need a figure with a moving mouth and a moving head. If you want to practice before buying one, you can just use a sock puppet or something homemade with such features. A very famous ventriloquist (Shari Lewis) used a sort of sock puppet as a partner and was featured on television, radio, and in many clubs and theaters.
  • You'll need lots of passion, determination, and optimism in order to create the illusion of life.

Article Info

Categories: Performing Arts