The Magic of Puppetry - Part 4
Basics of Ventriloquism
by Steve Axtell
Axtell Expressions, Inc.

Do you want to learn to throw you voice? Think you can't?? Think you need a special gift? Forked tongue? Relax! You already possess the most challenging part….professionalism on stage! The rest is just technical and not too hard if you have a strong desire to learn and willingness to practice.

Limit your actual voice practice to short 5-minute sessions so you do not strain your throat

Easiest Sounds

These sounds you can already do without much lip or Jaw movement.

A (ant - alien) C (cat - cedar) D (dog-dirty) E (easy - Eddie) G (go - goose) H (hat - hang) I (Indiana - idol) J (joke - jelly) K (Kate - Karate) L (like - Elsie) N (not - Nixon) O (orange - hoot) Q (queen - quiet) R (rain - ark) S (stay - ask) T (teach - tot) U (under - unicorn) X/Z - (x-ray -zoo)


Before we begin, let's look at your tongue and 2 of its positions...


Top Touch normal position is where your tongue goes to make the normal sound of "D." Do NOT use this position when substituting the D sound for the B sound as in "DOY" for "BOY." Do NOT use this position for substituting the N sound for an M like "Nonny" for "Mommy." No matter how many times you try it will always sound like D N and T." Instead use the position below:


FRONT PRESS substitution position is a great position for substituting sounds listed below.

Note: Your tongue is substituting for your upper lip...and that the back of your upper teeth are like the bottom lip so the pressures used by the tongue "must vary." (Thanks to

Position 1 FRONT TOUCH

Position 2 (pull off quickly when you substitute)

Here's an animation of the Front Press in action! -

Practice these sounds....

B (boy - bye - banana) Use the FRONT PRESS against upper front teeth loosely - pull back quickly as you say "d" but think "b" - get on to the vowel fast. Do not pronounce it as a "d" or ........your teeth will fall out!

Listen to the difference...

Click to hear the following sentences on your computer's sound board. (If you do not have a plug-in for your browser that will let you hear wav files on line, download the file to your computer's hard drive. You can then play the file on your Windows or Mac Operating system's audio player program to hear it.

Example Phrase - "The Boy Likes Bananas" (Click the following links and wait to hear them!)

"Don't say "The doy likes dananas"(160k) ­ hear it

...instead use the Front Press it will sound like this, "the boy likes bananas"(220k) hear it


M (Mary - made - him) FRONT PRESS and Substitute the modified "N" sound. (Mad = Nad)

P (Peter - apple - top) FRONT PRESS and substitute the modified "T" sound. (Paste = Taste)

F sound (Frank - friend - Ralph) Hiss through your teeth like "th" in "thanks" (Friend = thriend)

V (Very - every) Substitute "Th" sound as in "there" (Valentine = Thalentine)

W (Away - with - water ) Sub "oo" sound as in "hoot." (Water = Ooater)


Practice lip control in all positions!

React to your audience and your puppet! Be skilled to speak in all 3 positions so you create true reactionary expressions to what is going on in the routine. Just like in real life. To find out what your reactions might be, have someone else read the puppets part so you can just do your own lines and react. Observe your reactions and write them down. Put those expressions into your role as ventriloquist and you will really raise your technical level.

Relaxed position

Smile Position (careful not to over use this!)

Open Position. (Especially good in profile as you look at your puppet in shock. From the front tongue movement can be seen on some sounds.)

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You can see photos of the vent mouth positions and some additional helpful information on learning VENT in our learning center.