The Magic of Puppets - Part 5
Ventriloquism: The Secret of Throwing your Voice
by Steve Axtell / Axtell Expressions, Inc.

We covered the basics of ventriloquism in the last article. If you need a copy of that please email me. This week we discuss one of the secrets of vent throwing your voice to make is sound like its coming from somewhere else.

The secret is in the way you place your tongue and elbows. While speaking in the vent voice place your elbows tightly against your rib cage. Now using your tongue position, if you hold it to your left cheek it will make your voice sound like its coming from the far away to your left. Put it toward your right cheek and the sound comes from the far from the right. The amount of distance away is created by how hard you pull your elbows in toward your rib cage. Okay try it.

If you are having trouble with it dont kill me but I was kidding. You see you have just discovered the real secret. People already believe its something like this some kind of weird magic trick, or split tongue, or device. The real secret is what you already know illusion.

If you are positioned in front of your audience and your puppet is to your left side and you perform dialog your own voice will appear to come from you, and the puppets voice will appear to come from the puppet. To do this right several things must be in order:

1. Proper mouth technique with the still lip (see last article)

2. Puppet mouth movement and good manipulation must occur

3. Directing your attention naturally to the puppet when it speaks

4. Giving it a life of its own (looking around at individuals, double takes etc)


Once you have mastered the techniques above you can add the distant voice. Youve probably seen a vent put his dummy away in his case and it still talks to him from a distance, or over the telephone, or from off stage. These voices are all modifications of the distant voice.

To make your voice sound far away 3 things are employed.

1. Lowered actual volume (the farther away the quieter)

2. Illusion of a yelling or raised voice (people raise the pitch of their voice when they are far away from who they are speaking to)

3. Misdirection of the listeners attention (usually on stage the vent would look at the source of the distant voice to add the illusion of the sound coming from the location).

To lower the actual volume of your voice and create the illusion of a yelling voice were going to practice a phrase hey let me outta here!. Try saying it right now in your normal voice. Now pretend you are locked inside your house and yelling this to attract the attention of a neighbor. Listen to the difference. Of course its quite a bit louder when you yell also the pitch is higher to be heard better from far away. Also when you have to yell you have to tighten your diaphragm muscle to push much more air thru your vocal cord. Now all thats missing is to do all of this AND make it sound FAR AWAY.

The following exercises will strain your voice and should not be practiced for longer than 1 min. Drink some coffee or tea or warm water before doing this:

Pretend that you are picking up something heavy and tighten your diaphragm and say the phrase hey, let me out of here. Also notice that you are pinching the voice at the back of the throat hardly letting the sound out. Try it again and rather than pushing too much air out control it more. Dont do this for more than a minute.

If this is mastered, and added to the still lip and misdirection you will be able to do some very cool effects with it. You could put your puppet away and have him still talking with you. Have a telephone conversation with someone over the phone on stage the calls to interrupt your magic act. Have a running gag with an unknown stage hand that keeps laughing out loud at jokes youve told but he just now gets, etc.

If you are getting excited about using puppets in your magic act check out our incredible magical puppets at

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