Did you know that there are only FIVE letters in the alphabet that require
your lips to say them? Here they are:
B, F, M, P, and V!
"Hey," you say, "What about W?" Well, you're right. W takes
special practice to learn to say, too. But it's not considered an "explosive,"
meaning it doesn't require lips or teeth coming together to create the
sound, like a B or F.
But because there are only 5 letters that require lips to say them,
this means ANYBODY can say "Hi, how are you?" without moving their lips.
Try it. See? If you keep your jaw steady and your lips from moving, you
just said your first sentence ventriloquially!
"So," you ask, "how can you say those 5 letters that need lips?" Well,
the name of the game is SOUND SUBSTITUTION. You learn to mimic or substitute
the sounds by using your tongue and throat muscles. And that takes PRACTICE.
When I started in ventriloquism in fifth grade, I practiced the following sentences, one each day, for
twenty minutes--every day. (I even practiced in the car when my mom had to
run errands. My sister and I liked to pretend we were store dummies and
couldn't move our mouths.) Try these sentences:
B: "The boy bought a basketball."
Secret: Say "d" instead of "b." Tip: Soften the "d" sound by pressing
your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth. You
can make it sound like "BOY" and not "DOY" if you really work at it. With
daily practice, talking like this will become natural.
F: "If a fellow finds a fortune, he's fine."
Secret: Say a soft "th" instead of "f," like you would for "thistle." Tip: Keep
your tongue hidden behind your upper teeth. I also force a little air between
my tongue and teeth as I say a word starting with this letter.
M: "Many men make money."
Secret: Say "n" instead of "m." Tip: There are two methods to do
this sound: I prefer to press the tip of my tongue against the roof of
my mouth to make the "nm" sound. Other vents like to use the back of their
tongue near their throat to make a "ng" sound. Try both and use whichever
sounds the best to you.
Be careful with words that use both M and N,
like "many." It takes concentration and yes, practice to make it sound
right. But you can do it!
Beginner P: "Peter and Paul."
Advanced P: "Peter Piper picked a peck
of pickeled peppers."
Secret: Say a soft "t" instead of "p." Tip: Soften the "t" sound into
almost a "th" by pressing the tip of your tongue against the roof of
your mouth or against the back of your top teeth.
V: "Violins and veal are a very good value."
Secret: Say a hard "th" instead of "v," like for the word "there."
Tip: Concentrate on making this sound different than for "f." F is soft,
V is hard. Mimic their sounds by using only your tongue and throat.
W: "We will win a wagon."
Secret: W is special because it's not considered an explosive
letter (it doesn't require your lips to come together to say it). However, it's
sometimes tricky to make it sound right while keeping your lips and jaw
still. Try saying "oo"in front of the vowel as a substitute for W.
For instance, the sentence above would be said like this:
"OO-ee oo-ill oo-in a oo-agon." Also try using a "y" if that sounds better
Tip: At first, this will probably sound and feel ridiculous,
but with daily practice you will get better at it. With practice, it will
feel natural. Believe me!
Final Words: Technique
To me, ventriloquism is a combination of these essential techniques:
1. Perfect lip and jaw control (no moving!).
2. Clear enunciation (no slurring!). After all, what good is learning
ventriloquism if no one can understand what your vent figure just said?
3. Life-like manipulation of your puppet or vent figure (make him or her
4. Stage presence--an air of confidence that comes from believing in
yourself and your skill. This also comes from getting LOTS and LOTS of
5. Delivery--with lots of practice, you should be able to get through
your routine in front of an audience, and feel GOOD about it.
Did I mention PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE?
With practice, no one's a dummy.