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Topic: "natural" ventriloquists and "late-ventriloquists"
Message: Posted by: swiss_magician (May 4, 2011 06:22AM)
I have a question about vocal technique, sound production and lip control:

I was wondering if the technique used by people I call 'natural' ventriloquist (people who discovered they could do ventriloquy at an early age, usually around 8-10 years old, discovering by themselves the lip control part etc..) can be different from the technique used by late-ventriloquists like myself, who learn the artform much much later, during their adult life thanks to books etc...

I should explain myself: The first ventriloquist gathering I attended in Paris, in 2005, welcomed a french ventriloquist who told us that true ventriloquists have all discovered and developed the techniques at an early age, because after puberty, if you have not practiced how to use your throat muscles properly, they become too stiff to be able to produce properly all the sounds needed afterwards. People taking ventriloquism later would then only be poeple imitating, mimicking 'real, natural' ventriloquists

When I see people like Dan Horn performing and his perfect technique, I cannot do otherwise but wonder if it is true or not. I am wondering if a 'natural' can do all letters, especially the hard ones with the back of the throat instead of using the usual combination taught in many sources for theses troublesome letters.

There it is, I am genuinely curious about that aspect. Any input would be welcome.
Enjoy your day!

M.
Message: Posted by: CaptKirk (May 4, 2011 06:39AM)
I personally think with practice, practice, practice a "late blooming vent" can be just as good, if not better than, what you'd consider a "natural". Desire and practice can overcome many obstacles, IMHO:o)
Message: Posted by: damien666 (May 4, 2011 09:41AM)
Hi There!
I have been doing vent since I was a kid and I don't really use the 'usual techniques' taught in the books in regards to tongue positioning and how to make labial sounds. I don't make the sounds at the back of my throat. Through constant practice - I figured out how to do it myself in a way that worked best for me. I basically talk normal right behind my teeth.. without the use of my lips. For labial sounds - I had to find the right substitutes and tongue positioning myself through experimentation.
Books can teach good technique - but they can't teach you how to apply good technique. They are only an introduction of the information that you must then go and refine to make your own.
I know for a fact that pretty much anyone could learn perfect technique - if they practiced. A late bloomer would probably have to practice no more time than someone just starting out; it would just seem like more to them because most adults don't have the same amount of time in their lives to dedicate to learning such a craft. Most kids are able to devote more time when they are young to learning something in an obsessive way.
There is really only one way that works to talking without moving your lips while making a funny voice.. and that is - learning to talk without moving your lips while making a funny voice! (I know that probably sounds snide - but I am totally serious). All it takes is the work to do it!
Same with the puppeteering techniques.. Anyone can learn to make an inanimate object seem alive; it just takes time and effort (which most people are not willing to put into it)..
Damien
Message: Posted by: Servante (May 4, 2011 09:56AM)
I first taught myself at a very early age and began performing, based upon watching Winchell on TV. Then I got the Van Renssalear book and picked up a few pointers, but had my own way as well...then got the Winchell book and picked up a few more and performed for a few decades. Recently I've gone back to those books, the Maher books, the Winchell DVD and other books and added a few more and broken some bad habit.
I guess I was a "natural" vent in my youth...but, with time, found new and, generally, easier ways to do things.

There's a story about Harpo Marx, who taught himself to play the harp: The Marx Brothers had a trained harpist on one of their pictures. Harpo noticed that, when she played, she rested the harp on the opposite shoulder from when HE played. He asked her about it and she said, "But this is the shoulder you're supposed to rest it on." "Oh," he said, moved his harp to his other shoulder and played it that way for the rest of his life.

There's more than one route to get where you're going...but it's always a good idea to pay attention to how everybody else is doing it. Might learn something. :)

-Philip
Message: Posted by: Jimeuax (May 4, 2011 09:58AM)
That "Natural", "must be learned at an early age", stuff is hyperbole aimed at the laymen. Don't tell the punters however, "Showman's Privledge" you know..... I think it was an attempt to make it seem more "Mysterious" and only those with "special ability" can...blah...blah......hahahaha! It worked too, didn't it? LOL Cheers! Jimeuax
Message: Posted by: swiss_magician (May 4, 2011 11:46AM)
Very interesting posts. I am pleased having read what I have read there.
Jimeuax, I've met such behaviour in music as well: as an example, uilleann pipes players mythifying what they are doing. It is not just kind of a selfcentered attitude, but also something discouraging genuinely motivated people who would like to perform as well.

Again, thanks for the insights and information so far (keep it coming! :)). Reading them reminded me of this quote from Mark Twain:
"They did not know it was impossible, so they did it!"
Message: Posted by: ljlvent (May 4, 2011 04:58PM)
I think it was an attempt to make it seem more "Mysterious" and only those with "special ability" can...blah...blah......hahahaha! It worked too, didn't it?

Thanks for saying that! I was nearly 45 years old when I began and if someone had told me that I would have given up before I even started and therefore missed the last five years of wonderful experiences! I will never claim to be in the same camp with those who began when they were young but those of us "late bloomers" can still have success and bring joy to others at the same time. I always feel that encouragement is better than discouragement!
Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (May 6, 2011 05:52AM)
I was going to write something, but the apparently psychic Damien has already read my mind and recorded my thoughts on the matter.

I do think, however, that some folks may have more talent than others. Talent for what, though, I'm not sure. By way of analogy, almost anyone can learn to play the piano, but there are very few who will become Vladimir Horowitz. Anyone can learn vent, but very few will become Terry Fator. Maybe “talent” is the product of passion x thousands of hours of practice. (See Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers.”)

Bob
Message: Posted by: NabsS (May 8, 2011 04:57PM)
Murielle de Chédeville from France is not that young and started a few years ago to do ventriloquism. Now she's one of France's top ventriloquists (possibly the best french speaking female).
Message: Posted by: Matt Thompson (May 10, 2011 11:47AM)
In my opinion, I find the concept of "your throat muscles not developing properly" later in life to be a little presumptuous. Would you tell a 25 year-old-man who has never worked out before not to even bother going to the gym because he won't get any benefits out of it? It's true that the earlier you start something, the better, but that is merely because you have more time to develop your technique, and, more importantly, consistently stick with the hobby.

The simple, harsh truth of the stop-plosive sounds is that you simply cannot make a pure "b" or "p" sound without moving your lips. What you can do, though, is create a very reasonable substitute, and if you practice it, you can make it completely indistinguishable from the real thing. And the wonderful thing about that is that each vent finds that technique in different ways through vocal experimentation. The way I tackle most of my labials is through a modified technique I learned in band called "triple tonguing." I am also very lucky to have formed the abilities to say "v" and "f" without moving my lips at all, and without needing to use the typical "th" technique.

The point I am trying to make, I guess, is that in a matter of 4 months, I have learned how to speak without my lips moving pretty competently as long as the dialogue is preconceived, and in another 4-8 months, I hope to be able to do this fluently without even thinking about it. I have learned all this as a 26-year-old full-time graduate student with very little free time on my hands, as well. So if I can do it, I know anyone can. To me a "natural" ventriloquist sounds like merely a concept to discourage other people from tackling and enjoying a performance art that is not too difficult to grasp the concept of- it just takes a lot of dedication and practice to make it happen.
Message: Posted by: harris (May 11, 2011 10:17AM)
I was about 19 when I began my journey with vent. I was bad,really bad at first.
My first "audition", the director said, "kid, I didn't see your lips moving once....but I couldn't understand a thing the dummy said".

After that I got the Maher course and several books and started developing characters not just jokes. Now as a 19 year old with 38 years of practice,rehearsal and experience...it is a bit better. (See links on my website for examples)


Harris
still 2 old to know everything
Message: Posted by: Servante (May 12, 2011 11:18AM)
Matt...some people's lips, tongue, and teeth, and the relationships thereof may make it easier. To my mind, the mechanical aspects of vent have nothing to do with talent...just practice. In SOME respects, you could say "natural," I guess, if a person teaches him(her)self without really knowing what he's doing...but just by watching. When I first started I had methods for getting around plosives, for instance. They served me well...but then I started reading about other techniques and adopted them. Where the true "talent" comes in is in the creation of good material and the illusion that causes people to believe in your vent figure's life, separate from your own.

But you're absolutely right...vent ABILITY comes from practice. No real secret to it. It's like piano playing. Take lessons, stick to it and you can play the piano. Becoming a concert pianist, however, depends upon talent. :)

-Philip