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Topic: Is there a limit on how many different character voices one can do?
Message: Posted by: MT (Sep 4, 2012 02:31PM)
Terry Fator can do 100's I'm sure, but I really don't think I can do more than 2 or 3. And even the 2 or 3 sound a little similar. Taken Pat Fraley's character workshop even. A number of vents have tried to help me, but to no avail.

I was talking to a vent at the convention and even though he's been doing it for a while he can only do 2-3 voices too. He tried doing more but they just weren't distinct.

I'm starting to think that this multiple voice thing is more of a talent thing (something you're born with or at least have the potential to develop) while others no matter how much they try would be lucky to pull off 2-3 different voices. This kind of limits me to some degree as I can't have too many puppets in my show otherwise they all sound the same. (For the life of me I really can't do a female voice at all so none of my puppets are female).

Can anyone relate with me or am I kinda alone on this one?
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Sep 4, 2012 03:44PM)
No, you are not alone.
For starters, I found I could no way do a female voice that I found convincing. I had bought a really nice female figure from Kem Poyner that I really liked a lot, and I couldn't use it. I soo hated to sell that figure, but there was no point in keeping it.
As for the number of voices, I'm sure the number can vary greatly depending on who you ask. I currently have three distinct voices I can do and a fourth one I call a generic voice because I've used it for at least a few different figures.
Message: Posted by: KeithS (Sep 4, 2012 04:29PM)
I've discussed this somewhere on another thread around here, but, as a trained actor, I can actually do a bunch of different voices, including some accents, but only when my lips are moving. BUT, when doing ventriloquism, and my lips aren't moving, I can only do 2 maybe 3 voices. Interesting.
Message: Posted by: Aussie (Sep 4, 2012 05:07PM)
I have only MJ for a reason :)
Message: Posted by: Steve Petra (Sep 4, 2012 06:21PM)
Everyone has limitations. Some vocal performers have less limitations than others. There are ways of increasing your range of vocal characterizations. I am particulaly fond of Pat Fraley's character voice CD's. The more you know about what specific vocal elements go into a particular voice, the greater the potential for bringing variations to those elements and thereby increasing your range.
Muppet performer Jerry Nelson died last week. Very sad to see such a wonderful person and exceptional voice artist leave us. Jim Henson thought him to be a remarkablely gifted voice talent with a range beyond most.
All of the very best voice artists will remind you - It's not just a voice, it's a character.
Message: Posted by: Ony Carcamo (Sep 4, 2012 08:56PM)
[quote]
On 2012-09-04 19:21, Steve Petra wrote:

All of the very best voice artists will remind you - It's not just a voice, it's a character.
[/quote]


Well said, Steve. In his instructional DVD, Paul Winchell taught us how to do different voice "characters," not necessarily using many voices. He mentioned something about pitch, pacing, etc. In fact I listened to his figure Tessie's voice, and compared it to Jerry's and his own voice and I noticed they all sounded the same, but the voice characters were different. I also noticed that Jay Marshall's voice and his puppet Lefty's both sounded the same.

I can only do 3-4 voices comfortably.
Message: Posted by: MT (Sep 4, 2012 09:43PM)
Thanks for chiming in fellas. I was beginning to feel like I was the only one that faced this issue.

Obviously, it's always good to challenge yourself and see what other voices you can do, but also accept your limitation (at least I speak for myself) and just do the best with what you have.

KeithS, I hear you on the lips not moving part. It's quite a bit easier to create different sounds when moving the lips.

For the life of me, I've tried to do the baby cry and distant voice and I seem to be limited there too. Gosh, I wish I can do more, but I might be at my limit, which is nice to know also.
Message: Posted by: KeithS (Sep 5, 2012 07:01AM)
Hi MT,

Good discussion. I used to do the baby cry in my act, but I don't anymore. As far as the distant voice is concerned, I may be in the minority, but I'm just not interested in doing it. This, of course, may be due to the fact that I'm not that good at it! However, I know that if I were interested in doing it, I'd work hard at developing it. I am amazed how good some vents can do it, and I'm always impressed when a good vent seamlessly integrates it in his/her act. But, I just don't think it's the "holy grail" of ventriloquism that some make it out to be.

This may be a bit off topic, but I think relevant. Yesterday, I listened to Jay Johnson's talk on Vent Central, and it was refreshing to hear him say something to the effect that ventriloquism is not brain surgery, and perhaps not as difficult as some make it out to be. I have always maintained this. This is NOT to say that to be really good, one does not need to work hard at it. As with any skill, of course this is so. To become proficient at anything, we must work hard at it. But, as far as vent is concerned (and I'd say something similar about acting), there are only a few skills we need to know and master: lip control, character, puppet manipulation, and material. All great vents have all these down. Again, to become really good at these skills, one must put in the time and effort, and continue to improve. Anyway, just a few thoughts.
Message: Posted by: manal (Sep 5, 2012 09:04AM)
[quote]
On 2012-09-05 08:01, KeithS wrote:
Hi MT,

Good discussion. I used to do the baby cry in my act, but I don't anymore. As far as the distant voice is concerned, I may be in the minority, but I'm just not interested in doing it. This, of course, may be due to the fact that I'm not that good at it! However, I know that if I were interested in doing it, I'd work hard at developing it. I am amazed how good some vents can do it, and I'm always impressed when a good vent seamlessly integrates it in his/her act. But, I just don't think it's the "holy grail" of ventriloquism that some make it out to be.

This may be a bit off topic, but I think relevant. Yesterday, I listened to Jay Johnson's talk on Vent Central, and it was refreshing to hear him say something to the effect that ventriloquism is not brain surgery, and perhaps not as difficult as some make it out to be. I have always maintained this. This is NOT to say that to be really good, one does not need to work hard at it. As with any skill, of course this is so. To become proficient at anything, we must work hard at it. But, as far as vent is concerned (and I'd say something similar about acting), there are only a few skills we need to know and master: lip control, character, puppet manipulation, and material. All great vents have all these down. Again, to become really good at these skills, one must put in the time and effort, and continue to improve. Anyway, just a few thoughts.
[/quote]
Hi Keith,
I would add to your list enunciation. I have seen YouTube Vids of vents I couldn't understand. I am not a vent but love ventriloquism. As a fan of vent I like to understand what a figure is " saying " and not have to guess or fill in blanks.
Message: Posted by: TheDummyDoctor (Sep 5, 2012 09:56AM)
I think the most important key to developing voices (or doing impressions) is to train your ears. Like Keith, I am actor first, and ventriloquist second. I approach the characters I develop in both of those worlds by listening to quirks and nuances in the everyday speech of 'regular' people. I am a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool "people watcher".

If you take time to observe, you'll discover that right there is the starting point for an almost unlimited number of potential 'characters' ... you may not realize it in the moment, but you are probably already interacting with some great character possibilities every single day. Just spend an hour in your local Walmart--it's a goldmine of character ideas. LOL
Message: Posted by: KeithS (Sep 5, 2012 11:25AM)
[quote]
On 2012-09-05 10:56, TheDummyDoctor wrote:
Just spend an hour in your local Walmart--it's a goldmine of character ideas. LOL
[/quote]

So true, Alan!
Message: Posted by: Joseph_Then (Sep 5, 2012 10:51PM)
Watch the Muppets Show, watch Sesame Street series, watch Barney, watch The Transformers, watch any cartoons that the kids watch today and the past.

I'm sure you will find some voices that you will like for your puppets. That's how I find a couple of voices for some of my puppets.
Message: Posted by: MT (Sep 6, 2012 11:06AM)
I love Axtell's platypus and the song but I have difficulty mimicking that voice so after the song is over I'm afraid I can't vent the platypus otherwise people will clearly know its a different voice.