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Topic: Ventriloquism "instructions" (beginner's complaint)
Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 19, 2004 08:44AM)
I have been looking at five or six vent books from the library and noticing that the most typical means of describing how to produce the "difficult" sounds is something like this: "To make the sound used for 'b,' place the tongue against the teeth and say 'd,' while THINKING of the 'b' sound.

Well, maybe it is just my background in linguistics, but, for me, sounds are made up of elements such as point of articulation, voicing, and so on, and telling me to THINK of a letter without specifically stating what to do with my tongue, lips, teeth, larynx, lungs, etc. is essentially meaningless. I can't make a sound by "thinking" of it.

Can someone recommend books or tapes that instruct using more concrete (ideally scientific/phonological) terms for how to make the sounds of the vent alphabet?

I an nost grateful.
Druce (thinking of 'm's and 'b's)
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jul 19, 2004 04:19PM)
Steve Taylor's video "Voicing Your Dummy" gives very good descriptions of where and how to place your tongue to produce the substitute sounds.

Message: Posted by: ventman (Jul 19, 2004 05:34PM)
In addition to Steve Taylor's video, the best explaination of the sound subs I found is from the Paul Winchell video "Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit" if you can find that video I highly recommend it.
Message: Posted by: harris (Jul 19, 2004 07:00PM)
Along with good lip control, it is even more important to create a character within your puppet and a meaningful relationship between you and the puppet and your audience.

Check out World/Vents on the Yahoo Group for some good feedback.

Even after 25 + years as a vent I still practice most days. The 30 minute ride to my Counseling Gig, gives me time to practice and to create dialog.(along with writing and improv during shows)

Although I use to do the Vent/Magic thing full time, it is now a "side line" to my nearly normal job as
a Nearly Normal Counselor.

I learned with: the Maher Tapes, Library Books, Col. Boley Tapes and learning from my mistakes.

I continue to learn.

Mark Wade's Book is not a how to but a How to use what you know. It is called (I believe) Kid Show Ventriloquism.

Enjoy the journey.

Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 20, 2004 10:12AM)
Thanks to all for the advice.
Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Jul 21, 2004 02:52AM)
If you go to http://www.maherstudios.com you will find some excellent teaching tools.
One is the Maher course of ventriloquism which consists of 30 individual booklets and a video tape.
Another is an audio tape or CD by Bob Neller.
These are both great! I own both and can highly recommend them.
Once you sort out where to put your tongue etc. the labials still don't sound quite right, but as you practise each day they just become more and more like the actual sounds until you can't tell the difference, it's freaky!
I think it's probably a bit like learning to do the splits - once you know what to do it still takes a little practise until you're actually doing it, but if you practise you WILL do it.
Good Luck

PS I wouldn't recommend practising the labials while doing the splits.
Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 21, 2004 07:25AM)
No, certainly don't want a split lip...

Any suggestions vis a vis the Taylor materials versus the Maher course?
Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Jul 21, 2004 08:38PM)
I started with the Taylor tapes and so may be biased towards them, but I have also completed all the Lessons of the Maher Course (but not the final test).

There is more information in the Maher course but for learning sound substitutions and writing comedy I think the Taylor tapes are better. But I think it's a good idea to study all the material you can get, for completeness.

Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Jul 22, 2004 01:51AM)
OK....have you got your cheque book ready!

I agree with Oliver that it's a great idea to get your hands on all you can.
As I said, I have the Maher course and the Bob Neller CD, but I also have ALL the Steve Taylor videos, 2 Bill Demar videos, Lee Cornell's video, Mark Wade's advanced ventriloquism DVD and I had Paul Winchell's video for a number of years.
I have learned something valuable from each of the above resources.
Once again I agree with Oliver that the Maher course is great for the sound substitutions and vent exersizes (no splits) and Steve Taylors tapes have a lot more regarding comedy. However, if you want to see some REALLY great manipulation you'll probably want to get 'The Bill DeMar Show' DVD.
If you're like me you'll probably end up getting the lot anyway, so the initial decision comes down to whether you want to start off with a fair amount of reading OR DVD watching. If I had to push you one way or the other I'd probably suggest the Maher course.
Hope that helps


PS If it makes you feel any better I've just put a down payment on a figure for $1200.00US, and with the current US vs Australian dollar exchange rate that would buy all of Sydney and parts of Tasmania.
Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 22, 2004 09:36AM)
Thanks, again Oliver and Billy. I assume that, like with so many interests, if I am sufficiently bitten by the ventriloquist bug, I will wind up spending absurd sums in the long run.

My main concern now is just to get off on the right foot, especially in an area where I seriously doubt my ability to become even modestly competent, much less accomplished. The sites hawking the instructional materials not surprisingly promise that [i]anyone[/i] can, with practice, learn these skills, but I must admit that this seems exaggerated to me. Only one way to find out of course...

Still, my birthday is next month, and my wife is asking for suggestions for a gift--won't she be surprised when I ask for vent instructional materials! ("Why can't you ask for a drill press like normal husbands?")
Message: Posted by: Budihaha (Jul 22, 2004 10:04PM)
I will try to give another examples and I hope this help.

When we heard someone say gotlle of geer, or dottle of deer, our mid will receive it as bottle of beer. Even better if he/she say those without hard g or d and slightly near b. This can happen because there is some how a conection between ear and our memory.

Then try this:
Tihs is olny a tset. Pelas dno't try to crorcet tihs msis spllenigs. If you can unrdetsant tihs, tihs is a dieffern exmsalpe but bteewen eye and momery. Got tihs form a reecnt reeasrch in a unviesrtiy.

hpoe tihs hlpes.


Budi Ha Ha
Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Jul 23, 2004 12:35AM)
On 2004-07-22 10:36, Avrakdavra wrote:

Still, my birthday is next month, and my wife is asking for suggestions for a gift--won't she be surprised when I ask for vent instructional materials! ("Why can't you ask for a drill press like normal husbands?")

It's a pity I live in Australia, otherwise your wife could join mine in the 'Why doesn't my husband ask for a drill press like normal husbands' therapy group.
Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 23, 2004 07:08AM)

My wife usually just calls her mother or sister, and they all think together about their husbands and shake their heads...

Another question:
Though very attracted to ventriloquism (enough so that I am willing to invest in learning the art), I have limited experience in seeing vents perform--just on television, really, and I've never seen a live performance. I know of course that there is a whole world of performers, writers, and styles out there beyond my knowledge.

Based on my admittedly limited exposure, it seems that vent humor is decidedly corny or even (please forgive me) cheesy. Is this just the nature of the medium? Can you suggest some performers who used ventriloquism in markedly different ways from the usual "...And they call me a dummy!"-type humor? What are your own acts like? Are there vents known for evoking tears as well as laughter, for inspiring wonder as well as amusement? Is there anything intrinsic to the artform that mitigates against other such expressions?
Message: Posted by: harris (Jul 23, 2004 03:15PM)
The vent event and other programs featured a man who did among other things a baby crying, a parade going by, talking to a head in the box, talking with someone on the phone, dancing with Fred Astaire, talking to his hand.

The ventriloquist, Guest, Wences, Lewis.

On the beginer bit...

I still consider myself a beginer after 20 + years in this fun endeavor. After watching the tape again this morning, I realized I have not done the phone or distant bit in a long,long time.

My nearly normal wife Annie is very supportive of my unusual hobby, part time job.

She even helps pick out new props and ideas for new bits for the NN Show.

Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Jul 23, 2004 06:39PM)
I know what you mean regarding the 'corny' style of vent. A great deal of the scripts I have seen have been merely a list of 'groan' type puns which have been put into dialogue form.
If you want to see some vents that are a real departure from the above scenario, go to these sites and take a look at the video footage there -
These guys are all REALLY great at what they do. The footage on their sites is somewhat limited, but I have seen a lot more of these guys and they absolutely kill.
As far as creating tears as well as laughter - Bill DeMar has a piece where his partner (Chuck Norwood) does a monologue about all the years they have worked together and what life will be like once Bill is no longer around. It is a fantastic piece.
Message: Posted by: Avrakdavra (Jul 26, 2004 08:06AM)
Thanks for the links, Billy. I am starting to get a better idea of the range and quality of vent acts. Now, perhaps you can help rehabilitate my jaundiced view of mimes...
Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Jul 30, 2004 03:03AM)
On 2004-07-26 09:06, Avrakdavra wrote:
Thanks for the links, Billy. I am starting to get a better idea of the range and quality of vent acts. Now, perhaps you can help rehabilitate my jaundiced view of mimes...

Unfortunately I'm all out in that regard....however if you're looking to beef up your appreciation of synchronised swimming as an Olympic event, let me know.
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Aug 2, 2004 05:38AM)
The main thing is THINKING the intended sound while using the other sound. In time you will find you are producing 'hybrid' sounds that are so close to the intended sound, and come off so naturally, it will amaze even you.

Message: Posted by: pixsmith (Sep 12, 2004 11:58AM)
The folks at Maher are really great, and I have a few friends who really think the course was terrific. I am impresesd with the amount of information that is included, and the clarity with which it is presented. It makes an excellent starting point.

Re the "Think system", I think the point is to think the real sound in order to avoid feeling odd when you are making the substitute sound. It also gives you a different mind set so that words that might be phonemically identical will hvae a degree of difference in the way they sound to the audience.

Hmmm, reading that it all sounds a lot like the Music Man after all.


Message: Posted by: Parson Smith (Mar 16, 2005 10:43PM)
I guess its ok to pay someone to teach you, but the marble worked for me.
I just filled my mouth with marbles and started talking.
Every day I would remove one marble.
When I lost all my marbles I was a ventriloquist. :)
Message: Posted by: Jimeuax (Mar 17, 2005 10:06PM)
RE: The "think system"----maybe what happens is you just "think" you are doing it right----hahahah-------------lol-----------Cheers!---Jimeuax
Message: Posted by: cardone (Mar 26, 2005 09:31PM)
I can't show you exactly where to place your tongue but if tou use mental imagery .. after a lot of practice ...I mean A LOT thinks start to happen in side your mouth to compansate for you lips.,.... Singers use a lot of imagery to place their voice in differen places in their head for more resonance....I hope this helps you a bit on your road to ventriloquiy !
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (May 6, 2005 12:47PM)
Just checked out a bunch of clips on the Onastick.com site and had a real good laugh. If I could even get 10% as good as Jeff Durham I'd be flipped out.


Some files are quite big, but I have a 2mb dowload speed, so it was no problem.
Message: Posted by: sluggo (Jun 2, 2005 12:14PM)
You can also go to http://www.venthaven.com and go to the links section and it has limks to nearly everything you may need. From instructional material to vent figure makers.
Yes, once you get bit by the bug you will spend lots of cash on things your wife will never understand. But it can and will pay you back in the long run if that is what you want to do.
Anytime she questions me about it I tell her "Well I could be like other guys and spend it in bars or cars or cars going to bars." She seems to calm alittle after that. That doesn't mean she doesn't still think I'm crazy. She still says that "Who would've known twelve years ago when we met my husband would someday be a clown that talks to dolls."(Puppets)ha
Message: Posted by: harris (Jun 2, 2005 02:21PM)
20 + years ago, I used the Maher Tapes and Boley on distant and other technique.

Mostly I learned the old fashion way.

This is by being bad for a long time.

I remember my first audition. The director said, great kid, we didn't see your lips move at all. Too bad we couldn't understand a **&^^ thing the puppet said.

My lips are still fairly still, and people can understand us.

I love adding music and song to our programs.

My usually supportive wife, drew the line recently. She was in the car while I was practicing yodeling in Nigel's voice.

Yodeling is popular with European Vents. I may be responsible for keeping it there.

Harris "The Ugly American" Deutsch
Message: Posted by: alson (Jun 2, 2005 06:27PM)
Learning ventriloqusim is much easier than when I started ,yes there were book but not many and some were very hard to understand. There are so many ways to say your b,p,m,ect. the nice thing of it is you can pick out what work best for you.
Some people use will tell after so many years of venting that they can't tell you
just how they do it with out moving their lips ,I am one but since I started at very early age and I mean early some things seem easy to me .The Maher course in ventriloquism is one of the best. I have the orignal Maher course that I got in the early 70,s and then I purchase a new one to see the different , I like them both.You will find your way of doing sounds that works for you. Good venting.
Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 1, 2011 09:53PM)
I pulled this up from an ancient topic; I think its good information for beginners like myself; I received valuable information reading it.
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Feb 1, 2011 10:13PM)
Yes, any information is good information (usually).
Since this thread is about Ventriloquism instruction, I should probably post here as well, that I have the instructional text from Paul Stadelman's book "Ventriloquism of Today" available as a PDF file. Used to be able to just download it from my Stadelman site, but that's not possible any more, so if anyone would like it, just pm me your email address and I can send it as an email attachment.
Message: Posted by: Servante (Feb 1, 2011 10:29PM)
The whole "think" idea has more to do with NOT thinking about the substitution. By "thinking," your tongue begins to assume the role of the lower lip and come closer to the sound you're trying to project.

Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Feb 1, 2011 10:46PM)
Hi Blueshawk,

I just sent you a PM. This should come in handy as we are about to start training a new crop of young vents for a Church group.

Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 1, 2011 11:13PM)
When it comes to the sound substitution for "b", you do place your tongue behind the teeth and with a rolling of the tongue forward you produce the sound "d". The tongue will immediately go back to the position behind the tongue at the end of the sound. The reason they say think "b" while saying "d" is to get you to subconsciencely think the letter-sound you want while saying it a different way. It seems a bit confusing without actually having you sitting in front of me...but the rolling of the tongue to the front making the "d" sound is what works best. When you isolate the sound you can tell it is just a bit different, but whenyou use it in a sentence it melts right in and you can't tell the difference.

Hope this wasn't "clear as mud", but that's how it works. I prefer learning from the Maher Course ..and not because I did the DVD for it. I learned when it was Fred Maher's original course done on a mimeograph machine (I'm not tha told..I found an old Maher Course when a friend of mine bought out a magic store). Good luck..you can do it. Also I would recommend you getting my friend Steve Taylor's materials as well as Lee Cornell's. Great stuff!

Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 2, 2011 12:50AM)
Can you please elaborate on “rolling of the tongue forward” and “rolling of the tongue to the front”

If the tongue is touching the back of the front teeth, at the gums, forward is straight ahead against the teeth, or how can you go forward; this has been confusing me.
Message: Posted by: CaptKirk (Feb 2, 2011 07:14AM)
I personally have the new Millenium Maher course with Mark Wade's excellent DVD, all three of Steve Taylor's tapes (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) and Winchell's VHS tape that I got off Ebay. They are ALL superb IMHO! The Taylor and Winchell tapes are better since you can visually SEE on the TV how to produce the hard labials vice being told how in the Maher course. I started with the Maher course but learn best when shown how to do something. A private teacher could not have done better than those tapes or the Maher course, once again, IMHO:o)
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 2, 2011 07:31AM)
The tongue goes from the alveolar ridge (that place in the top of the roof of your mouth where the back of the teeth and the gum comes together.. .you can find it by saying "nan". The last "n" in "nan puts the tongue right on the alveolar ridge at the end of the nonsense word "nan". It feels like a ridge behind the front teeth..) in a gliding,rolling motion over the back of the front teeth to produce the "d" sound that it the correct substitution for "b". By making the sound more pronounced (emphasising the "d" sound) it actually sounds like "b". You need to practice this with a mirror and a small hand-held tape recorder so you can see and hear what I am talking about.

Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 2, 2011 08:21AM)
Thank you for the explanation; what I am missing is where the tongue is at the final position at the gums, forward or, straight ahead is what you instructed from the back of the teeth,

I can’t move it forward from the back of the teeth, does the tongue go down, or roll back on the alveolar ridge, or stay in place at the top of the ridge?

Thank you for taking the time here.
Message: Posted by: Vegasvent (Feb 2, 2011 08:24AM)
Nice explanation, Mark!!
Message: Posted by: Dickens & Dave (Feb 2, 2011 08:33AM)
On 2011-02-01 23:46, Steve at The Dummy Shoppe wrote:
Hi Blueshawk,
I just sent you a PM. This should come in handy as we are about to start training a new crop of young vents for a Church group.

Then this should serve you well Steve. Paul used to teach ventriloquism as well, so not only is it good to learn from, but good to teach from.
Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 2, 2011 08:34AM)

I am now using The New Millennium Maher Course with Mark's excellent DVD

I am reading The idiots Guide To Ventriloquism now when I am away from home and have just ordered the three DVD’s that Clinton sells of Marks instructional DVD’s

I am looking at other instructional DVD’s but don’t want to watch one DVD after another, I am practicing with one method, then experimenting with a new method to see what fits, in time I will own all the DVD’s you recommended.

I am now asking the author questions, and that alone is worth more than any DVD I can purchase IMHO.

Thanks for your input.
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 2, 2011 09:50AM)
Buzz..the tongue will drop below the front teeth and then and then go back to the position on the alveolar ridge to produce the "d" (b) sound. Is this making sense? I hope so..

Thanks for the compliment, Duane. BTW are you going to be able to make it to Vent Haven? I'd love to see you there!


Message: Posted by: Bob Baker (Feb 2, 2011 10:36AM)
I learned to to an excellent substitution by listening to my self say "Buh Buh Buh" over and over. [It's like the word "bug" without the "g."] Then, I said the substitute sound "Duh Duh Duh" over and over, alternating back and forth between Buh and Duh until they sounded identical. Then I noted where my tongue was. By concentrating more on the sound than trying to figure out where to put the tongue first, I found the correct placement for me.

Mark's instructions are excellent, as are the Maher course and Mason book, but the only way to get it right is to do it a few thousand times until the mechanics become automatic.

Dod Daker
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 2, 2011 10:50AM)
Thanks, Dod! It's almost incosigal (impossible) at times to write it out so people can understand. I did my best!

Message: Posted by: Servante (Feb 2, 2011 12:15PM)
Also tough to explain it without doing it while you write!

Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Feb 2, 2011 05:07PM)
Yes maybe, but Mark has an excuse. He did get the registration forms up a few days early for the ConVENTion (I have already signed up and paid for ours). Being early on something REAL important gives Mark a huge pass for any perceived clarity problem, although even I understood what he was saying. Good job Mark. Now the rest of you get your registrations in for July!!!

Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 2, 2011 07:47PM)
On 2011-02-02 08:31, kidshowvent wrote:
The tongue goes from the alveolar ridge (that place in the top of the roof of your mouth where the back of the teeth and the gum comes together.

You need to practice this with a mirror and a small hand-held tape recorder so you can see and hear what I am talking about.


I was trying to push my tongue forward, not rolling it down; I have fixed that problem and I am now rolling it down past my front teeth, it is much better now that I fully understand.

I am using a mirror for practice but using a larger table top recorder, not a small hand-held tape recorder as you suggested.
Message: Posted by: Frego (Feb 13, 2011 10:33AM)
I am not sure that all languages use the same "tricks" at the same time. I am French speaking...
When I began to learn ventriloquism, I was lucky to meet a belgian Ventriloquist who lead me to the first difficulties... I had no tape or DVD to help me. But he lended me a book, first written in Spanish (by Ciuro, "Ventrilocuo", translated in French). Really good in his explanations and exercices. And that lead me to a constatation : the are two or three methods to say a vent "b" or "p" etc. None of them is perfect. But each of them has a situation to be used. In the same sentence, I often use once the throat, once the tongue to get a nearly perfect sound.

So when you are taught a technique, remember that it is not universal, but just good for some types of sentences. And more over that you have to adapt it to your mouth and voice.

And anyway, remember Jimmy Nelson's words : whaterver the technique, if you think "d" when saying a "b", you'll hear a "d" and so will the assistance. Il you think "b" you will hear "b" and so will the assistance!

We all discover progressively (and sometimes just by chance!) our best way to trick the words. It took me a few years (yes, years) to find how to get my larynx down and make very different voices... :)
Message: Posted by: Matt Thompson (Feb 14, 2011 03:49PM)
What I need help with more than anything are comedy routines and writing. Are there any books that have beginner's routines available? I would like to read a lot of vent scripts and acts before I start writing my own.
Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Feb 14, 2011 05:47PM)

For beginner routines there is probably nobody who will have more to choose from than Clinton Detweiler. http://www.ventdj.blogspot.com
Another possible source would be to check with Tom Ladshaw (google him). I don't know what Tom will have, but what he does not have he will know where to get it.

Message: Posted by: olivertwist (Feb 14, 2011 08:37PM)
Steve Taylor's "Humoring Your Dummy" is an excellent video to get you started.
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 15, 2011 05:33AM)
I'm writing a book on writing comedy material...hopefully out by this summer. I did a set of cassette tapes (what's that?) a number of years ago called "Comedy Writing for Kidshows" but it has been off the shelves for years. I didn't redo it. The ideas are sound in the tape set so I can use these in my new book.

In fact I am writing a new, small series of books for ventriloquists. I'll let you know more as the books start toward completion. I just did the outline and roughed out the chapters for the first three yesterday! I wantd you guys (and gals) to know first.

Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Feb 15, 2011 07:49AM)

Let me know as soon as you get them available. We are all the time getting requests for material like these. If you put them up on your site when finished, we can link to your site and give you a little "boost" of folks needing to find these.

Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 15, 2011 07:51AM)
Thanks, Steve! These books are going to be real affordable..in the $10.00 range at present. Time will tell us more as we progress with all of this.

Message: Posted by: Matt Thompson (Feb 15, 2011 10:17AM)

Count me in on that! I will definitely purchase one when they become available also.
Message: Posted by: Steve at The Dummy Shoppe (Feb 15, 2011 11:25AM)
See Mark, You have one set sold already.

Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 15, 2011 12:11PM)
Thanks for encouragement, guys!

Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Feb 15, 2011 09:28PM)

Do you distribute the books yourself, or do you have a publisher that prints for you?
Message: Posted by: kidshowvent (Feb 15, 2011 10:12PM)
Buzz, on my first book, "Kidshow Ventriloquism", SPS Publications (Samuel Patrick Smith) did the publishing. I published the second edition and will self-publish these books that will be in a series.

Message: Posted by: Frego (Feb 19, 2011 09:09AM)
Hi Mark,

A difficulty in translation is that sometimes humor that makes one continent lough leaves the other indifferent or nearly. But I am interested in the series of routines you will propose for beginners (what I am since 2004... ;) )and see if I can translate them into French. If I find it is possible, I will contact you to avaluate a good way of working without it be a ruin for me and I do not fall into piracy...
I am the webmaster of the French Speaking Ventriloquists Association site («A 2 Voix») - http://a2voix.magie-ffap.com/index.php?op=edito
So please do not miss to mail me (an the others!) when issuing the books!

Message: Posted by: CaptKirk (Feb 19, 2011 10:12AM)
Mark: please count me in as well when your book on writing comedy is available! I have two other books now but would highly value anything you have to say or suggest. Your DVD that I got with the Maher course is superb and I enjoy watching it over and over!