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tacrowl
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On the VHC2011 thread we were discussing lip control. So, I thought practice techniques might be a good topic here.

When I started, the first thing Ken Groves told me was my character's voice should be stronger and louder than my own. The idea was to create the impression of two distinct individuals on stage. Watch videos and you will find most pro vents follow that concept.

This is accomplished by proper breathing. Ken had me suck as much air into my body as possible. Once I had reached capacity, he wanted me to try and take in more - then exhale it slowly in a sustained note. I was not to let the note waiver, keeping it loud and strong as long as possible. The goal was to build up that air capacity. With practice, I was able to increase the length of my exhale and maintain the force.

Another starting technique was popping my tounge on the roof of my mouth. Ken could create a very loud pop/click, mine still is nowhere close. This exercises the tounge, which is used to create the labial sounds during vent.

When you hear a vent and the character's voice is muddy - it is usually because they don't have the proper air flow forcing the sound. This was brought home on a second session with Ken when I had issues with a word. He had me isolate it from the script and force out more air. The word came out clear.

I still have trouble with clarity at times. This summer, I've noticed my vent voice has become muddied. Its an airflow issue, I'm not breathing right due to the heat. I've got to start practicing these lessons again to overcome that.

So what techniques do you work on and how do you practice? What things do you have issues with? Lets discuss and try to help each other improve here.

Tom
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Howie Diddot
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Tom,

I was wondering if you could explain the breathing technique in more detail; how about a youtube video explaining the mouth and breathing.

The P’s are the most difficult, Can This be reviewed on a video?

Thanks for the thread

Buzz
tacrowl
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Buzz,

On the breathing - no video is needed. Take a VERY deep breath and fill up your lungs. Feel your chest expand as you suck in the air. Once you are full, pull in a bit more. It will most likely feel uncomfortable. Don't hurt yourself, but you want to be full. Now slowly release the air through your mouth in a steady controlled flow. On the exhale, hit a note, hold it and try to keep it steady. The goal is to exhale a steady flow for as long as possible until you are completely empty. Practice that over and over. You are building lung capacity and controlling the release and pressure of the air.

For the tounge, you are simply exercising the muscle. Place the tip of it at the top of your mouth, the position is similar to the position you would use to make the P sound. Now force the tip forward - when you've got it right, it will create a pop. The goal here is to get that pop as loud as possible.

The Paul Winchell video I recommended you way back has a great visual on making the P sound. If you have problems with it, it takes practice AND air!

Tom
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Mr. Pitts
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I work on clarity and voice differentiation. I have a digital voice recorder and use it regularly. I practice difficult parts of my script, not just difficult in terms of lip control, but difficult in terms of being understandable. I work on slowing down, even to the point of it sounding unnaturally slow. Strangely, that's when it comes across the best on the recorder. I have found that over articulating just past the point where I'm comfortable with it, is where it actually begins to sound professional. I practice singer and actor voice warm-ups. I practice in front of a mirror, focusing on the actions and reactions of myself and my puppets, directing particular attention to making us distinct from one another. I practice our routines silently in front of the mirror also. I think there's often more comedy in the actions than the dialogue, or at least the action can make the dialogue much funnier. I had acting lessons as a kid and am pretty good at breathing and projecting my voice well. These are good tips though Tom, especially on making the character's voice the stronger of the two. I'm also going to the gym to lose weight and get in better shape generally. This gives me better breath control and I hope will make me look a little better on stage.
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Matt Thompson
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This is why I am SOOOOOO thankful for my musical background. I played Tuba in Marching Band in high school, so proper breathing isn't just a benefit-- it's a necessity. It's been 10 years since I've played, but it's taught me proper breathing and I continue to do it even unconciously. Performing in musical theater has only helped to refine this technique.

Another hobby I worked on and experimented with younger was beatboxing- which is creating music and rhythyms entirely with your mouth for anyone who needs a refresher- and this is what helped strengthen my tongue. Between that and double and triple tonguing in band, I picked up the labial sounds in no time at all. I'm not perfect, but I'm confident that I've had a much bigger head start than most.
KeithS
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This is a very interesting and important topic. Thanks for starting this thread, Tom. I am interested in reading what others do, but the thing that has helped me is a method that I learned as an undergrad drama student. It is based on the work of Kristin Linklater, which employs one's whole body in helping to "free the natural voice." I highly recommend her book, titled just that, "Freeing the Natural Voice."

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Natural-Vo......6&sr=1-1

It has some great warm ups and techniques to strengthen and help you become aware of all parts of your body that are used in vocal production. I believe this work can help all vocal performers - actors, singers, and of course vents.

In addition, as Mr. Pitts suggested, any type of aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, running, biking, swimming) can definitely help in freeing and strengthening your breathing.
Servante
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I've found that the best time to practice is while I am driving. I concentrate on old, familiar songs. The rhythm of the songs and the necessity of sustaining notes is very good exercise. I find myself, most particularly, singing "Moonlight Bay" several times over in the various voices of my vent figures. When I stumble over a sound, I go back to the beginning and start over, singing through until it comes naturally.

-Philip
Servante
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At stoplights, I flip down the visor, which has a mirror on the back and watch my lips. Of course, the idea is lip control even when I CAN'T see them as I drive. Probably not a good idea, though, to watch my lips in the mirror WHILE I'm driving. Smile

-Philip
Bob Baker
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Bill DeMar suggested breaking practice into 3 components:

1) Practice a routine without a puppet. Learn the lines, work on enunciation, practice lip control. Work on your own acting.
2) Practice the puppet's part. Work on manipulation, the puppet's reactions to you. Don't think so much during this part about what you are doing.
3) Put 1 and 2 together.

Remember, there is a difference between practicing and rehearsing. In practicing, you start and stop, correcting here and there, repeating as often as possible to get something right, etc. Rehearsing is running the routine straight through without stopping. If you blow a line or gesture, make a mental note of if and keep going. Only by rehearsing a routine does it become smooth.

Finally--and I know you all do this--rehearse with a video camera. You'll pick up many things that you just don't see when you watch yourself in the mirror.

More when I think of them...

Bob
Joseph_Then
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After practicing for some years, I have to find a position of my lips during vent shows. For me I found that using my top row of teeth lightly touching the lower lips to be the best position for me. It's good because it allows me to minimize lips movement as well as a "check".

When my lower lips is not feeling the upper teeth, I know that my lips has moved and I will get it back to the position again.

Works for me.
-----



Joseph Then

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tacrowl
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I know a lot of people use that technique Joesph. I've never had any luck with it. The voice always sounds slightly muffled to me. I prefer to keep an opening so the vent voice is as loud and clear as possible. That makes lip control much more difficult when you start - but it is possible. The Maher course said you'd eventually be able to feel if you lips move. I wasn't so sure, but it is true.

When I work on lip control, I always use the puppet's voice. That way, it becomes natural to keep the lips still when talking in that voice. Lots of mirror hours and video in that process. I don't use video for lip control practice anymore, but I still make use of the mirror every day.

Tom
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Joseph_Then
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Quote:
On 2011-08-05 13:26, tacrowl wrote:
I know a lot of people use that technique Joesph. I've never had any luck with it. The voice always sounds slightly muffled to me. I prefer to keep an opening so the vent voice is as loud and clear as possible. That makes lip control much more difficult when you start - but it is possible. The Maher course said you'd eventually be able to feel if you lips move. I wasn't so sure, but it is true.

When I work on lip control, I always use the puppet's voice. That way, it becomes natural to keep the lips still when talking in that voice. Lots of mirror hours and video in that process. I don't use video for lip control practice anymore, but I still make use of the mirror every day.

Tom

Ah... So I'm not alone... Yes, it is a little muffled so I altered the technique by lightly touching the side of my lips without looking strange. Smile

Mirror and videos are important for me and everyone. Whenever I watch my own show the first thing I look at is my lips. That's how we can improve.

And yes, Mahar course is correct, it is possible to feel whether your lips are moving or not.
-----



Joseph Then

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Dickens & Dave
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Good topic Tom.
But I can't even think of what my "technique" is for lip control. Undoubtedly, at one time when I was learning, it was something I was very conscious of, as far as what I was doing, but now, I just do it, I'm not really thinking about what I'm doing or how I'm doing it exactly.
I was going to grab a figure and do some mirror practice so I could think about it and write it, but I'm afraid to. If I start thinking about it, will I muck it up?

Quote:
On 2011-08-04 15:36, Mr. Pitts wrote:
I work on slowing down, even to the point of it sounding unnaturally slow. Strangely, that's when it comes across the best on the recorder. I have found that over articulating just past the point where I'm comfortable with it, is where it actually begins to sound professional.

Okay, I could be straying here because I'm going to write something that's not about lip control as the op states, but it is about technique.
What Mr. Pitts wrote made me think about something I've often thought about with Bergen (and no, this has nothing to do with his lip control).
I've always noticed that his chats back and forth with his figures were relaxed and slow - not unnaturally slow, but "normal".
Way too many vents now seem to feel the need to display how quickly they can switch back and forth between voices, and of course, at least for that part of the dialogue, it makes for this rapid fire bit. Maybe most don't notice, maybe most, especially non-vents, are impressed, all I think is "here we go again, another display of how fast we can go".
In all the many Bergen movies and clips I've watched, near as I recall, he almost never did these rapid fire change bits, and if there was a part where he was switching quickly, it was done slower and more naturally.
In fact, in his conversations with his figures, it was a slower, more deliberate pace of back and forth, (but not too slow), and consequently, just seemed more natural like he was really having a real conversation with someone else.
I think as much as many vents need to work on lip control, they really need to work on making their "conversations" with their figures more natural, less practiced and rehearsed sounding, and doing a little less tricks to impress people with their technical ability and doing little feats to demonstrate it.
And if you have the lip control, lifelike movement of your figure, and a conversation that sounds natural like two people talking to each other, haven't you done all you need to do to, done what you're supposed to do, to demonstrate your ability as a ventriloquist?

Quote:
On 2011-08-04 21:23, Servante wrote:
Probably not a good idea, though, to watch my lips in the mirror WHILE I'm driving. Smile

I believe I must often be driving behind many practicing vents..... Smile
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Ony Carcamo
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I found out that good lip control starts with finding a voice for your character that's COMFORTABLE for you. I tried using a goofy voice for one of my puppets, and I noticed that my lip control was so bad... And I believe because I was making an extra effort producing that voice--because I was not comfortable doing it.

So I suggest always using a voice that's comfortable for us and controlling lip movement can be easier.
Ony Carcamo
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