The Secret Life of a Ventriloquist Puppet

As a rule the imitation of musical instruments by a ventriloquist puppet becomes tiresome, as any imitation will, if continued too long. Many performers, however, have brought this sort of polyphonism to a high state of development.

Xylophone:Fix your mouth in position by saying “Oh.” Then take your open hands and, holding them so that the right thumb comes a little below the left, hollow the hand slightly so as to leave a triangular opening above the latter. Separate the hands and bring them sharply together, which will force the air collected between the palms through the triangular opening.

This should be brought opposite the opening formed by the lips, which are in the “oh” position described. The result will be a note. By making the opening of the lips smaller the notes become lower; by making it larger, the notes become higher. The percussion of the air against the lips may cause the latter to swell, so it is well to practice this imitation moderately.

Cornet: This is made by saying “ta” in a Punch voice. To do this, recall just how the Punch voice sounds or take the first opportunity to listen to a good Punch and Judy performer. Then bring the teeth together and stretch the tongue until it touches the roof of the mouth near the back of the front upper teeth.

“Ta” should not be attempted with the lips, but at the top of the palate, “Ta-ta-ta,” the reality of which may be increased by holding the hand half clinched and making the sound through it. By the use of the saliva you can produce the burr that often precedes the clear-blown note.

Clarinet: Practice on the syllables “tul-le” at the lower back of the mouth, making the sound toward the top as the higher notes are produced.

I remember seeing a perfect imitation of this instrument made by a vaudeville performer who used a real clarinet upon which he apparently gave a solo. The illusion was only dispelled when he turned the instrument upside down and showed that it was full of sand.

‘Cello: To imitate a ‘cello correctly which your ventriloquist puppet can play, avoid labial production and make the sound at the bottom of the mouth and grunt on “ah.” If you essay this effect on the low notes, the grunt gives the touch of a rosined bow on the string when making a “down bow.” As the bow is drawn across the string, the vibration is increased until it becomes a clear note. When making the low notes the tongue lies low in the mouth, but raises as you produce the higher notes. The grunt represents the “down bow” and should be absent from the “up bow.”

Cymbals: The imitation of the clash and clang of these brass discs is made by a sneeze, not the “ah-ah-tish-shoo” of the scrub woman, but a short, sharp sneeze sent up through the nose at the back of the mouth.

Drums: The snare drum is suggested by a roll of the tongue, “perr-rrup” “perr-rrup tut tut” or “tat tat.” “Boom, perr-rrup” gives the bass drum followed by the snare drum.

These sounds for your ventriloquist puppet can be a source of amusement and entertainment for your friends.

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