Found -an old booklet A Short Cut to Ventriloquism (London: L. Davenport 1934) by one Maurice Hurling. Apparently ventriloquism has had a slight revival due to reality TV talent shows. The book gives various exercises to improve ventriloquial skills but starts with the basics which we post below. The two major problems are the 'plosives' that cause the lips to move (B M P V) and the awkward W. Also developing a second voice for the dummy/ figure is essential. Hurling recommends starting with a 'Cheeky Chappy' voice, he also notes that the ventriloquial smoker has an advantage because 'a cigarette placed between the lips will help to keep them perfectly still.'Preliminary Exercise
Stand in front of a mirror, not too close, and let your lips be slightly apart.
Now try to say each letter of the alphabet without any movement of the lips. With very little practice you will soon find you can do this quite easily except for the letters B, M, P, V and W.
B is pronounced "ge"
M is pronounced "EMG"
P is pronounced "Key"
V is pronounced "VHEE" (breathe it)
W is pronounced "Duggle-you"
You will of course realise you must not blatantly say "Key" for P, but make it sound as near P as you can and so on with the other. Do not slur the letters. Make each one sharp and clear with a short interval between each one.
N.B. - You will find, if you are a smoker, that a cigarette placed between the lips will help to keep them perfectly still.
Now to carry on a step further with the same idea, but introducing a few simple words. The "words" you will notice are after all, just letters when spoken by the Figure.
Practice the following in a conversational manner.
Pupil: Now Tommy, I'm going to have a little chat with you.
Figure: R. U. (Are you).
Pupil: I'm quite in earnest.
Figure: I. C. U. R. (I see you are).
Pupil: What would you say if I gave you a shilling?
Figure: O. G. (Oh! Gee!).
Pupil: That's not an answer.
Figure: Y (Why?)
Pupil: Because I say it isn't.
Figure: O. I. C. (Oh! I see!)
Pupil: If I don't give you a shilling, what shall I give you?
Figure: An I. O. U.
Pupil: I'm really very generous.
Figure: I C. U. R. (I see you are)
Pupil: But as we are only rehearsing I'm not really giving you anything at all. Now what do you think of me?
Figure: O. U. R. A. J. (Oh, you are a jay).
Up to now you have been speaking in your natural voice both for yourself and for the Figure.
Now we come to one of the most important steps and this is the "other voice," or the voice you will use for the Figure.
It is essential that this should be entirely different from your own, to provide a contrast and create the illusion of two persons speaking.
The "voice" should be produced from the throat without strain. Obviously you should suit the voice to the Figure.
There are 6 figures Illustrated in the catalogue all for sale at about 3 guineas each, presumably each would need a different voice...