The Top 10 Things To Work When Developing Puppet Skills – Part 2

The last post started my Top Ten List of things to work on to develop your puppet skills and covered the first two. This post continues the list.

Number 3: Proper Lip Synchronization
If the mouth movement is off from the words, it’s distracting and makes it difficult to concentrate on the message. The basic rule is to open and close the mouth for each syllable the puppet speaks. The key is to open the mouth at the beginning of the syllable and close it at the end. Most beginning puppeteers tend to bite the words; they snap the mouth closed rather than smoothly opening and closing it.

Sometimes when doing a recorded play, the puppet speaks so fast you can’t get every syllable, especially if you’re a beginner. What do you do then? The key is to get the first and the last syllables right and as many in between as possible, and it will look ok. It takes work initially to develop proper lip sync, but once you have it, it becomes automatic.

Number 4: Dropping the Lower Jaw
When people talk, their lower jaw moves up and down, not their heads and your puppet should do the same. It’s easier to lift the puppet’s head instead of dropping the jaw, so you have to work to develop the muscles needed to do it properly. When you’re first learning, you need to concentrate on dropping the lower jaw and work at it even when your arm gets tired. If you will take the time up front to do it properly, it will become a habit. When I put a puppet on and start working it, I don’t think about dropping the lower jaw, I’ve programmed myself to do it.

I’ve heard many times that practice makes perfect. A better statement is that practice makes permanent. What you do over and over becomes habit, whether you are doing it correctly or incorrectly. Put the work up front to develop the proper habit, then later on you can focus on other things.

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