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November 14, 2007

Making It Match: Part 1

Posted in: General Puppetry

No, not “making A match” as in “matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a…“, or “striking a match” as in “only you can prevent forest fires.” Today we’re going to discuss creating an appropriate visual connection between your puppet’s (specifically mouth) movements and the sound it is supposed to be creating. Hence, Making It Match.

Aaah sheepIn a previous post, we looked at mouth movements in regards to lip syncing with prerecorded tracks. Today let’s look at the nuances of mouth movements and the incredible variations that can (and should) occur when our puppets open their mouths to speak.


Say it with me, “AAAAAaaaaah!” Come on now. Everybody! “AAAAAaaaaah!” Good.

Now, say “ooooo” (like, rhymes with shoe, blue, goo). Go! “Oooooo.”  OK. Now say Ah, then Oo. (Did you do it? Ya’ gotta do it… say Ah then oo. Thank you.)

Silly exercise? Not at all. If we are going for believability in our performance, then we need to recognize what it is that our own bodies–and in this case, our mouths–do so that we can imitate that movement with our characters.

So. What does your mouth do when you say those two sounds, ah and oo? Does your mouth open the same width for each? No! What can we learn from this? (I know–this seems incredibly simplistic. Humor me.) We learn that if we want our puppet to “oo and ah” over something, the width that the mouth opens should vary appropriately.


But wait–there’s more. Let’s take it to the next level. Words that have the “oo” sound should also be performed with a smaller opening than words with an “ah” sound in them. For my North American accented friends, try the phrase “shoes and socks”. Or how ’bout “who and what”.

Do you see what we’re doing here? We need to isolate the core sounds that are made with very little mouth opening so we can practice that movement with our puppets. Then we need to identify the sounds that require a wider opening and try the same with the puppets’ mouths. It’s a matter of training your brain to anticipate the sounds and respond with appropriate actions. It’s a hand-ear coordination.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll apply this basic principle to songs, characters, and–if you’re lucky–all with video demos! (Insert fanfare here.) Meanwhile, chew on this for a while. Practice and play with the idea. Then we’ll meet back here for more. K?

Return to: Making It Match: Part 1