By Amy Harder
The Harder house is quite an odd place. Puppets (and random puppet parts) have found their way into most every nook and cranny; Sketchy ideas and figures are everywhere–scrawled on whatever paper-like substance was handy; Puppet, Muppet, or VeggieTales music or other random kids programming is frequently emanating from multiple rooms; And general silliness is encouraged and expected. With a puppeteer mom and radio dad, our children just don’t have a chance at a normal life.
In this atmosphere of creativity, playing with character voices has been a natural part of life. Just last week at a fast-food drive thru, my four-year-old announced that with his sandwich he wanted “fraahs”. “Fraahs?” I asked. “Yyy-up,” came the reply. “Where you from, boy?” Without missing a beat, he chimed in, “TEX-us.” Crack me up. My son had discovered accents. Kewl.
Recently, my hubby and I have been giving focused attention to developing better, more consistent character voices. Now, I started going to creative ministry and performing arts conferences in the mid-80’s (FCM, Chicago Regional Puppetry Festival)… so character and voice development processes have been part of my thinking for 20 years. But the things I have learned in recent months from masters like 40-year voice-over veteran Pat Fraley (pictured at right) and award-winning cartoon voice artist Fred Newman have taught me more than I ever dreamed was possible and really challenged me to get with the program. I highly recommend that puppeteers take some time to learn from the best and explore the endless possibilities of character voices.
Here’s what we’re playing with right now:
- “Greatest Cartoon Voice Tricks Ever Smuggled Out of Hollywood” - CD by Pat Fraley
- “Cartoon Voice!” - 2 CD set by Pat Fraley
(Info and samples at PatFraley.com)
More good books:
- “Creating Character Voices for Fun & Profit: A Professional Guide” by Pat Fraley (OOP - ISBN 0945353839)
- “MouthSounds: How to whistle, Pop, Boing and honk for all occasions… and then some.” by Fred Newman (ISBN 0761134220)
A couple interesting FREE resources online:
- Characters in my Pocket article and demo by Penny Abshire; insight into altering voices to create new characters
- Int’l Dialects of English Archive; hundreds of audio samples of accents from around the world