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Making It Match: Part 1

By Amy Harder

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?



7 responses to “Making It Match: Part 1”

11 01 2008
Paul (09:27:35) :

Great article!
I’m just a beginner puppeteer. And I’m really struggling with the idea of when to open the mouth. And…how wide do I open the mouth! Could you talk about that in a next article? Which sounds should the puppet’s mouth open wide?
Greetings Paul

12 01 2008
Amy Harder (19:37:32) :

Hey Paul–We’ll be going into more detail in the next article… Sorry it’s been so long between posts! Hopefully I’ll be able to get to it real soon.

22 02 2008
Barb Franklin (09:20:41) :

I am really interested in learning puppetry but have no clue how to get started. Everything I see is ministery related. I am interested in teaching school bus safety to students of all ages thru puppetry. Can you make any suggestions, please?

22 02 2008
Sandee (12:24:17) :

Thanks Amy for posting this. It was a good reminder for what we practiced last summer at I-Fest.

25 02 2008
Amy Harder (23:37:41) :

You’re welcome, Sandee. Hope it helps!

Barb–There is a lot to be learned about puppet movement and basic manipulation principles… Study all you can, from wherever you can, and play lots. As for specific school bus safety material, boy, you got me there. You might tap into the folks over at the puppetsandstuff.com forums. They represent a wealth of puppet-y knowledge and script-y goodness.

5 03 2008
pastordave (07:29:02) :

Hey Amy!

Great article — can’t wait to SEE the next one! You have explained what I have tried to tell my puppeteers in a MUCH more understandable manner! I may print it out and take it to them!

Blessings on you and your ministry!


5 03 2008
Amy Harder (09:16:49) :

Thanks, Dave. Feel free to use it for your team… and lemme know how it goes over! :)

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