What is Beatboxing?
Beatboxing supposedly comes from the ancient roots from Africa, with cultural tie-ins. But that was not when it started. The term "Human Beatboxing" started in year 1980, where people were said to imitate the percussion sounds coming from the boombox just because they couldn't afford one. "Human Beatboxing" was then made known through notable beatboxers like "Doug E. Fresh", "Michael Winslow", "Rahzel", "Biz Markie", "Kenny Muhammad" and many more.
The term "Beatboxing" also commonly exists alongside the term "Vocal Percussion". But nowadays, the definition has taken a different meaning. In the context of nowadays, "Vocal Percussion" mainly focuses on making drum-like sounds, such as the Kick drum, Snare Drum, Hi-hats, and the Toms. "Beatboxing" however, provides a wider range of sounds made in an attempt to imitate music. These sounds include; bassline, trumpet, DJ scratch and other special effects.
The main goal of "beatboxing" is to come as close as we can to music which we hear, simply by using our mouth, throat and nose as an instrument. In short, we either recreate music, or we create our own music.
Through "Beatboxing", we learn to embrace the fact that the human voice is indeed a marvellous instrument, surpassing every man-made instrument.
What makes a Beatboxer?
Contrary to common beliefs, knowing how to beatbox does not make you a beatboxer. Why is that?
Being a beatboxer is not just about sounds, he/she must have the proper attitude and right mindset in beatboxing. The said beatboxer must be able to understand that the art of beatbox was built upon the spirit of sharing, and be able to share his/her knowledge to whoever that is willing to learn the art of Beatbox.
The beatboxer must also understand the objective of "Beatboxing" is not just about doing drum sounds, or just beat rhythm. It is to imitate as closely as music just by using our mouth, nose, and throat as our instrument and/or also making use of our natural instruments to create music.
Common Myths of Beatboxing
Myth 1 : Beatboxing is easy! You can learn beatbox overnight.
Fact : Beatboxing is never easy, it is an art, a discipline. Similar all the arts and discipline, it take a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance in order to make every sound sound crisp, clear and clean. Everyone can learn beatboxing, but it doesn't mean beatboxing is easy.
Myth 2 : Beatboxing is nothing more than just making sounds.
Fact : Incorrect. Beatboxing is a discipline, an art form that allows expression through the creativity of music. In Beatboxing, we do basslines, melody, alongside the beat rhythm in order to make music, either to imitate music which we've heard or simply just creating our own music piece.
Fun Fact 1 : Bobby McFerrin was the first known artist to have created music pieces out of beatboxing.
Fun Fact 2 : The most known vocal band who creates music through beatboxing is none other than naturally 7!
Myth 3 : Beatboxing has no basis in music.
Fact: When we teach beatboxing, we do not simply just teach sounds, nor just the right mindset and attitude. We also teach time signature, how to follow rhythm, all which would be covered in music theory. We are just like the other musical disciplines; piano, guitar, etc. We doin fact have musical notation for our craft - the art of beatbox. The difference? We do not teach using the typical musical notations, we teach instead using our very own beatbox standard notation ------ created in 2002 by Mark Splinter and Gavin Tyte of humanbeatbox.com.
Myth 4 : Standard Beatbox Notation is not recognised.
Fact: The Standard Beatbox Notation (SBN) might be created by beatboxers, but not only is it widely used by beatbox artists worldwide, the creators (Mark Splinter, Gavin Tyte ) are also cited in several academic articles, such as "Paralinguistic mechanisms of production in human “beatboxing”: A real-time magnetic resonance imaging study", it also prompted several academics to come up with other forms of musical notation for beatboxing such as the IPA notation - "The Beatbox Alphabet" created by Stowell, D. (2008-2012)
Myth 5 : Beatbox is not a recognised music discipline.
Fact : Beatbox is a recognised music discipline, which still contains unexplored grounds. In fact a lot of linguistics academics are intrigued by how a human voice has the ability to create such a wide variety of sounds. Beatboxing started in 1980s, it is still a new musical discipline with ample grounds for exploration. This in turn prompted several other academics to research further into this new musical discipline writing papers such as "The phonetics of beatboxing" Lederer, K. (2005), “Linguistic and para-linguistic mechanisms of production in human “beatboxing”: Proctor, M. I., Nayak, K. S., and Narayanan, S. S. (2010b). ,“Query-by-beat-boxing: Music retrieval for the DJ,” Kapur, A., Benning, M., and Tzanetakis, G. (2004). and many more.
Myth 6 : You need music theory to learn beatboxing.
Fact : No you don't. All that is required is a basic understanding of music theory, we're talking about basic rhythm and time signatures. Why? As mentioned above we have our Standard Beatbox Notation (SBN). So if you can keep the beat, you will be able to learn beatboxing.
Myth 7 : An AMIS certification provides the guarantee that the instructor is qualified to teach beatboxing.
Fact : Well, an AMIS certification requires a grade 5 ABRSM music theory and grade 6 ABRSM practical. However, if you browse through the ABRSM website, you will realise that there is no ABRSM exam for Beatboxing. And as mentioned previously, beatboxing does not require an extensive musical background. So the AMIS certification cannot be an accurate gauge of an instructor's ability and skills to teach beatboxing.
Myth 8 : Beatboxing and vocal percussion only exists in Acappella groups.
Fact : This is not true. Other forms of beatboxing does in fact, exist. In fact beatboxing is so flexible, that it can be performed solo, with a looper, with a singer and with different kinds of instruments such as guitar, keyboard, trumpet, flute and even a didgeridoo and other instruments.
Myth 9 : Beatboxing can harm your vocal chords.
Fact : This is most common myth that most singers or musician who wishes to learn the art of beatboxing to further their craft have. To that we say, that is not true. A research done by voice expert Dr. H. Steven Sims of the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in 2013 entitled "Functional Endoscopic Analysis of Beatbox Performers" found that - Beatboxing is a complex form of vocal percussion using the entire vocal tract. Although similarities with singing in the anatomical structures and positioning are noted in beatboxing, there are several unique and interesting anatomical processes occurring. Use of the entire vocal tract, including the pharyngeal constrictors, may actually protect against glottic injury. So it was found that beatboxing not only does not harm your vocal chords, it actually helps to protect a certain part of your vocal chords.
We hope that the above information provided was sufficient and has played a part in assuring everyone that beatboxing is not just a sound, it is a musical discipline just like all the other musical disciplines such as piano, violin, flute, guitar etc. with even more grounds of exploration such as the special effects, bassline (commonly used in dubstep genre) , imitation of musical instruments that even all the other man-made instruments cannot achieve!
You walk on the street making random sounds, and people whom you past gives you a weird stare.
You then walk on by, disregarding the disapproving looks, still making those random sounds. That is mainly just about every beatboxer's walk of life.
Are we simply making noises?
So just what is beatboxing?
To define beatboxing is not an easy task. Beatboxing started as being an underground art, and its origins cannot be clearly defined.