Beatboxing (also beatbox, beat box or b-box) is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing today is connected with hip-hop culture, being one of "the elements", although it is not limited to hip-hop music. The term "beatboxing" is sometimes used to refer to vocal percussion in general (see vocal percussion for details).
Many different cultures have imitated percussion sounds vocally throughout history. Two early examples are bol, which originated in India several thousand years ago, and the Chinese Kouji, a type of vocal performing art. These had little or no relation with rap, however, and have no direct connection to modern Eastern hip hop.
Other vocal imitative styles may have had some influence on the development of hip-hop, although this idea is difficult to prove. Significant examples include scat singing, which is vocal improvisation in jazz, and puirt a beul, a form of traditional Scottish music. Jazz, which developed from the blues and other African-American and European musical traditions and originated around the beginning of the 20th century, has also influenced hip hop and has been cited as a precursor of hip hop.
Additional influences may perhaps include forms of African traditional music, in which performers utilize their bodies (e.g., by clapping or stomping) as percussion instruments and produce sounds with their mouths by breathing loudly in and out, a technique used in beatboxing today.
Many well-known performers used vocal percussion occasionally, though this was not directly connected to the cultural tradition that came to be known as "beatboxing". Paul McCartney's "That Would Be Something" (1969) includes vocal percussion. Michael Jackson was known to record himself beat-boxing on a dictation tape recorder as a demo and scratch recording to compose several of his songs, including "Billie Jean", "The Girl Is Mine", and others. Gert Fröbe, a German actor most widely known for playing Auric Goldfinger in the James Bond film Goldfinger, "beatboxes" as Colonel Manfred von Holstein (simultaneously vocalizing horned and percussive instruments) in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a 1965 British comedy film.
Origins in hip hop
The term "beatboxing" is derived from the mimicry of the first generation of drum machines, then known as beatboxes. "Human beatboxing" in hip-hop originated in 1980s. Its early pioneers include Doug E. Fresh, the self-proclaimed first "human beatbox", Swifty, the first to implement the inhale sound technique, Buffy, who helped perfect many beatboxing techniques and Wise, who contributed significantly to beat boxing' proliferation. Wise inspired an entire new fan base of human beatboxers with his human turntable technique.
Sometimes, artists will use their hand or another part of their body to extend the spectrum of sound effects and rhythm. Some have developed a technique that involves using their hands to produce very realistic scratching effects, which they use in beatboxing. Another artist from Belgium cupped his hands to make bird and ocean sound effects in his beatboxing, and so forth.
As with other musical disciplines, some form of musical notation or transcription may sometimes be useful in order to describe beatbox patterns or performances. Sometimes this takes the form of ad hoc phonetic approximations, but is occasionally more formal.
Standard Beatbox Notation (SBN) was created by Mark Splinter and Gavin Tyte of Humanbeatbox.com in 2006 as an alternative to International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcription, which had been used sparingly before then.
In 2010 the UK beatboxer Shlomo worked with composer Anna Meredith on a "concerto for beatboxer and orchestra", and developed a simple phonetic notation in order to create a score for the beatboxer.
In a research study published in 2013 and based on real-time MRI imaging of a beatboxer, the authors propose a notation system which combines the International Phonetic Alphabet with musical staff notation, in part motivated by their observation that many beatboxing sounds can be adequately represented by the IPA.
According to the Guinness World Records, the current record for the largest human beatbox ensemble was set by Booking.com employees. It involved 4,659 participants and was achieved by Booking.com employees together with beatboxers at the RAI Amsterdam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on 10 December 2013 during their annual company meeting.
The previous largest human beatbox ensemble involved 2,081 participants and was achieved by Google (Ireland), Shlomo (UK) and Testament (UK) at The Convention Centre, Dublin, Ireland on 14 November 2011.
Selected beatbox discography
This list is a selected discography of commercial releases which are mostly/entirely beatbox-based or are otherwise notable/influential records in the history of beatboxing and its popularisation.
- Michael Winslow - Police Academy (1984)
- The Fat Boys - Fat Boys (1984)
- Bobby McFerrin - The Voice (album) (1984)
- Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick - The Show, b/w La Di Da Di (1985)
- Just-Ice (featuring Davy DMX on beatbox) - Back to the Old School (1986)
- Wise - Just Say Stet (1985), Faye (1986) & Stet Troop 88 (1988)
- Biz Markie - Goin' Off (includes beatbox track "Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz") (1988)
- Vanilla Ice - Havin' a Roni - from To The Extreme (1990)
- D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik - Have Mic... Will Travel: The EP (2001)
- Kyle "Scratch" Jones - The Embodiment of Instrumentation (2002)
- Killa Kela - The Permanent Marker (2002)
- Rahzel - Rahzel's Greatest Knock Outs (2004)
- Björk - Medúlla (2004)
- Joel Turner - "These Kids" (2004)
- Matisyahu - "Live at Stubb's" (2005)
- Dub FX - "Everythinks a Ripple" (2005)
- Beatbox Battle - "Beatbox Battle Express" (2005)
- Biz Markie - Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz (2006)
- Poizunus - A.D.D. (Active Dreaming Disorder) (2007)
- Kid Beyond - Amplivate (2004)
- Blake Lewis - A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream) (2007)
- Logan Henderson - "Big Time Rush" (2009–present)
- Felix Zenger - "Won't Say a Thing" (2010)
- Beardyman - I Done A Album (2011)
- Hopsin - "Lunch Time Cypher" (2013)
- List of beatboxers
- List of American beatboxers
- Hip hop music
- Scat singing
- Puirt a beul
- Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box
- Michael Winslow
- List of UK Beatbox Championship winners
- The History of Beatboxing, humanbeatbox.com
- D. Stowell and M. D. Plumbley, Characteristics of the beatboxing vocal style. Technical Report C4DM-TR-08-01. 2008.
- "The Roots of Rap". http://www.yazooRecords.com/2018.htm. Retrieved 2005-12-21.
- "Michael Jackson BeatBoxing" (Youtube video, 4:58 min). Jackson beatboxes while explaining how he composed "Tabloid Junkie", "The Girl Is Mine", "Who Is It", "Billie Jean", and "Streetwalker" (song on the Bad album 2001 Special Edition). 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
- Doug E. Fresh | Music Artist | Videos, News, Photos & Ringtones | MTV
- Garfield, J. Breath Control: The History Of The Human Beat Box at the Internet Movie Database. 2002. A documentary on the history of the art form, including interviews with Doug E. Fresh, Emanon, Biz Markie, Marie Daulne of Zap Mama, Kyle Faustino, and others.
- TyTe. "Standard Beatbox Notation". HumanBeatBox.com.
- Liu, Marian (2007-01-04). "Beatboxing: An oral history; Hip-Hoppers Turn to Voice-Based Rhythms". San Jose Mercury News. (California).
- Wyse, Pascal (2010-02-11). "Shlomo and the beatbox concerto". The Guardian.
- Proctor, M.I. and Bresch, E. and Byrd, D. and Nayak, K. and Narayanan, S. (2013). "Para-Linguistic Mechanisms of Production in Human "Beatboxing": a Real-time Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 133 (2): 1043–1054. doi:10.1121/1.4773865.
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