Beatboxing (also beat boxing or b-boxing) is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of mimicking drum machines using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve vocal imitation of turntablism, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing today is connected with hip-hop culture, often referred to as "the fifth element" of hip-hop, although it is not limited to hip-hop music. The term "beatboxing" is sometimes used to refer to vocal percussion in general.
Techniques similar to beatboxing have been present in many American musical genres since the 19th century, such as early rural music, both black and white, religious songs, blues, ragtime, vaudeville, and hokum. Examples include the Appalachian technique of eefing and the blues song Bye bye bird by Sonny Boy Williamson II.
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, even 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. Pink Floyd's "Pow R. Toc H." (1967) also includes vocal percussion performed by the group's lead vocalist Syd Barrett. Jazz singers Bobby Mcferrin and Al Jarreau were very well known for their vocal styles and techniques which have had great impact on techniques beatboxers use today. 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 the 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's proliferation. Wise inspired an entire new fan base of human beatboxers with his human turntable technique. Other pioneers of beatboxing include Rahzel well known for his realistic robotic sounds and for his ability to sing and beatbox simultaneously, Scratch a beatboxer and musician well known for further revolutionizing the use of vocal scratching in beatboxing, and Kenny Muhammad "the human orchestra" a beatboxer known for his technicality and outstanding rhythmic precision, who pioneered the inward k snare, a beatbox technique that imitates a snare drum by breathing inward.
The Internet has played a large part in the popularity of modern beatboxing. Alex Tew (aka A-Plus) started the first online community of beatboxers in 2000 under the banner of HUMANBEATBOX.COM. In 2001, Gavin Tyte, a member of this community created the world's first tutorials and video tutorials on beatboxing. In 2003, the community held the world's first Human Beatbox Convention in London featuring beatbox artists from all over the world.
Beatboxing's current popularity is due in part to releases from artists such as Rahzel, RoxorLoops, Reeps One, and Alem.
Sometimes, modern beatboxers 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 blowing and sucking air around their fingers to produce a very realistic record scratching noise, which is commonly known as the 'crab scratch'. Another hand technique includes the 'throat tap' which involves the beatboxer tapping their fingers against their throat as they throat sing or hum.
Today there is an increase in the variety in which we see beatboxing throughout musical culture. People have gone as far as adding beatboxing in with different instruments to create a completely different sound unlike any other. Artist Greg Patillo goes as far as adding in beatboxing while playing the flute to very iconic songs. Beatbox has become modernized and has even been seen in popular movies such as Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2. Both of these movies showcase classical songs performed with a Capella covers in which all of the beats to the songs are done completely using the idea and technique of beatboxing to complete the sound capable to imitate the original song.
Beatbox Battle Network
Beatbox Battle Network was founded in summer 2002 in Berlin, Germany as a non profit organization with the main focus to support the global beatboxing community. It is specialized on culture marketing, live broadcasting and artist management. BBB3TV also known as Beatbox Battle Television produces the Beatbox Beatbox World Championship. The first Beatbox Battle World Championship held in Berlin was year 2005 followed by 2009, 2012 and 2015. World Champions for the individual men include Joel Turner (he was also the first Beatbox Battle World Team Champion with Tom Thum), ZeDe, SkilleR and Alem. World champions for the individual women include Butterscotch, Bellatrix, Pe4enkata and Kaila Mullady . They have featured beatboxers in most countries of the world.
World Beatbox Association
The World Beatbox Association or WBA was founded in 2010 in partnership with Humanbeatbox.com and Chesney Snow alongside Kenny Muhammad and Jim Wilde of Humanbeatbox.com . Today the WBA executive producer and curator is Chesney Snow. The WBA produced the first American Beatbox Championship in 2010. American Beatbox Champions include Frisco (San Francisco, California), J-Flo (Long Island, New York), Rizumik (Lisbon, Portugal), Beat Rhino (Irvine, California), and NaPoM (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). In 2013, Chesney Snow stepped down from organizing and producing the American Beatbox Championship and passed it on to Steven Foxx. 2013 was also the year that the movie "American Beatboxer" came out that documented the 2010 International Human Beatbox Convention (Boxcon) and the 2010 American Beatbox Championship in Brooklyn, New York that featured the 2010 American Beatbox Championship finalists Maximillion, B.Flow, HeaveN Beatbox, Frisco, LuckeyMonkey (who married England beatboxer Fat Tony), the Human Drum Machine, NYC Beatbox, the One Mouth Band with featured appearances by American beatboxers Rahzel, Kenny Muhammad, and Jason Tom. It also featured beatboxers from overseas, including Hobbit, Lytos, LOS, Ezra, and KRNFX. Chesney Snow resumed producing the event from 2014 to 2015. The 2016 event is currently being produced through special arrangements with WBA via The Beatbox House.
Common sounds and imitations
Using beatboxing techniques, a skilled beat boxer has the ability to imitate many types of sounds including those of a classic drum set, turn table, electronic effects, trumpet, and electric guitar. Some of these sounds have two different iterations: one used while exhaling air while the other used while inhaling air, allowing the artist to continue practicing without having to take an actual breath.
Classic drum set sounds
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 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.
Multi-vocalism is a form of vocal musicianship conceptualized by British Beatboxer and vocalist Killa Kela. It describes Beatboxers who incorporate other vocal disciplines and practices into their routines and performances such as, Singing, Rapping, Sound mimicry and other vocal arts. Some other well known multi-vocalists include (but are not limited to) Beardyman, Beatmaster g, Masta mic, and Petebox.
According to the Guinness World Records, the current record for the largest human beatbox ensemble was set by Booking.com employees. The record involved 4,659 participants and was achieved by Booking.com employees together with beatboxers at the RAI Amsterdam in Amsterdam, 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.
Before Shlomo's record, the previous record for the largest human beatbox ensemble involved 1,246 participants and was achieved by Vineeth Vincent and Christ University (India) in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, on 5 February 2011.
King Homeboy, a beatboxer and musician from New Zealand currently holds the world record for the world's longest individual beatboxing, MARATHON which is 36 hours
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.
In popular culture
When asked to beatbox, Siri will repeat the phrase "Boots and Cats" to mimic beatboxing. Teen Vogue called it "perhaps the most entertaining mid-day pick-me-up ever created."