How to Beatbox


It is understandable that many individuals would like to beatbox as well as S&B. This may seem to be a daunting task at first. However, beatboxing is not that different from normal human speech. You only have to start developing a rhythmic feeling, and you have to stress the pronunciation of certain letters and vowels until you can talk in the beatbox language. You'll first start out with basic sounds and rhythms, and then advance to more sophisticated patterns as you get better and better.

Part 1
Basic Beatbox Techniques

Basic Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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To get started, you should master the three basic sounds of beatboxing: the classic kick drum {b}, the hi-hat {t}, and the classic snare drum {p} or {pf}. Practice combining the sounds into an 8-beat rhythm like this: { b t pf t / b t pf t } or { b t pf t / b b pf t }. Make sure to get the timing right. Start off slowly and build up speed later.[1]

Basic Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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The simplest way to make the classic kick drum is to say the letter "b." To make it sound louder and punchier, you need to do what is called a lip oscillation. This is where you let air vibrate through your lips - a bit like "blowing a raspberry." Once you can do this, you make a very short lip oscillation.[2] Make the b sound as if you are saying b from the word bogus. This time, with your lips closed, let the pressure build up. You need to control the release of you lips just enough to let them vibrate for a short amount of time.

Basic Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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Make a simple "ts" sound but have your teeth closed or lightly closed. Move the tip of your tongue forward behind your front teeth for a thin hat sound and to the traditional t position for a heavy hat sound.[3] Breathe out for longer to create the open hat sound.

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You can also do successive hi-hats by making a "tktktktk" sound, using the mid-back of your tongue to make the "k" sound.[4] You can make an open hi-hat sound by drawing out the breath in the "ts" hi-hat, so it's more like "tssss" for a more realistic open door sound. Another way of producing a realistic high-hat sound is to make a "ts" sound with your teeth clenched.

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The simplest way of making a classic snare sound is to say the letter 'p.' However, making a 'p' sound is too quiet.[5] To make it louder you can do several things: the first is to make a lip oscillation. This is where you push the air out of your lips making them vibrate. The second is where you breathe out at the same time making a [ ph ] sound. To make the 'p' sound more interesting and more snare-like, most beatboxers add a second fricative (continuous) sound to the initial 'p' sound: pf ps psh bk. The variation {pf} is similar to the bass drum, only you use the very front of your lips instead of the side, and you tighten them more. Pull your lips in a bit so that your lips are sort of hidden, as if you had no teeth. Build up a little air pressure behind the hidden lips. Swing your lips out (not literally swing) and just before they return to their normal position (un-hidden), release the air with a 'p' sound. Immediately after you release the air and get the 'p' sound out, tighten your bottom lip up against your bottom teeth to make a "fff" sound.

Part 2
Intermediate Beatbox Techniques

Intermediate Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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After mastering the three basic beatbox sounds, it's time to move onto these intermediate techniques. These might be a little more difficult, but practice makes perfect.

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This is done by pressing your lips together and building up pressure with your tongue and jaw, pushing your tongue forward from the back of your mouth and closing your opened jaw at the same time. Let your lips part toward the side for just a moment so the air can escape, and it should make a bass drum sound.[6] You want to add pressure with your lungs, but not so much that you have an airy sound afterward. If you're not making enough bass sound, you need to relax your lips a bit. If your sound isn't making a bass drum sound at all, you need to tighten your lips, or make sure that you're doing it off to the side of your lips. Another way to approach it is to say "puh." Then, take off the "uh" so that all you hear is the initial attack on the word, so that it comes out like a little puff. Try your hardest to not let any of the "uh" sound come out, and also try to not have any breathy sound or air noise with it. Once you feel comfortable with that, you can slightly tighten your lips and force a larger amount of air through your lips to make a bigger sounding kick drum.

Intermediate Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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Bring your tongue to the back of your mouth and build up pressure with your tongue or lungs. Use your tongue if you're looking for speed, or use your lungs if you want to breathe in at the same time as you make the sound.[7] Try saying "pff," making the "f's" stop just a millisecond or so after the "p." Lifting the corners of your mouth and holding your lips really tight when making the initial "p" will help it sound more realistic. You can also use the same technique to change the apparent pitch of the snare.

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First say "ish." Then, try saying "ish" without adding the "sh" at the end, again going only for the initial attack.[8] Make it very staccato (short), and you should get a sort of grunt in the back of your throat. Push a little bit when you say it, so that it has a big, accented attack. Once you're comfortable with that, add the "sh" on the end and you'll get a synth-like snare sound. You can also work on moving the grunt so that it feels like it's coming from the top of your throat, for a higher drum sound, or so that it feels more like it's coming out of the lower part of your throat, for a lower drum sound.

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This is one of the easier sounds to make. Whisper (don't say) the syllable "chish." Then, do it again, but this time clench your teeth and take the vowel out, going from "ch" straight to "sh" without little or no transition, and you'll have a basic crash cymbal.[9]

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Place the tip of your tongue so that it touches the place where your top teeth meet your palate. Keeping your lips about a half-inch apart, breathe in forcefully through your mouth. Notice how the air blows past your teeth and tongue and makes a sort of small rushing sound. Then, breathe in forcefully again, and this time close your lips as your breathing in; they should sort of feel like they're popping closed, without making a popping sound.

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You would be surprised at the number of human beatboxers who pass out because they forget that their lungs need oxygen. You may want to start by incorporating your breath into the beat. Eventually you will gain a great deal of lung capacity throughout your practice. An intermediate technique is to breathe in during a tongue snare, since it requires the least amount of lung capacity. An expert will have slowly practiced breathing whilst beatboxing each sound independently (see previous step), thus separating their breathing from the beat, allowing several kinds of bass sounds, snare sounds, and even some hi-hat sounds to continue without pause. As an alternative to breathing exercises, there are many sounds that can be done breathing inwards such as variations on the snare and handclap sounds.

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One thing that puzzles people is how beatboxers can beatbox for a long time without actually taking a breath. Well, the answer is to make a sound and breathe in at the same time! We call these inward sounds.[10] What is more, as you'll discover, some of the best sounds are made like this. There are many ways of making inward sounds. Nearly every sound that can be made outward can be made inward - although it may take some practice to get it right.

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Microphone technique is very important for performing or if you just want to enhance the sound made by your mouth. And there are different ways of holding the microphone.[11] While you can just hold the mic as you would while singing, some beatboxers find that putting the mic between your ring and middle fingers and then gripping it with your first two fingers on top of the bulb and your thumb at the bottom results in a cleaner, more crisp sound. Try not to breathe into the mic while you beatbox. Many beatboxers deliver a poor performances because they hold the microphone incorrectly and thus they fail to maximize the power and clarity of the sounds they produce.

Part 3
Advanced Beatbox Techniques

Advanced Beatbox Techniques on How to Beatbox

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Once you've acquired basic and intermediate skills, it's time to learn some advanced techniques. Don't worry if you have trouble picking them up right away. With practice, you'll be able to do all of them eventually.

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This should be used in place of a bass drum. It takes about 1/2-1 beat to perform. To do a sweeping bass drum, start out like you're about to do a bass drum. Then let your lips loose so they flap when you push air past them. Then touch the tip of your tongue to the inside gum of your bottom teeth and push it forward to perform the technique.

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This is done by making an "oof" sound, as if you've just been hit in the stomach. Do it while keeping your mouth closed.[12] You should be able to feel it in your chest.

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This is done the same way as the Techno Bass, but position your mouth as if you were going to make a "shh" sound. You'll still get the bass sound underneath.

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This is done by reversing the airflow of any of the previous techniques. A commonly misunderstood technique, scratching involves different tongue and lip movements depending on the instrument you are trying to "scratch" with. To understand better, record yourself laying down a beat. Then using a music program, like Windows Sound Recorder, listen to it in reverse. Learning to emulate those reversed sounds literally doubles your known techniques. Also, try making the sound, and then its reverse immediately afterward (Ex: A bass sound followed by its reverse in quick succession make the standard "scratch" noise). Crab scratch: Put your thumb up. Open your hand up and put your fingers 90 degrees to the left. Make your lips tight. Put your hand on your lips with your lips out them right near the crack of your thumb. Suck in air. It should make a warp sound like a DJ.

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Lightly blow out through your mouth while trying to sustain the letter "f." By blowing slightly harder on the beats 2 and 4, you'll have the accents.

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Whisper the word "kaw," then say it again without letting any of the "aw" through. Push on the "k" a little harder and you'll get a rimshot.[13]

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This is a very difficult technique to perform at first, but once you know how, you can use it any time. To start, position your tongue so that the right (or left, depending on preference) side is resting right above where your top teeth meet your gum. Then pull the back of your tongue toward the back of your throat to do a click roll.[14]

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This technique isn't as difficult as singing, but when you're just starting off, it is easy to get lost. To start, you must first realize that there are two ways to hum: one is from the throat (say "ahh") and the other is through the nose ("mmmmmm"), which is considerably harder to get used to but immeasurably more versatile. The key to humming and beatboxing at the same time is to start with a baseline or melody in mind. Listen to rap hooks, whether they be hummed or not (For example, listen to Parliament Funkadelic's "Flashlight" and practice humming the melody, then try beatboxing over top of it; James Brown is also great for melodies). Scour your music collection for baselines and melodies to hum, then try to put some of your beats or someone else's beats over top of it. It is necessary to learn how to hum a melody or baseline for several reasons, especially if you plan to learn to start singing. This is the area of beatboxing that takes some originality! If you've tried to beatbox and hum at the same time, you must have realized that you've lost of some of your proficiency with certain beat techniques (the Techno Bass and Techno Snare are severely limited, as well as the click roll becomes, if not totally unusable, very hard to hear). Learning what works takes time and practice. If you ever find yourself in a beatbox battle, don't forget that while your endurance and speed are important, using new and interesting melodies and baselines will always win the crowd.

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This is an advanced technique which is not widely used in the realm of beatboxing. There are several resources available on how to sing/hum inward. For the purposes of beatboxing, when you need to breathe really bad, it may be a good idea to hum inward. You can always continue humming the same melody, but the pitch (note) will change drastically. With practice, you can correct this pitch change to some extent, but many beatboxing experts who use inward humming decide to change the melody when switching from outward humming to inward humming.

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Hum falsetto (that's high pitched - like Mickey Mouse).[15] Now, lift the back of your tongue to make the sound thinner and sharper. Add a loose, lip oscillation (classic kick drum) to the front of each note. Then close your eyes, let rip and pretend you are Louis Armstrong!

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The key is to line up consonant sounds with the bass and vowel sounds with the snare. Don't bother adding a hi-hat, as even the best beatboxers have trouble in that respect.

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Start by pretending to clear phlem from your throat or growling like an animal. The resulting sound will be scratchy, so adjust the back of your mouth until you get a steady pitch. After you've achieved this, to make the sweeping sounds, shift the shape of your mouth and that will change the tambre while maintaining the pitch. Caution: doing this for an extended amount of time can cause temporary inflation.

Part 4
Singing and Beatboxing

Singing and Beatboxing on How to Beatbox

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Singing and beatboxing at the same time may seem like an impossible task (especially at first). But it's actually quite easy. Below is a working sample that will help you get started. You can use this basic technique and later adapt it to any song. (b)if your (pff)mother (b)(b)on(b)(pff)ly knew(b)knew(pff) ("If Your Mother Only Knew" by Rahzel).[16]

Singing and Beatboxing on How to Beatbox

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Listen to the song you want to beatbox to a few times to find out where the beat goes. In the example above, the beats are marked out.

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This will help you get comfortable with the song.

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Most songs will have the beat in front of the words. In this case: "If" - Since the word "if" in our example starts with a vowel, it is easy to fit in the bass just before it, as though you were saying "bif." Note however, that the "b" must be low and if necessary, separate the beats from the words a little when you first start. "Mother" - The word "mother" starts with a consonant. In this case, you could drop the "m" and substitute it with the "pff" since they sound quite close when said together quickly. Or, you could stagger the word just a little so that the beat comes first, and the lyric slightly delayed. If you choose the first, you will end up singing "pffother." Notice that your top teeth contact your lower lip, which is what creates the m-like sound. If you can manipulate this, it will sound a lot better. "On" - For the double beat on "on," you can hum the pitch while doing "b-b-on," then come in straight away with "b pff-ly knew," all the while humming the pitch. For the "on," you might find that the sound breaks if you do the second bass beat. To remedy this, hum through your nose. This can be done simply by pushing the back of your tongue up to close off against your soft upper palate. This hum now comes out through your nose, and is not interrupted by what you do with your mouth. "Knew" - The word "knew" echoes and fades off.

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These steps can be adapted for any song with a beat. Keep practicing, with different songs and soon you will be able to ad-lib more easily.

Part 5
Patterns

Patterns on How to Beatbox

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Patterns on How to Beatbox

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The first line is for the snare sound. This can be a tongue snare, a lip snare, or any other snare. Next is the hi-hat line, and the third is the bassline. Another line can be added at the bottom for miscellaneous sounds, which should be defined below the tab and apply only to that pattern. Here's an example:

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S |----|K---|----|K---||----|K---|----|K---| H |--T-|--T-|--T-|--T-||----|----|----|----| B |B---|----|B---|----||B---|----|B---|----| V |----|----|----|----||--W-|--W-|--W-|--W-| W = Vocalized "What?"

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Beats are separated by single lines, bars by double lines.

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Here's a key for the symbols:

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JB = Bumskid bass drum B = Strong bass drum b = Soft bass drum X = Sweeping bass drum U = Techno bass drum

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K = Tongue snare (without lungs) C = Tongue snare (with lungs) P = Pff or lip snare G = Techno snare

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T = "Ts" snare S = "Tssss" open snare t = front part of successive hi-hats k = back part of successive hi-hats

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Kkkk = Click roll

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This is the basic beat. All beginners should start here and work their way up.

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S |----|K---|----|K---||----|K---|----|K---| H |--T-|--T-|--T-|--T-||--T-|--T-|--T-|--T-|

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B |B---|----|B---|----||B---|----|B---|----|

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This one sounds cool and is a good exercise for speeding up your hi-hats without using the successive hi-hat sounds.

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S |----|K---|----|K---||----|K---|----|K---| H |--TT|--TT|--TT|--TT||--TT|--TT|--TT|--TT|

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B |B---|----|B---|----||B---|----|B---|----|

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This is a more advanced beat that should only be attempted if you can successfully do the Double Hi-hat pattern with perfect accuracy. It switches up the rhythm in the Double Hi-hat pattern to make it more interesting.

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S |----|K---|----|K---||----|K---|----|K---| H |--TT|----|TT--|--TT||--TT|----|TT--|--TT|

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B |B---|--B-|--B-|----||B---|--B-|--B-|-B--|

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This is a very advanced beat. Only try it if you've mastered the above patterns as well as the successive hi-hat(tktktk).

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S |----|K---|----|K---||----|K---|----|K---| H |-tk-|-tk-|tk-t|-tkt||-tk-|-tk-|tkSS|--tk|

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B |B--b|---B|--B-|----||B--b|---B|--B-|----|

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S |----|G---|----|G---||----|G---|----|G---| H |--tk|--tk|--tk|--tk||--tk|--tk|--tk|--tk|

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B |U---|----|U---|----||U---|----|U---|----|

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S |--P-|-P--| |S |-P--P|-P----P-| H |----|----|{3x}|H |-----|-.tk.t-t|

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B |B---|B---| |B |B-BB-|B--.B---|

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This beat has 16 beats in it. ch4nders split it into 4 beats. it sounds cool when it is faster

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|B t t t |K t t K |t k t B |K t t K |

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1--------2--------3--------4-------

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When it says D, do a quick double bass kick.

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S |--K-|--K-|--K-|--K-| H |-t-t|t--t|-t-t|t--t|

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B |B---|-D--|B---|-D--|

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S |----|K---|----|K---| H |-tt-|-t-t|tt-t|-ttt|

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B |B--B|--B-|--B-|----|

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For the t line, you actually click your tongue. The number three represents a relatively open mouth, for a higher more open sound. One represents a small “O” shaped mouth, for a low tongue click, and 2 is somewhere in the middle. The beat is quite difficult, and you can practice doing just the bass and snare until you feel ready to add the tongue clicks. Additionally, you may add a high pitched “Snoooop” humming in your throat. Listen to the song to see what it’s like.

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v|snoooooooooooooooo t|--3--2--|1--2----| S|----k---|----k---| B|b--b--b-|--b-----|

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v|ooooooooooooooooooop t|--1--2--|3--2----| S|----k---|----k---|

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B|b--b--b-|--b-----|

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Don't be afraid to use odd sounding beats. Fool around with the location of the different sounds, as long as they flow.