How to Beatbox // How to Be a Human Beatbox // Beatboxing Tips

Have you ever seen people like Rahzel or Matisyahu create beats using nothing but their own body as an instrument? Here's how you can do it, too.

1. Listen to some music by famous beatboxers such as Killa Kela, Rahzel, Biz Markie, Doug E. Fresh, Matisyahu, or even Bobby McFerrin (The artist of 'Don't Worry Be Happy.' He created the whole song using only his voice dubbed on different tracks to create many different 'instruments'). This will show you what is possible with the human body.
2. Develop a good bass drum sound. 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. You want to add pressure with your lungs, but not so much that you have an airy sound afterward. If you're not making a bassy enough 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.
3. Get a good snare drum sound. This is can be done several ways, but here are the two most common. The first is similar to the bass drum, only you use the very front of your lips instead of the side, and you tighten them more. Most beatboxers put an "f" or "sh" sound afterward to make it sound more like a snare drum. Another way to make a snare sound is to 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. 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 intial "p" will help it sound more realistic. You can also use the same technique to change the apparent pitch of the snare.
4. For a more drum-machine type snare sound, first say "ish." Then, try saying "ish" without adding the "sh" at the end, again going only for the intial attack. 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 confortable 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.
5. Develop your crash cymbal. 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.
6. To do a synth-like reversed cymbal, 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, breath in forcefully through your mouth. Notice how the air blows past your teeth and tongue and makes a sort of small rushing sound. Then, breath 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.
7. Make a good hi-hat sound. There are a few ways to go about this. First, you can make a "t" sound. You can push a little air behind it, making a "ts" sound. You can also do successive hi-hats by making a "tktktktk" sound, using the mid-back of your tongue to make the "k" sound. You can make an open hi-hat sound by drawing out the breath in the "ts" hi-hat, so it's more like "tssss".
8. Practice each sound individually until you can make a good sound consistently the first time.
9. Breathe. You would be surprised at the number of human beatboxes 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 whilest 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 breating exercises, there are many sounds that can be done breathing inwards such as variations on the snare and handclap sounds.
10. Start a basic beat. A good beat to start out with is the basic beat below.
11. Start coming up with your own beats. Start out with the basic structure and build upon it, adding basses and hi-hats where you see fit. Most patterns have a snare on beats 2 and 4, but don't be afraid to fool around with the location of the second one. Don't be afraid to use odd sounding beats, as long as they flow.

Modified drum tab

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 Bass line. 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:

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

Beats are separated by single lines, bars by double lines. Here's a key for the symbols:

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

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

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

Kkkk = Click Roll

Basic Beat

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

S ----K-------K-------K-------K---
H --T---T---T---T---T---T---T---T-
B B-------B-------B-------B-------

Double Hi-hat

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

S ----K-------K-------K-------K---
H --TT--TT--TT--TT--TT--TT--TT--TT
B B-------B-------B-------B-------

Modified Double Hi-hat

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 rythms in the Double Hi-hat pattern to make it more interesting.

S ----K-------K-------K-------K---
H --TT----TT----TT--TT----TT----TT
B B-----B---B-----B-----B---B--B--

Advanced Beat

This is a very advanced beat. Only try it if you've mastered the above patterns as well as the successive hi-hat(tktktk).
S ----K-------K-------K-------K---
H -tk--tk-tk-t-tkt-tk--tk-tkSS--tk
B B--b---B--B-----B--b---B--B-----

Techno Beat

S ----G-------G-------G-------G---
H --tk--tk--tk--tk--tk--tk--tk--tk
B U-------U-------U-------U-------

Advanced Techniques
Here's where you'll find out how to do some of the more interesting techniques. Don't worry if you aren't getting it at first, all of these techniques will come with time.

Sweeping bass drum (X) 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.

Techno Bass (U) 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. You should be able to feel it in your chest.

Techno Snare (G) 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.

Scratching 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 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 afterwards (Ex: A bass sound followed by its reverse in quick succession make the standard 'scratch' noise).

Jazz Brushes 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.

Rimshot 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. Closed Hi-Hat Whisper "tuh" and take out the "uh," leaving the initial attack to sound like a closed hi-hat.

Click Roll (Kkkk) 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.

Humming the Baseline and beatboxing at the same time
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 their 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 and 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 win always win the crowd.

Inward Humming
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 inwards. For the purposes of beatboxing, when you need to breathe really bad, it may be a good idea to hum inwards. 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.

Singing and beatboxing at the same time
This isnt a very hard technique,once you get to know the basic principles. The key to singing and beatboxing at the same time is to line up consonant sounds with the bass and vowel sounds with the snare. Don't try to add hi-hats in, as even the best beatboxers have trouble in that respect.Here is an example: (b)if your (pff)mother (b)(b)on(b)(pff)ly knew(b)new Here are some good combinations:

B as in bus
M as in mother
H as in home
L as in listen

I as in if
O as in only
N as in knew

Holding the Mic

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 you thumb at the bottom results in a cleaner, more crisp sound.

Practice wherever possible, whenever possible. Since you don't have to have anything but your body, you can practice at home, at work, at school, on the bus, just about anywhere is appropriate.
Always practice with a consistent tempo. This means that you should try to keep the same speed throughout a pattern.
Try to find other beatboxers and beatbox together. It's fun and you can learn things from your new friends.
Periodically take a drink of water to keep your mouth from drying out.
When you first start out, you'll probably feel a bit goofy. But if you stick with it, you'll find that you'll have lots of fun and make some awesome music at the same time.
Your mouth probably won't be used to the sudden new pressure you're putting on it. Your jaw may feel sore at first, and your lips my get the pins-and-needle feeling like sitting on your foot for too long. Try to limit yourself at first as the muscles in your face get used to being exercised like this. If you're feeling sore, stop for a while.


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