Our voice is the original musical instrument – portable, always available, universal and versatile. Instruments created entirely new worlds of sounds. With those new sounds came different layers of music, no longer strictly melody but now additionally rhythm, harmony, accompaniment, dynamics and texture. However, that original instrument – the voice – is unique enough that it can create all of these things too. Instruments just extended what our voice already did! “Yes, but what about the beat?” you may ask. The answer comes in the form of the rich possibilities of beatboxing.
Beatboxing uses our voice and our entire bodies, much like any instrument we play, to create sound effects. No longer the novelty it was popularized as by the likes of Larvelle Jones in the Police Academy films, beatboxing is a legitimate art form with some amazing prospects and devoted followers.
Impressive of course, possibly hilarious, but let’s take a more serious look at how this art form has developed in the following videos that showcase the unique talents and skills that come from a selection of beatboxers themselves.
The polyphonic me | Beardyman | TEDTalk
Beardyman is an amazing manipulator of his voice. In the first minute alone of this video he showcases a variety of his skills to create loops and layers of crazy sounds with just his own voice – no equipment other than the microphone he holds. He throws in a band at one point and it becomes difficult to tell what is his voice and what is the instrument itself.
The Evolution of Beatbox | DeWayne Taylor | TEDxLincoln
DeWayne Taylor takes the microphone this time and tells how beatboxing changed his life. He discusses how he went from annoying his mom with all of his “noise” as a kid, taking what was just a hobby and turning it into something he spent hundreds of hours perfecting. All of that practice lead to him eventually competing in the American Beatbox Championships. He goes on to explain just what this artform means to him and how he helps other people understand and appreciate his artistic expression through voice.
The beatboxer | Dave Crowe | TEDxGöteborg
Dave Crowe mixes in more of the physical aspects of beatboxing, discussing how his background as a dancer incorporates into his skills as a beatboxer, even though he did not have the typical physical attributes for either. Intertwined in this message is a story about freedom, to explore freedom within ourselves and live life to the fullest. Who would have thought that beatboxing could be taken in such a philosophical direction!?
Future loops | THEPETEBOX | TEDxWarwick
As evidenced above, beatboxing incorporates the very instruments it imitates all the time. Here THEPETEBOX gives a sample of his incredible live show where he manipulates his voice digitally for more of a dance vibe. This time he layers his voice with a mixer to create sounds that seem impossible for the human voice to replicate, only to change them in real-time and create a wall of sound that sounds just as sonic and impressive as any DJ or full band.
Beatbox brilliance | Tom Thum | TEDxSydney
Australian Tom Thum makes so many sounds at once that you’d swear there was a band hiding in his mouth. But it’s just him and the microphone on the stage. He showcases his talent in some humorous ways before explaining how becoming a “human noise-maker” has changed his life and he’s been able to make a career out of it. He closes out his talk with a tour-de-force performance that leaves you wondering where all the sounds are coming from, creating the sounds of singing, trumpet, drums and more all at the same time.
Flute Beatboxing Performance | Cosmin Cioca | TEDxBucharest
We’ll close out this list with a very unconventional beatbox performance – with a flute. Cosmin Cioca took flute lessons as a child and had a very love-hate relationship with it originally, getting better and better but wanting to explore other musical forms of expression. Enter beatboxing. Cosmin intertwines his beatboxing skills while simultaneously playing the flue. It ends up being a strange yet delightful combination of two instruments that normally wouldn’t be associated together.
Do you beatbox or know anyone that does? Leave a comment below on your thoughts about the art form!