Beatboxing as a Contemplative Exercise

Set-up for practice session in beatboxing:

I have a metronome and a timer set to five minutes.

I try to be as exact and as rhythmical as possible. I take small steps.

tttt t … tttt t …

I find the period of five minutes very useful. My metronome accompanies me, gives me a beat, proves me right or wrong, supports me. To the timer, I hand over the responsibility of deciding if I am done with that exercise, or if I have to go on.

Many things happen to me in this time frame. I focus, I unfocus. Normally shortly before the five minutes are done, I discover something really interesting and new in my sound. I set another five minutes, out of curiosity, and the cycle begins again!

The exercise sucks me in.

Sample from a practice session with Sebastian Fuchs. Cleaning the fundamentals.




It is an enjoyable sensation to be exactly on the beat.

In overtone singing, one of the first steps is to learn to actually perceive your own harmonics. In beatboxing, there is also a switch where I start hearing instrumental, mechanical sounds, rather than consonants or oral sounds. That is when you stop speaking, and really make beats.

Beatboxing vs. Singing

Having worked on many very different singing techniques and voice effects in my life, I now think that beatboxing can’t actually be labeled a »singing technique.«

In many ways, it is completely different from anything I have done before, and it is a big challenge. I have to start from zero, at least at the beginning when I am still working on the standards and basics, and I can hardly add any of my skills and voice effects yet.

It is the work all percussionists know. Sitting with the instrument and the metronome, and practicing for hours. Of course, I also want to be as perfect as possible, especially now, when I am building my foundations.

On the other hand, it is very musical work. In the trillions of repetitions of the same sound, you start to hear all the varieties. A simple /t/ could be the basis of a whole piece.

That is the point – already! – where my work and research varies from that of a beatboxer. The coolest sound aren’t the only ones that count. The goal is not necessarily »showing-off« and being impressive, but rather to go deeper into the sound.

Collecting Interesting Topics for the Application of Beatboxing Sounds

What kind of approaches could the topic »beatboxing« allow for contemporary and experimental music?

  • Socio-cultural aspects. Beatboxing as the fifth element of Hip hop. Beatboxing battle. Confrontation with audio and video quotes from the Internet.
  • Beatboxing without sounding like beatboxing. Recognizability is mostly avoided as a topic in contemporary music. Will beatboxing still work if it’s taken out of its context? Which beatboxing sounds do not sound like beatboxing?
  • Rhythm. Rhythm – or the absence of a beat – is a popular topic in contemporary music.

Again: Will beatboxing work without a beat?

  • Beatboxing and language. How to incorporate vocal percussion into a sung phrase, and how to disincorporate it again and expose and play with the difficulties.