The History of Beatbox
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. Few examples are the Appalachian technique of eefing and the blues song Bye bye bird written and performed by the harmonica player Alex or Aleck Miller akaSonny 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 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.
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.