How to become a Vocal Percussionist?

Vocal percussion is the art of mimicking drum machines with the help of your mouth, voice, tongue, and lips. It is popularly known as beatboxing. Beatboxing seems to be a fun activity but requires a lot of practice. Although it has no major difference from human speech, you need to develop a rhythmic sound pattern. Besides, you also need to stress on some particular alphabets and vowels. This, in turn, will help you to master the beatboxing language. Here is a briefing on how to become a professional vocal percussionist.

What are the sounds?

There are a lot of sounds which you need to master to become a vocal percussionist. Specifically, there is a basic set of sounds for amateur level and then there is the intermediate level and the pro level. In the basic level, you first need to develop sounds of classic kick drum which is the alphabet “b”. Along with this, there is the hi-hat “t” and snare drum “pf” or “p”. The first thing you need to practice is developing an 8-beat rhythm. For example, “b t pf t / b b pf t” or “b t pf t / b t pf t” is your starters guide to beatboxing.

The classic kick drums {b}

The alphabet “b” is the easiest way to make the kick drum beat. By practicing lip oscillation you can develop a punchier, louder and clear sound. Lip oscillation allows you to vibrate the air through your lips and it feels like blowing raspberries. Build up the pressure inside your mouth with closed lips before spelling the alphabet “b”. Release it slowly in a controlled manner so that the vibration lasts.

The beginner’s hi-hat {t}

By keeping your teeth lightly or tightly closed, try to make a “t” or “ts” sound. You need to move your tip of the tongue towards the front teeth to make the sound. Initially, you’ll be able to make a thin hat sound which when practiced regularly can help you develop the traditional hi-hat sound.

Successive or advanced hi-hats

As soon as you master the traditional hi-hat or the classic one, move ahead with the advanced one. This is more like “tktktktk” sound. You need to use the mid-back of your tongue and produce the “k” sound. Alternatively, you can also make the “ts” sound by drawing out your breath. You can also make the “ts” sound by clenching your teeth.

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The classic snare drum {p}

Moving on to the next important and basic sound of beatboxing is the classic snare drum sound. It is produced by spelling the alphabet “p’. You need some lip oscillation as well to make the sound loud and clear. Firstly, you need to push the air out and vibrate your lips. Secondly, you must breathe out immediately so that a “ph” sound occurs. If you wish to make the “p” sound more intense, you can add a continuation to it by spelling “pf / ps / psh”. Tighten your lips from the front and not from the sides. The sound produced is similar to that of the bass drum.

The bass drum sound

To bring out the exact bass drum sound, you need to press your lips together. This, in turn, will help you build pressure with the jaws and tongue. Next, you need to part your lips to either side to let go some air. As a result, a bass drum sound will be produced from this mechanism. You can try to add extra pressure from the lungs but that just may make the sound airy. If you want to check that whether your bass drum sound is accurate or not, record it. At any point, if it doesn’t sound accurate then you might just have to tighten your lips more. Alternatively, you can try speaking the word ‘puh” and later on silent the “uh” which will help you make the “p” sound.

Other ways to develop the Snare sound

You can try other ways to develop the snare sound if the classical way is not working for you. First of all, you have to pull your tongue backward and create pressure with the lungs or tongue. Second of all, use your lungs to breathe in and produce the sound. Else, you can use your tongue to deliver speed. Keep your lips tight as you spell “p” as it will make the sound more realistic.

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A drum-machine snare sound

This is a great practice to develop the drum machine snare sound. All you need to do is say “ish” and then eliminate the “sh” from it. The outcome will be a grunt like sound. Now, when you put a little more effort, it will be an accented attack. He sound develops to a synth-like sound if you add the “sh” in the end. Manipulating the grunt from various spots of the throat allows you to make different sounds like high and low drum sound.

The crash cymbal

The easiest sound to make in the entire beatboxing sounds is the crash cymbal sound. You need to whisper “chish” continuously to produce the cymbal sound. For better sound production, clench your teeth and remove the “I’ from the word. Now, you have “ch” and “sh” which produces the crash cymbal sound.

The reversed cymbal

Quite similar to the crash cymbal sound, for the reverse cymbal you need to place the tip of your tongue to the upper palate. As the air blows through the tongue and teeth, a rushing sound is produced. Now, breathe in by keeping your lips closed. In this process, you might be making a popping sound but that’s what you need to avoid. The final sound produced in this process is the reverse cymbal sound.

This is a very basic guide to vocal percussion or beatboxing. You can explore more about it by searching over the internet. There are tutorial articles and videos available over the internet. You can only excel if you practice it dedicatedly and follow some basic vocal exercises.

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