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Beatboxing (also beatbox, beat box or b-box) is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments. Beatboxing today is connected with hip-hop culture, being one of "the elements", although it is not limited to hip-hop music. The term "beatboxing" is sometimes used to refer to vocal percussion in general (see vocal percussion for details).
The rapping technique has been present in many American musical genres, for 100 years or more, including early rural music, both black and white, religious songs, blues, ragtime, vaudeville, and hokum. One example is the Appalachian technique of eefing.
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, 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. 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.
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.
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, beatboxers will use their hand or another part of their body to extend the spectrum of sound effects and rhythm. For example, 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.
Using beatboxing techniques, a skilled beatboxer is able to imitate many different sounds including those of a classic drum set, turn table, electronic/dubstep effect, trumpet, and electric guitar. Some of these sounds have two different iterations: one used while exhaling air while the other used while inhaling air. These two different iterations of these sounds are used in order for advanced beatboxers to rotate sounds in order to continue beatboxing without having to stop the beat in order to take an actual breath.
As with other musical disciplines, some form of musical notation or transcription may sometimes be useful in order to describe beatbox patterns or performances. Sometimes this takes the form of ad hoc phonetic approximations, but is occasionally more formal.
Standard Beatbox Notation (SBN) was created by Mark Splinter and Gavin Tyte of Humanbeatbox.com in 2006 as an alternative to International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcription, which had been used sparingly before then.
In a research study published in 2013 and based on real-time MRI imaging of a beatboxer, the authors propose a notation system which combines the International Phonetic Alphabet with musical staff notation, in part motivated by their observation that many beatboxing sounds can be adequately represented by the IPA.
According to the Guinness World Records, the current record for the largest human beatbox ensemble was set by Booking.com employees. It involved 4,659 participants and was achieved by Booking.com employees together with beatboxers at the RAI Amsterdam in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 10 December 2013 during their annual company meeting.
The previous largest human beatbox ensemble involved 2,081 participants and was achieved by Google (Ireland), Shlomo (UK) and Testament (UK) at The Convention Centre, Dublin, Ireland on 14 November 2011.
This list is a selected discography of commercial releases which are mostly/entirely beatbox-based or are otherwise notable/influential records in the history of beatboxing and its popularisation.
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