Want to help your child become a better singer or musician? Beatboxing may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you’d be surprised at how learning this skill can supplement your child’s music lessons. Learn more in this guest post…
Musicianship is a funny thing. Whether trained in jazz, opera, classical, or soul, you can bet your bottom dollar that there are a range of techniques and tricks you would have never expected to be of help in boosting your child’s budding musical skill. One of these techniques is beatboxing.
Yes, beatboxing: an a cappella style of music-making via vocal percussion. Beatboxing not only teaches your child a greater sense of timing and rhythm, it also improves listening skills and can actually work to strengthen and protect his or her vocal cords. What’s more, it will widen your child’s musical scope, which will improve creativity and overall musicianship.
Here’s a quick breakdown of why learning to beatbox can help young musicians get on top of their musical game:
Aural Skills and Improvising
You can’t learn to beatbox from sheet music; you need to be able to listen and repeat in a ‘copycat’ style — training your mind to get used to the way the sounds can work together. Eventually, the goal is to be able to improvise using the sounds you’ve learned to make. Being able to improvise relies almost completely on strong aural skills, and the best way to strengthen them is through the same sort of ‘listen-and-repeat’ style of exercises, precisely what children will learn when they try their hand at beatboxing.
Rhythm and Timing
Beatboxing is essentially a way of creating a sequence of different rhythms, which play off each other to create a complicated, yet logical, sequence of beats. To pull this off, musicians need a pretty firm understanding of musical timing and how different rhythmic and percussive sounds can combine to create a particular effect. Having a strong sense of rhythm and being able to play to complicated time signatures will be a necessity as your child becomes a more developed musician — no matter what style or instrument they’re learning.
For instance, jazz musicians need a strong handle on syncopation, a way of playing unexpected rhythms that are sometimes off-beat. Learning how to create fast, complicated rhythms from sequences of quick, improvised beats will boost your child’s technical prowess and confidence over difficult passages. Plus, being able to move in time to a steady beat is also linked to stronger language and reading skills.
Being able to breathe properly is essential to beatboxing. For singers and woodwind players, having good breath control is just as important. When you beatbox, you need to know how to command breath to produce different types of sounds, from a higher ‘hi-hat’ sound to a bass drum. There’s also the need to have enough breath to carry on with the performance, which means your child will need to learn how to incorporate breath into the beat itself.
For vocalists, strong breath control is one of the most important factors in controlling your voice. Whether belting out a gospel tune or shattering glass with a powerful aria, they’ll need to know exactly the amount of breath that’s required to create the tone and sound they want. How young musicians learn to exhale will alter the quality of the sound, volume, pitch, and tone of their voice; so learning how to manipulate it as a beatboxer will increase control over their range. It’s the same principle for woodwind players: different types of exhaled breath will resonate differently through the instrument, each bringing out a different sound and tone.
Protecting the Vocal Cords
As well as the benefits for your child’s capabilities as a musician, beatboxing can actually help strengthen and protect the vocal cords. When you sing, you rely almost entirely on your vocal cords to produce sound, which — when overused — can lead to the development of scar tissue. However, beatboxers use their entire vocal tract to create different sounds, which spreads energy across different structures, therefore minimizing strain on one particular area. Muscles used when beatboxing work to elongate the vocal tract, which can also help singers reach higher notes.
The best thing about beatboxing is that you first learn by copying. While it’s always easiest to be led by a tutor who knows what they’re doing, there are plenty of video tutorials online to help your child get his or her head around beatboxing before formally heading in for a lesson.
Your child will typically start to learn to beatbox by learning how to make percussion sounds like a drum kit. For instance, they’ll be able to mimic sounds of hi-hat cymbal, the tom-tom, and bass drum, and learn how to put them together to make basic beats. As they get better, they’ll learn more complex sounds to add to the mix.
Monica Karpinski is a staff member at Ingenium Academy, a summer music program for talented young musicians around the world, aged 14-18. All students are taught beatboxing, regardless of style, previous training, or instrument they play.
Photo by Eoin C