Saturday, April 26, 2008

Beatboxing with Scratching?!

This dude seems to have swallowed a Technics 1200 and a Roland TR808 drum machine. Send help immediately! *ambulence siren sound*

More beatboxing examples here.

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posted by Brian at 9:15 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beatboxers & Other Instrumental Vocalists

There's been a lot of vocal instrumentalism going on lately on the Net and elsewhere. I don't mean regular a cappella -- full of loose approximations of instruments like "doo doo doop" for bass and "weeee" for trumpets. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love Bobby McFerrin, DaVinci's Notebook and The Bobs). No, I mean impeccably close imitations of real instruments.

I remember being 6, hanging out in the school playground with other kids all trying to make sound effects with our mouths: lasers (from Star Wars), explosions, animal noises, drums, what have you. One boy named Adam was able to do a mean electric guitar sound through his teeth somehow. After lots of attempts I managed to make a similar sound but for whatever reason it sounded a bit more like a weird Moog synthesizer lead from "Lucky Man" (Emerson Lake & Palmer).

Later in my teens my voice dropped (thank god for testosterone!) and that noise through my teeth sounded more like a saxophone. Gradually I figured out how to growl (helps to have a plegmy cold!) and alter the amount of "reed" to where now when I'm in a subway corridor with lots of reverb, some people have told me it sounds pretty darn close to a baritone sax. So far I have not been able to teach other vocal instrumentalists how to do it sucessfully -- they can do trumpets, trombones, and drums (probably the most common) but sax seems to be really difficult.

When I was in college, I had the idea to form a group of vocal instrumentalists and singers. Like a whole bunch of Bobby McFerrins but as a band. Wanted to call it "The Pseudotones." Sadly, I couldn't find anybody able to do much other than drums, and the Pseudotones never saw the light of day.

Well, now there's a group called Naturally 7 that is just that. Drums, harmonica (!), bass, electric guitar. Plus a lead singer who sounds a lot like Seal.

There are many purveyors of beatboxing (named after another name for drum machine), who specialize in imitating acoustic or electronic drums, and sometimes the DJ scratch sound made famous by Grand Mixer DXT on the Herbie Hancock 1980s hit, Rockit. On Youtube there are hundreds. For example:
French guy
Belgian guy
Kid Beyond from San Francisco, whom I've seen live with Imogen Heap. Amazing!

Way back in 1980, Fred Newman released a kids book called Mouthsounds with a floppy mini-record! It's still available with a CD. Wes Carroll has a website, offers one-on-one instruction, and has a series of instructional videos called Mouth Drumming.

So get out there and make some noise!

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posted by Brian at 10:29 AM 0 comments links to this post