Beatboxing is a diverse artform that has the ability to traverse various genres and spectrums of music and sound.
The sounds and beats produced in a beatbox routine are as varied and diverse as the techniques required to pull them off, however beatboxing does come with its own set of unique challenges – and for new beatboxers it comes in the form of breath control.
Maintaining flow is an important aspect of beatboxing and this can only be achieved when a beatboxer is able to control and sustain shorter breaths for prolonged periods of time. Although there is no sure-fire way to master breath control there are certain exercises and techniques that you can utilise to improve it.
BREATHING THROUGH YOUR DIAPHRAGM
Diaphragmatic breathing is one technique that can reduce exertion and thereby preserve your vocal chords. Most people tend to breathe in using their chest which only sustains a little air – this is why, when a person has to produce a loud sound it usually involves straining the vocal chords in an effort to compensate for the lack of required breath support.
An easy way to judge whether you are breathing through your diaphragm is to place your hands above and below your chest. Exhale all the air out and then breathe in using only your diaphragm muscles. You can assess this by monitoring your hands; if you breathe in and out without the hand above your chest moving, then you have successfully completed one diapragmatic breath. Practice this several times a day to reap the best results. You can also lie down and keep a book on your stomach, making sure the book is going up and down as you breath.
Breathing through your stomach as opposed to your chest not only improves the sound quality of your beats, but also helps reduce the effort required to produce them.
DISTRIBUTING INWARD AND OUTWARD SOUNDS EFFECTIVELY
One way to make sure that you don’t run out of breath, collapse and practically pass out while beatboxing is to structure your beat patterns with a fair ratio of inward and outward sounds.
[Now the technical terms for these are ejective and injective sounds which may or may not be aspirated (i.e. requiring inward or outward breathing) but we’ll cover the technicalities and nitty-gritties in another article.]
Inward and outward sounds have to be distributed evenly so that producing beats will involve regular breathing rather than expending all the air in your lungs out due to over-usage of outward sounds.
Inward sounds like inward k snares, basses, and drags apart from many others can be incorporated into freestyles and routines to compensate for frequent outward sounds which expel air out. Similarly outward sounds like bmg snares, kicks etc can be used to fulfill the opposite.
It’s best to identify which inward and outward sounds work best for you and structure them in a way that you are intaking and expelling sufficient air at all times.
PRACTICE WITH A METRONOME
Practicing with a metronome can prove to be beneficial not just to strengthening your sounds, staying on tempo, and improving your odd time signatures; but can also serve as good practice for breath control during fast paced beatboxing.
Alem has some great tutorials up on his youtube channel which pursue the strengthening of a beatboxers’ fundamentals with the help of a metronome. These tutorials are relevant and helpful for all beatboxers irrespective of their stage of development. The level of difficulty increases in progressive levels throughout the course of the video so that at no point in time does the viewer experience a lack of challenge. These are bound to help you build on your foundations, and maintain your breathing during complex combination beats.
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS FROM BBXINDIA
Various members at BBXINDIA also practice their breath control through differing exercises and techniques some of which are mentioned below.
1] Breathing on tempo is always helpful. This can be done by inhaling and exhaling air through rasp breaths or inward and outward drags in between long beat combinations and sequences while freestyling.
You can also try replacing certain sounds with breaths for example in a standard btkt combination you can try replacing the hi hats(t) with breaths or you can place the breaths in an alternating sequence between the btk.
2] Another exercise that we recommend could quite possibly kill two birds with one stone by helping you with maintaining breath control as well as improving your intonation. This exercise involves taking a single syllable word (eg. “OM”) and humming it on a particular note for as long as possible. You can take the note higher or lower to help expand your vocal range and pitch.
Before you begin this exercise its important to relax and take a deep breath. After doing this hold the word on a particular note and hum for as long as possible. Make sure that while doing this exercise you focus on your breathing rather than the pronunciation of the actual word. Try to exert the sound from your diaphragm as opposed to your chest as this will help you hold the note for longer. This exercise is often used in meditation and yoga groups and has a proven calming effect, (just another positive side effect to this exercise we thought you should know about 😊)