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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 47-50

Acoustical and perceptual vocal profile of beatboxers

1 Speech Language Pathologist and Audiologist, Speech and Hearing Rehabilitation Unit, Department of Otolaryngology, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India
2 Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, AIRSR, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission27-Dec-2018
Date of Acceptance02-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication14-Aug-2020

Correspondence Address:
Himanshu Verma
(Speech Language Pathologist and Audiologist), Speech and Hearing Rehabilitation Unit, Department of Otolaryngology, PGIMER, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jlv.JLV_10_18

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Background: Beatboxers are elite vocal performers who modify their voice to mimic drum and other instrumental sounds. It requires a lot of modification and manipulation at the level of vocal folds in terms of laryngeal muscles and/or cartilages which may have adverse effect on their vocal profile. As per current literature, there is not much research on the vocal profile of beatboxers. Aim: This study aims to explore the acoustical and perceptual characteristics of beatboxers. Methodology: Ten beatboxers participated in the study. Acoustical and perceptual analyses were done using Praat and Buffalo III voice profile. VRQOL was also performed to assess the voice-related quality of life. Results: The results of the present study revealed significant difference in jitter, shimmer, and harmonic-to-noise ratio values. Rigorous and prolonged practices of beatboxing adversely affect voice. Conclusion: Beatboxing is a vocal phenomenon and may have an adverse effect on vocal musculature due to overloading and manipulation of vocal fold to produce different sounds. This is a preliminary study and further it can be done at larger level with bigger sample size.

Keywords: Acoustical analysis, beatboxers, elite vocal performers, professional voice users

How to cite this article:
Verma H, Rana D, Kumari A, Dogra N. Acoustical and perceptual vocal profile of beatboxers. J Laryngol Voice 2019;9:47-50

How to cite this URL:
Verma H, Rana D, Kumari A, Dogra N. Acoustical and perceptual vocal profile of beatboxers. J Laryngol Voice [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Nov 27];9:47-50. Available from: https://www.laryngologyandvoice.org/text.asp?2019/9/2/47/291923

   Introduction Top

Voice is the acoustic signal generated by the larynx and vocal tract.[1] It is the oral manipulation of speech produced by the larynx when air is exhaled out through lungs. Human voice fulfills a number of roles in the process of oral communication as well as contributing to the way in which individuals relate to each other.[1] Nowadays, voice has become a source of income for many individual working as professional voice users such as teachers and telephone operators and elite vocal performers such as singers and actors. Many studies revealed that these professionals are also at high risk of vocal pathology due to excessive vocal loading. Pathan and Rajani[2] conducted a study which aimed to measure acoustic parameters of voice across different levels of vocal professionals. The results revealed that Level 1 (i.e., singers, actors, and radio jockeys) and Level 2 (i.e., teachers, lecturers, and telephone operators) are at high risk of vocal pathology. Natour et al.[3] investigated the acoustic features of phonation and perception of voice handicap in street vendors. They found the significant difference in the voice handicap index (VHI) scores between street vendors and controls. Further, they found weak correlations among all of the VHI scores and acoustic measures. While exploring the past literature, we found many studies related to the vocal characteristics of professional voice users and elite vocal performers, but we can trace very limited studies on beatboxers and their vocal characteristics.

The term human beatbox came from two words beat and box. It was used as slang for non-programmable drum machine also known as rhythm machines.[4] Beatboxers are individuals who use their voice in the type of vocal percussion to imitate drum-like sounds in raps or in singing.[5] During performance, a beatboxer can produce an infinite number of unique sounds categorized into three distinct linguistic categories that are ejectives such as “ch” and “j.” The second is nonstandard fricatives such as linguolabial fricatives, velar lateral fricatives, and bilabial lateral fricatives. The third is coarticulation such as the sound created by rolling an “r” sound when saying “v” sound known to be a voiced alveolar trill with labiodentals articulation.[6]

The trend of beat boxing is increasing all over the world. Though new in India, it is highly acceptable among the youth. The curiosity of learning beatboxing and to choose it as a profession is increasing. With the increase in trend of beatboxing, the risk of vocal injuries or hyperfunctional disorders is also increasing as this profession requires the use and manipulation of vocal musculature in varieties of manner. It can affect both anatomical and physiological structures of the larynx. One study has attempted to elucidate the anatomical structures and mechanisms involved in beatboxing by the use of real-time magnetic resonance imaging and this was only in the form of a single subject case report presented at a conference. They revealed that beatboxers are at high risk of hyperfunctional voice disorder.[7] One study recently published attempted a descriptive analysis of beatboxers by observing their vocal tract behavior through laryngoscope.[8] They reported that beatboxers mobilize all the structures of their laryngopharynx separately. They further observed a well-developed laryngopharyngeal system with extreme articulatory configurations to perform their art.

Need of study

The past literature provided the information regarding the many professional voice users, but till now, there is not much information available about the beatboxer as this profession new among the youths and attracting youths to choose that as a profession. This profession requires the use of vocal folds in unusual manner, which means that during beatboxing the professional uses, very high pressure of air exhaled to produce drum-like sounds; this could affect their vocal tract. By measuring their vocal profile, we will come to know about the damage they have caused to their larynx during their time period of practice.

Hence, there is a dearth of studies which help in exploring the vocal and laryngeal profile of beatboxers.

Aim of study

The present study aims to document the acoustical and perceptual voice profile of beatboxers.

   Methodology Top


A total of 20 participants (10 male beatboxers and 10 controls) participated in the present study with an age range of 15–22 years and mean age of 19 years. In the present study, beatboxers had a minimum experience of 6 months and a maximum experience of 5 years. Participants with neurological, behavioral, and other health problems were excluded from the present study.

Instrument/tool used

To document the complete voice profile of beatboxers, a complete voice assessment battery was performed, which includes acoustical analysis, perceptual analysis, and quality of life assessment. An acoustical analysis was done using PRAAT software, perceptual analysis was done using Buffalo III voice profile, and voice related quality of life assessed using self-rated questionnaire VRQOL. VRQOL is a 5-point rating scale consisting of ten questions related to effect of voice disorder on quality of life.


Before conducting the survey, the aim and significance of the study were explained to the participants and informed consent was obtained.

Data collection was done in two phases.

In the first phase, the complete case history, including phonation duration of /a/, s/z ratio, and PRAAT were done. PRAAT repeated again when performing beatboxing by participants. VRQOL questionnaire was also provided and explained to the participants in the first phase.

In the second phase, the filled questionnaire was taken back, and perceptual analysis using Buffalo III voice profile was done. At the end, complete data analysis of voice sample was done.

   Results Top

Data analysis

Data analysis was done using SPSS 20 version (Chicago, Illinos, USA) statistical software, and the mean score was computed using descriptive analysis. The mean scores of both the groups were compared using t-test.

Acoustical profile

On acoustical analysis, significant difference was obtained only for three parameters, i.e., jitter%, (t = 0.004; mean = 0.34; 1.79), shimmer% (t = 0.01; mean = 4.8; 7.4), and harmonic-to-noise ratio (HNR) (t = 0.002; mean = 14.01; 18.79). Difference between the groups was found for habitual fundamental frequency parameter but unable to reached significance level. Acoustical analysis was also performed, while beatboxing and acoustical result revealed that variation was noticed in fundamental frequency when beatboxing task. Shimmer% and jitter% value increased with the performing beatboxing. HNR values decreased when performing beatboxing task.

Perceptual assessment

As shown in [Figure 1], on Buffalo III voice screening profile, all participants had normal voice parameters, except 20% of participants had “mild harsh quality” with “mild decrease in loudness,” 10% showed “mild harsh quality,” and only 10% of participants showed “mild hoarse voice quality.”
Figure 1: Performance on Buffalo III voice screening profile

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To assess impairment in quality of life due to voice problem, “Voice-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire” was performed. As shown in [Figure 2], 50% of participants reported “no problem” and 50% of population reported “a small amount effect on quality of life due to vocal impairment.”
Figure 2: Performance on VRQOL questionnaire

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Other findings

On phonation duration task, beatboxers had reduced maximum phonation time (MPT) compared to the non-beatboxers, but not reached to the significance level. On S/Z ratio, most of the beatboxers (40%) were not able to utter “z” sound and 30% had s/z ratio >1.04, which indicates vocal pathology. It was further noticed that MPT was decreased with increase in the experience level.

   Discussion Top

The present study tried to explore the vocal feature and characteristics of beatboxers. The results revealed that beatboxers with a minimum experience of 6–12 months did not show any symptoms of vocal pathology; however, vocal problem could be noticed after the 18 months of rigorous practice and the same was also noticed by Bominathan[9] in singers practicing daily continuously for more than 2–3 h. Further, our results revealed that some population had inadequate s/z ratio and MPT and the same was also reported by a study conducted by Natour et al.[3] in occupational voice users. The results further indicate that with increased experience, the risk of vocal pathology increases and the same was also noticed by Sapthawee et al., 2013.[10] They performed the functional endoscopic analysis of beatboxers and noticed that several unique and interesting anatomical processes occur during beatboxing, which may have a little adverse effect on vocal tract.

Participants in the present study only included the beatboxers with <5 years of experience, which did not bring much of changes in their quality of life as revealed by the VRQOL, which may worsen if the duration and the load of their practice continue. This result goes parallel with the study done by Sapthawee et al., 2013.[10] On perceptual assessment, only some individuals had mild harsh/hoarse voice and inadequate loudness range, while other participants with better vocal profile had just started practicing beatboxing who may also develop similar vocal changes. The same result was reported by Arunachalam et al., (2014)[11] in early Carnatic singers. A study done by Sharma et al.[12] reported the same in nonprofessional singers.

   Conclusion Top

From this study, we can conclude that beatboxers are elite vocal performers who are at risk of hyperfunctional voice disorders. Our study revealed that longer duration and rigorous practice have an adverse effect on the voice of the beatboxers. This is one of the preliminary studies done on beatboxers and future research demands more extensive research which further helps in understanding the vocal profile of beatboxers.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Greene and Mathieson. The Voice and its Disorders. 6th ed. London: Whurr Publication; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 1
Pathan S, Rajani Y. Acoustical evaluation of voice across different levels in vocal professionals. Glob J Otolaryngol 2017;9:88-97.  Back to cited text no. 2
Natour YS, Darawsheh WB, Bashiti S, Wari M, Taha J, Odeh T. A study of VHI scores and acoustic features in street vendors as occupational voice users. J Commun Disord 2018;71:11-21.  Back to cited text no. 3
Human Beat Box; 2005. Available from: https://www. humanbeatbox.com/articles/history-of-beatboxing-part-2/. [Last accessed on 2017 Sep 25].  Back to cited text no. 4
World Beatbox Community; 2013. Available from: https:// www.humanbeatbox.com/communities/wba-world-beatbox-association/. /. [Last accessed on 2017 Sep 25].  Back to cited text no. 5
Stowell D, Plumbley MD. Characteristics of the Beatboxing Vocal Style; 2008. Available from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2c77 /8e7a5818547ab468160cb6ccd378ec9abffa.pdf. [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 30].  Back to cited text no. 6
Proctor M, Bresch E, Byrd D, Nayak K, Narayanam S. Paralinguistic mechanisms of production in human “beatboxing”: A real-time magnetic resonance imaging study. J Acoust Soc Am 2013;133:1043-54.  Back to cited text no. 7
de Torcy T, Clouet A, Pillot-Loiseau C, Vaissière J, Brasnu D, Crevier-Buchman L. A video-fiberscopic study of laryngopharyngeal behaviour in the human beatbox. Logoped Phoniatr Vocol 2014;39:38-48.  Back to cited text no. 8
Bominathan P. Proceedings of Assessment and Management in Professional Voice Users. Mysore: AIISH Publication; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 9
Sapthavee A, Yi P, Sims HS. Functional endoscopic analysis of beatbox performers. J Voice 2014;28:328-31.  Back to cited text no. 10
Arunachalam R, Boominathan P, Mahalingam S. Clinical voice analysis of Carnatic singers. J Voice 2014;28:128.e1-10.  Back to cited text no. 11
Sharma M, Sonkar P, Khokhar R, Verma H, Chauhan D. Acoustical and perceptual Vocal Profile of Non-Professional and Professional Singers. Proceedings of 23rd International Symposium Frontiers of Research in Speech and Music; 2017.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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