Blake Lewis, Doug E Fresh, Barry B (American Idol Season 6 on 5.23.07

Is Beatboxing Too Harsh on the Voice?

With Doug E. Fresh moving back into the spotlight in recent years, human beatboxing has become mainstream in a major way.

Doug E. Fresh

Other famous beatboxers: Buffy and Biz Markie

Buffy The Human Beatbox
Biz Markie

Thanks to national and international competitions and NBC’s The Sing-Off, beatboxing is a commercially accepted art-form. This trend has prompted the urging that clinicians educate themselves in order to be able to competently treat a potentially new breed of client, the human beatbox. But are beatboxers subject to the same injuries as other professional voice users, particularly singers?

That’s one of the question researchers attempted to answer in a study conducted at the Chicago Institute of Voice Care at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System. In the study, 4 beatboxers were examined.  The participants were of Asian, Caucasian, and Hispanic descent ranging in age from 22 to 32 years old. The larynx of each beatboxer was examined by inserting a “flexible fiberoptic endoscope” through the nose without “topical anesthetic or decongestant” which could have interfered with the study. The beatboxers were then asked to perform specific percussive sounds, percussive sounds along with voiced sounds, and freestyle.

Among the findings, was that beatboxers “rely heavily on voiceless mechanisms” and “liberal use of an open glottis” thus causing less wear and tear on the true vocal cords themselves. The researchers suggest that “techniques used in beatboxing may be adaptable to other forms of vocalization as a protective function against voice overuse/vocal strain.” This is good news for singers who run the risk of developing vocal nodules, polyps, and a range of other issues during the course of a career.

To delve deeper into the world of beatboxing check out the following sites on the web.

Beatbox Battle Tv

Human Beatbox Convention and World Beatbox Association

International Beatbox Association


Sapthavee, A., Yi, P., Sims, H. S. “Functional Endoscopic Analysis of Beatbox Performers.” The Journal of Voice (2013): 1-4.

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