Research Article| Volume 28, ISSUE 3, P328-331, May 2014

Download started.


Functional Endoscopic Analysis of Beatbox Performers

  • Andrew Sapthavee
    Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Chicago Institute for Voice Care-University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, Chicago, Illinois
    Search for articles by this author
  • Paul Yi
    Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
    Search for articles by this author
  • H. Steven Sims
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to H. Steven Sims, Chicago Institute for Voice Care, University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, 1855 W. Taylor Street, M/C 648, Chicago, IL 60612.
    Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Chicago Institute for Voice Care-University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, Chicago, Illinois
    Search for articles by this author
Published:December 23, 2013DOI:



      Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion in which performers imitate drum sounds, interspersed with vocalization and other sounds, using their vocal tracts. Although similarities between beatboxing and singing are expected because of the anatomy involved, the medical literature has a wealth of information on singing and minimal studies on beatboxing. The objective of our study was to report on a case series of functional endoscopic evaluation of the anatomy involved in beatboxing and determine whether beatboxing may be a risk factor for phonotrauma or if this form of vocalization might be protective of the vocal folds.


      We reviewed the flexible fiberoptic data collected from four beatbox artists who were evaluated at an outpatient Laryngology clinic. These records included videos of a standard flexible laryngoscopic evaluation during which the beatboxers performed beatbox sounds in isolation and in various combinations (“beats”), both standardized and improvised.


      All four participants were males aged 22–32 years. We found that voicing during beatboxing was not the same as full voice to have sustained phonation interlaced with percussive sounds. Performers overall demonstrated similarities in delivery of the same beatbox sounds, although subtle differences were noted between performers.


      Beatboxing is a complex form of vocal percussion using the entire vocal tract. Although similarities with singing in the anatomical structures and positioning are noted in beatboxing, there are several unique and interesting anatomical processes occurring. Use of the entire vocal tract, including the pharyngeal constrictors, may actually protect against glottic injury.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Voice
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


      1. – World Beatbox Community [Internet]. Articles; [cited 2013 Feb 5]. Available at:

        • Lyn J.
        Chinese Beatboxing: You've Got to See and Hear [Internet].
        Jeffrey Lyn, Palo Alto, CA2007 ([cited 2013 Jul 30]. Available at:)
      2. Greenburg ZO. Cash Kings 2012: Hip-Hop's Top Earners. Forbes [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2013 Jul 30]. Available at:

        • Proctor M.
        • Bresch E.
        • Byrd D.
        • Nayak K.
        • Narayanan S.
        Paralinguistic mechanisms of production in human “beatboxing”: a real-time magnetic resonance imaging study.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 2013; 133: 1043-1054
        • De Torcy T.
        • Clouet A.
        • Pillot-Loiseau C.
        • Vaissiere J.
        • Brasnu D.
        • Crevier-Buchman L.
        A video-fiberscopic study of laryngopharyngeal behavior in the human beatbox.
        Logoped Phoniatr Vocol. 2013; ([Epub ahead of print])
        • Jacbos M.
        • Kenny D.
        Effects of topical anesthetic and flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy on professional sopranos.
        J Voice. 2005; 19: 645-664
      3. Stowell D, Pumbley M. Characteristics of the Beatboxing Vocal Style. Centre for Digital Music [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2013 Feb 5]. Available at:

        • Cho W.
        • Hong J.
        • Park H.
        Real-time ultrasonographic assessment of true vocal fold length in professional singers.
        J Voice. 2012; 26: 819.e1-819.e6
      4. Shure SM58 User Guide [Internet]. Shure Incorporated, Niles, IL2008 ([cited 2013 Feb 5]. Available at:)
        • Echternach M.
        • SUndberg J.
        • Markl M.
        • Richter B.
        Professional opera tenors' vocal tract configurations in registers.
        Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2010; 62: 278-287
        • Buescher R.
        • Sims S.
        The female pharyngeal voice and theories of low vocal fold damping.
        J Singing. 2011; 68: 23-28
        • Caesari E.H.
        The Voice of the Mind.
        R. Hale, London, UK1951: 366