Functional Endoscopic Analysis of Beatbox Performers

  • Andrew Sapthavee
    Affiliations
    Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Chicago Institute for Voice Care-University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, Chicago, Illinois
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  • Paul Yi
    Affiliations
    Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • H. Steven Sims
    Correspondence
    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.
    Affiliations
    Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Chicago Institute for Voice Care-University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, Chicago, Illinois
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Published:December 23, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2013.11.007

      Summary

      Objectives

      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.

      Methods

      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.

      Results

      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.

      Conclusions

      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

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