1. Introduction

Welcome to Beatboxology, a language-free, iconic notation system for describing beatboxing sounds. My name is TyTe and I’m a beatboxer who also happens to be a music teacher with a an interest in phonetics. Beatboxology is designed to be an inspiration, a starter and a catalyst to bigger and better things. It is written by a beatboxer for beatboxers. My hope is that it will help beatboxers understand their craft, come up with new sounds and techniques, and that techies will be able to use this as the basis for apps and websites dedicated to the art of beatboxing.

If you’re like me and you get bored reading stuff, flick forward to the examples then come back and work through the theory!


1.1 Standard Beatbox Notation

Since I produced the world’s first tutorials on beatboxing back in 2000, I have been thinking about how we can best represent beatboxing sounds. I started by using English language letters to represent the sounds and I and Mark Splinter formalised the structure with the publication of SBN (Standard Beatbox Notation). SBN was great but it was limited for several reasons. Firstly, it used English letters so was not a truly global language. Secondly, the sounds were based on how the letter sounded, not the other way around. Thirdly, beatboxing sounds started to become more complex. For example, an aspirated (breathing in) inward ‘K’ snare { ^Kh } can be made using five different methods. Each method sounds similar but uses a different part of the anatomy of the mouth. Simply representing this sound with the SBN { ^Kh } is helpful, but only to a point. It tells you what the sound ‘sounds’ like and goes some way to telling you how the sound is made, but not in any detail.


1.2 Beatbox Jam – A Phonetic Approach

In 2010, with my Beatbox Jam set of videos, I developed a method of teaching of beatboxing by using a phonetic approach. Starting with plosives (contact sounds like ‘p’ and ‘k’) and fricatives (continuous sounds like ‘sh’ and ‘f’) I showed how these sounds could be combined to produce more complex sounds. This approach still used SBN as the notation format, and thus was still limited in describing sounds in great detail.


1.3 The Dream…

The holy grail of beatboxing would be to come up with a way of describing ANY beatboxing sound, no matter how complex, that is language-free (i.e. does not depend on the English language). Beatboxology is an attempt to do just this. Note, Beatboxology does not render SBN redundant! SBN is still a very quick and useful way of describing a sound using the English language using an ASCii (UK/US) computer keyboard.


1.4 Why not use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) to describe sounds?

The simple answer is that the IPA is complex and designed for language and not beatboxing. It is aimed at linguists and not beatboxers. How many beatboxers do you know that use the IPA? Very few. What is needed is a much simpler approach – something beatboxers can get to grips with and understand.


1.5 Iconophonics

Beatboxology, designed specifically for beatboxing, is a set of iconophonics – icons that represent phonetic sound generation, mouth positions and effectors. These iconophonics can be combined to represent any beatboxing sound. At first glance they look a little complicated, however, as we will discover, they are simple to learn and to use.

Figure 1.1 – The Beatboxology Iconophonics

I hope you’re ready to take journey into sound. Enjoy the ride.

Next: 2. Generators, Stops and Effectors

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(c) Copyright 2017-2018 Gavin Tyte (aka TyTe)
(c) Copyright 2017-2018 Gavin Tyte (aka TyTe)