Beatboxology – An Overview

Notating vocal percussion sounds has been a passion of Gavin Tyte, known in the beatboxing world as TyTe. Back in 1999, TyTe created the world’s first beatboxing Internet tutorials and he has been a pioneer in the scene ever since. In 2015 he judged the UK, European and World Beatboxing Championships, and he is judging and speaking at the World Championships in 2018. This guy knows a thing or two about making drum sounds with the mouth.

The thing that vexed TyTe was that there was no formal method of describing beatboxing sounds. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is international but is complicated to learn and not ideal for describing beatboxing sounds, and so TyTe set about creating an iconic method of describing sounds. He calls this method Beatboxology.

Beatboxology uses icons which when combined can notate even the most complex beatboxing sound. And the genius is that the icons represent the mouth anatomy making them both easy to understand and to use. TyTe calls these phonetic icons ‘iconophonics’. Personally, I just think he likes making up cool words. But we think he’s on to something.

In Beatboxology there are three kinds of icon. There are:

  1. Generators – the way in which the sound is made
  2. Stops – parts of the mouth that remain in contact
  3. Effectors – the way in which the sound is shaped


There are fifteen places in the human mouth that sounds can be generated. In this diagram you can see how each icon is a simplified representation of a particular part of the anatomy.

Places of Generation

For example, this icon represents two lips (bilabial):

A Bilabial Plosive Generator

There are different flavours of the same Generator but they all use the same basic icon shape to make them easy to identify. For example, here are three variations of the bilabial (two-lipped) generator. The first icon is a plosive – the lips are in the position such as when you say ‘p’. The second is a fricative – the lips are in the position such as when you whistle. The third is a percussive – the lips bang together making a popping sound.

Bilabial Variations


Stops use the use the same style of icons as the Generators but to show that the parts of the anatomy stay in contact for the duration of the sound there is a line between them. For example, here is an icon that shows that the two lips stay pressed together for the duration of the sound.

A Bilabial Stop


And finally there are five different effectors that can shape a sound. A sound can be made breathing (aspirated), inwards (injected), forced, oscillated and/or tightened.

The Five Effectors

For example, this effector shows that the sound is made whilst breathing.

The Aspiration Effector

Putting it all together

Icons can be combined to describe more complex sounds. Here’s a snare drum sound that uses two Generators and one Effector.


But TyTe didn’t stop there. He now wanted to create a website that used Beatboxology to teach beatboxing using a combination of the Beatboxology iconophonics and videos.

“It was a dream of mine to create a 100% language free beatbox tutorial web app so that anyone in the world could learn to beatbox.”

TyTe called this project BzzKtt. We think this was a dream worth pursuing!

Find out more

Beatboxology: www.beatboxology.com

BzzKtt: bzzktt.com

TyTe on Facebook: www.facebook.com/beatboxtyte

Next: 1. Introduction

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

BzzKtt Version 4.1 • © 2015-2020 Gavin ‘Beatbox’ Tyte (aka TyTe) • All Rights Reserved