Beatboxing Less Harmful to Voice Than Singing

Beatboxing Less Harmful to Vocal CordsBeatboxing is a form of vocal percussion in which the performer imitates drum sounds using the voice. Although common thought is that beatboxing is more harmful to the vocal cords than traditional singing, new research from the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System as published in the Journal of Voices suggests that beatboxing is less harmful to the voice.

The art of beatboxing gained popularity in the 1980s. Since then, many artists including Jam Master Jay, Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake have incorporated the technique into their performances and recordings.

To determine the effects of beatboxing on the vocal cords, researchers led by Dr. H. Steven Sims evaluated data collected from four beatbox artists who were evaluated at an outpatient Laryngology clinic using a flexible fiberoptic endoscope. The endosope was threaded through the nose and positioned above the vocal cords. The data included videos of a standard flexible laryngoscopic evaluation during which the beatboxers performed beatbox sounds in isolation and in various combinations. The beatboxing was both standardized and improvised.

All of the participants in the study were males between the ages of 22 and 32 years old.

An example of one of the experiments is available in a YouTube video.


The researchers discovered that the beatboxers used their entire vocal tract to create a variety of sounds rather than using any specific areas. Using all the vocal tract means that beatboxers reduce the risk of causing injury to any specific area. Beatboxers also keep spaces between the vocal cords — known as the glottis — open and use the pharyngeal muscles to lengthen the vocal tract in order to create higher pitch sounds.

The results of this study indicate that beatboxing could be protective of the vocal cords.

Dr. Sims believes that the techniques that beatboxers use could help singers reduce some of the stress that singing puts on the vocal cords: “Singers rely almost exclusively on the vocal cords themselves to produce their sounds, so all the energy involved with singing is concentrated on these structures, which can develop scar tissue with overuse.”

For example, by using the pharyngeal muscles to lengthen the vocal tract, singers could reach high notes without involving the vocal cords and thus reducing the risk of vocal cord injury.

With these findings in mind, Dr. Sims adds that further research needs to be conducted on female beatboxers. Because women have smaller larynxes than men, women use their voices differently. Thus, an analysis of female beatboxers could be very interesting.

In general, however, beatboxing appears to be less harmful on, and possibly even protective of, the vocal cords when compared to traditional singing.


Beatboxing Less Harmful to Vocal Cords Than Singing:
Functional Endoscopic Analysis of Beatbox Performers:

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Beatboxing Less Harmful to Vocal Cords:


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