SPESHFX LEARNS TO BEATBOX!!! SOUND THE ALARM!! The international beatbox community lives on the internet. YouTube, WhatsApp, Discord, and other social media have flattened the learning curve for beatboxers, and enabled them to stay in touch, even when there are long breaks between live events. In Episode 2, Tani discovers the extent to which the internet has changed beatboxing forever. Aaaand he beatboxes. Apologies in advance… ;)
Beatbox Talk Discord
The Orthobox, Tyla Dubya, KaO Beatbox, HBB Spit Snare Tutorials
SpeshFX Guests Playlist
Email Us: SpeshFXPodcast@gmail.com
Tani: When I was a kid, I always wanted somewhere private where I could hang with my friends. I don't mean an empty house or a room in the basement where sound didn't travel up to our parents, I mean a space away from our homes that was just for us. I would pass empty storefronts, and wonder what it would be like if my friends and I could use the space. We'd put a TV on one wall, line the rest of them with padding, and make the floor a trampoline. We never got that space. Basements had to be enough. And beatboxers have to deal with the same conundrum.
There is no city of beat. No school of box. No place where beatboxers happen to be born. So they have to seek out each other online. Not quite as good as having a physical space, but good enough to provide the connections these artists crave.
This episode is all about those spaces and how there would be no beatbox community without them. This is SpeshFX.
[Intro Music: Fifty Fifty by Braden Mitchell]
Parth Malkan: YouTube is the biggest platform for beatboxing. It's quite evident.
Tani: Beatboxing lives on YouTube. I don't know how that happened. But it did. I could speculate that battle recordings wouldn't translate as well as battle videos, but I don't have any evidence to support that theory. Without question, though, beatboxing is intimately tied up in youtube. Just ask any beatboxer. Or don't. I already did.
Trung Bao: Where would beatboxing be without youtube?
Tyla Dubya: Without... oh god. That's a tough one dude. We are... in the dark ages
Abdulla: Where beatboxing would be without youtube?
Elisii: It wouldn't be... it wouldn't be anywhere... I don't think so.
State Street: If you ask a lot of beatboxers, where they started, and where they saw their first really good beatboxer, they would say youtube.
Tani: Pepouni, is the CEO of Swissbeatbox. He lamented to me that before youtube he'd have to find assorted videos and download them to his MP3 player.
Pepouni: There was not that much out there to watch before youtube and social media became more powerful.
Tani: A beatboxer from Virginia, Abdulla Jastania told me that as soon as YouTube gained traction within the community, it became beatboxing's greatest tool for growth.
Abdulla: it's made it so much easier for people to access the public domain of beatbox knowledge. It's also made it easier for us to name the sounds universally, and name techniques and identify who created techniques first. Back in the day if you wanted to learn inward drag you had to talk to Reeps One. If you wanted to learn lip rolls you had to talk to Napom or D-Low or Ball-Zee.
Tani: And now, you can watch dozens of videos of each of these legends, and learn from them without ever leaving your bedroom. Some people can learn new sounds and patterns just by watching other people do them, but most people can't intuit lip rolls, or even some simple snares. A huge portion of beatboxing videos are tutorials. Charlie Harding is a music producer based in Los Angeles, and he told me that this is common in all genres of music.
Charlie Harding: With YouTube you basically have a flattening of technique and skill that is now accessible to people without having to go to the world's most premier institutions.
Tani: One of the best beatbox tutors on YouTube is Tyla Dubya. He built a significant following around an extensive tutorial series.
Tyla Dubya: When I started beatboxing there were a lot of people I watched on youtube. Looperman, Fat Tony - it was mainly Looperman - Flashburn… So I want to help people along with beatboxing just like those tutorials helped me.
Tani: These teachers are saving new beatboxers lots of time and protecting them from developing bad habits. Kazu told me about a beatboxer who posted on Reddit that he began to bleed in his throat when learning a new sound.
Kazu: Beatbox shouldn't hurt. I mean like, you could get sore or tired, but like if you're bleeding from any orifice you know, stop.
Tani: Maybe you wouldn't need a tutorial or a reminder to avoid things that make your throat bleed, smarty pants, but these tutorials are effective, and they've trained some pretty serious beatboxers. Remember Brez? The reigning french loopstation champ? Yes sir. He learned from tutorial videos!
Brez: I found videos by Tyte - the english guy - and he was giving simple beatboxing tutorials, and that's where I started.
Tani: I've been very up front about the fact that I am no good at beatboxing. But I was curious about these tutorials, so I decided this would be a great opportunity for me to learn a new sound, the spit snare. If Brez could start with tutorials and get to where is, I have no excuse to scoff. Spit Snare, here I come.
[End of part 1. Transition music: The Baddest by Richard Smithson]
Tani: All the people I told about SpeshFX asked me if I beatboxed. And always I would say no, I'm no good at it. Inevitably, they would suggest that I try. Maybe I had picked up some skills through osmosis or something. I dunno. But it got to the point where I felt like I had to beatbox a little on the pod. I decided I would learn the spit snare. It's a crucial sound for the modern beatboxer, and Kazu says it should take only 2-3 days to learn. It sounds like this.
Tani: I'm a company man, so I checked out the Orthobox and Tyla Dubya's tutorials first, because they're friends of the pod. Here's the Orthobox:
The Orthobox: For this sound, think back to when you were a baby or whenever you’re around a baby, and the sounds that people make. something like:
[Baby spit noises]
Tani: The idea is to use your lips to expel air from your mouth without using any lung power. That way you can make the snare and hum at the same time. One evening I sat down on the couch and announced, tonight I learn the spit snare. I watched The Orthobox and Tyla Dubya tutorials, but I couldn't get the lip positions right.
[Failed lip sounds]
Tani: Lucky for me, Tyla and The Orthobox aren't the only ones with Spit Snare tutorials on YouTube. So I checked out a bunch more. There were a lot of overlapping concepts across the videos, because it's a simple sound. But Tyla explained that it's important that each tutorial approached the sound differently. So I was able to learn a bit from each tutorial.
Tyla Dubya: Everyone learns differently. So I will literally say the common sense things that people avoid just because there's no harm in saying it. Somebody might gloss over that portion if they got it but I'm gonna say it anyways because there might be someone out there who doesn't.
Tani: Late that night, I discovered KaO beatbox's tutorial. It was a game changer for me. He told me to fill up my cheeks with air and to poke it out with my fingers. If you hold your lips tightly, only a small amount of air is able to squeak out, and it makes a raspberry sound.
Tani: By the next morning, I was already making the basic sound. I got so excited I made a recording and sent it to The Orthobox.
Tani: That afternoon, I made a beat.
[Kick, Kick, Spit Snare. Kick, Kick, Spit Snare]
Tani: Since then, it's been slow going. Kazu was right. I learned the sound in under a day, but I'm nowhere near mastering it. My snare is still too loose. It's not crisp and punchy yet. It wants to slip out like the raspberry sound instead of blasting out like the snare I want. The weirdest thing though, was how this made my face feel. My lips had never been tired before. But after five minutes of practice, my lips desperately needed a rest.
[Spit Snare Beat]
Tani: The snare wasn't great, but I made significant progress. After a week, this is what my snare sounds like:
Tani: That's way better than what it sounded like before I watched the tutorials. I'm done aggressively trying to improve the sound, but I just can't stop making it. Which is normal. So many beatboxers told me that when they learn new sounds they will practice for hours until they get it just right. That's great commitment on their part, but Tyla and Vanessa tell me it's a pain in the ass for family members…
Tyla Dubya: [my girlfriend] she'll be like, I have a headache, so I'm like cool I'll stop. and then one second later I, like subconsciously start beatboxing and it's like, shit my bad my bad.
Tani: Even if you don't have a headache, it can get annoying to hear the same damn sound over and over again. Here's Vanessa, a beatbox mom.
Vanessa: He does it all the time. So I love it, and sometimes I don't love it depending if he's working on a new sound that I have to listen to over and over again. For days.
Tani: Family members might not care for the constant beatboxing, but YouTube tutorials accommodate this absurd schedule. Excellent beatboxing teachers, available for lessons 24/7. Unfortunately, those are not dynamic teachers. YouTube tutorials don't respond to questions, or give feedback at all. A week on the spit snare was more than enough for me, but other beatboxers want human interaction, and for that, YouTube doesn't cut it. Lucky for them, there are other internet spaces for beatboxers to hang out.
[End of part 2. Transition music: The Baddest by Richard Smithson]
DKoy: Who wouldn't want a warm community to be a part of?
[music fades out]
Tani: While I was learning the spit snare I spoke to my brother and The Orthobox at least once a day about my progress. As it was I felt pretty crummy about the quality of my sound, but without the two of them I don't think I would have been able to last the full 5 days. Many beatboxers don't have a sibling or friend from school who beatboxes like I do. The voice you heard at the top is DKoy, a beatboxer from Boston who runs Beatbox Talk. Beatbox Talk is one of many online spaces for beatboxers to engage directly with each other. He told me all about these online hangouts.
DKoy: For beatboxers, it allowed them outside of events to join and create little communities online to speak with each other and jam and the whole art form kind of stayed afloat when events weren't happening.
Tani: Beatbox Talk has been around in its current form for a couple years, but beatboxers have been talking about their craft online since the year 2001! Four years before the first beatbox battle world championship. It all comes full circle here, because the first online space for beatboxers to talk was Human Beatbox dot Com. Kazu's website.
Kazu: Human Beatbox is a media company. We are trying to connect the world of beatboxers and spread the art form in a bigger way than it already is, pushing it with more academic and maybe a much more, like news oriented way.
Tani: Back in the day, long before Kazu owned it, Human Beatbox dot Com, or HBB, hosted forums for beatboxers to talk about beatboxing. HBB's forums were incredibly popular in the early days of beatboxing. Kaila Mullady, the two time reigning world beatbox champion, once told Kazu that HBB's archives contain modern beatboxing's first decade of recorded history. Human Beatbox dot Com documented people's struggles and how other beatboxers helped them find success.
HBB has changed hands a number of times since its founding, and with each transition came a shift in focus, but through its entire existence, HBB has focused on text. Eventually, beatboxers searched for a medium that could handle audio recording to supplement the written content on HBB.
DKoy: Beatbox Talk had a server back on Ventrilo, which was the first known audio platform for beatboxing that I can recall. That started late 2000s I’d like to say, like 2007/2008. And Beatbox Talk had a server, but of course at that time I was like six or seven in elementary school, so there was a long time before I joined in September 2017.
Tani: Ventrilo is a group voice sharing platform that has been around since 2002. Once beatboxers discovered Ventrilo, they had a space where they could share recordings of their beats and sounds and give direct feedback to each other. Remember what abdulla said about having to go to the originator of a sound to learn it? Voice sharing and youtube tutorials turned that on its head. In 2017, Slizzer from Luxembourg created a sound that he called the sucker punch,
[Sucker punch sound]
Tani: And he successfully auditioned for that year's grand beatbox battle with that sound. Four months later, Slizzer lost in his first battle, and a French beatboxer named Alexinho stole the show by using that sucker punch. By the time DKoy joined Beatbox Talk in 2017, Ventrilo had been replaced by WhatsApp and Discord. Beatbox Talk on Discord, and Beatbox International on WhatsApp. We'll talk about how Beatbox Talk and Beatbox international run their operations later in the season, but for now what's important is that these groups attracted huge numbers of members. Here's Parth from Beatbox International.
Parth Malkan: Beatbox International, we did start off as a community, as a WhatsApp group. and it started off with, I would say, it was a WhatsApp group of like ten, twenty beatboxers, and now it's grown to a whatsapp group of the maximum limit, so that's - which is 260 something? Um it got to a point where we had to create another WhatsApp group to accommodate for the other members that wanted to join.
Tani: Under DKoy's watch, Beatbox Talk has managed even greater growth.
DKoy: The server's grown to over 7,000 members. and we have battles 2 times a week and other events
Tani: On top of that, Beatbox Talk just announced the largest online beatbox battle ever. The judges are world class beatboxers, and the winners of each category will be invited to the next beatbox battle world championship in 2020. When SpeshFX comes back for its 7th season in 2026, beatboxers might be talking about Discord the way they talk about YouTube now. The dark ages before discord. "Remember that time we used to meet up in person to battle? Now all the biggest battles are online."
I bring up that hypothetical to illustrate just how important YouTube is and how much Discord has changed the game, but I don't think beatboxers will ever replace live battles. Human Beatbox, Beatbox Talk, Beatbox International, all these organizations are linchpins in the community. But even with all the work they put in, the community would crumble without live events. Battles. Battles are where the bonds that begin to form online are solidified into lifelong friendships, and the work the beatboxers put in watching youtube videos and sharing beats on discord. Where that translates into national titles. Episode three is about battles.
You can find links to Tyla Dubya, The Orthobox, and KaO's spit snare tutorials along with Human Beatbox dot Com, Beatbox Talk, and Beatbox International in the show notes. Don’t forget, you can find special beatboxing content on spesfx.com, including exclusive quotes from SpeshFX on instagram, and two youtube playlists for you to parooze. one of SpeshFX guests and one of beatboxing basics, videos that will show you where beatboxing is now, and where it came from. Be sure to subscribe, and give a nice review and rating on apple podcasts. 5 stars 5 stars baby. Until next time - I'm Tani Levitt. ESH!