Paralinguistic mechanisms of production in human "beatboxing"

A real-time magnetic resonance imaging study

Michael Proctor*, Erik Bresch, Dani Byrd, Krishna Nayak, Shrikanth Narayanan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)


Real-time Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rtMRI) was used to examine mechanisms of sound production by an American male beatbox artist. rtMRI was found to be a useful modality with which to study this form of sound production, providing a global dynamic view of the midsagittal vocal tract at frame rates sufficient to observe the movement and coordination of critical articulators. The subject's repertoire included percussion elements generated using a wide range of articulatory and airstream mechanisms. Many of the same mechanisms observed in human speech production were exploited for musical effect, including patterns of articulation that do not occur in the phonologies of the artist's native languages: ejectives and clicks. The data offer insights into the paralinguistic use of phonetic primitives and the ways in which they are coordinated in this style of musical performance. A unified formalism for describing both musical and phonetic dimensions of human vocal percussion performance is proposed. Audio and video data illustrating production and orchestration of beatboxing sound effects are provided in a companion annotated corpus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1054
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

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