Other things on this site...

Evolutionary sound
Listen to Flat Four Internet Radio
Learn about
The Molecules of HIV
Make Oddmusic!
Make oddmusic!

They put a CAMERA up my NOSE

And it was all in the name of science. I volunteered for an experiment which wanted to look at beatboxer's voice-boxes while they were beatboxing, so I went and let someone put a camera up my nose (a nasal endoscopy). This was also being filmed for a Science Museum beatboxing project, so as well as the actual scientists there was a one-woman film crew plus a Science Museum person co-ordinating the thing and handing me the SM58 so I could bust some beats in the little clinic room.

I couldn't see the screen so I wasn't sure what my larynx was looking like but I dropped some of the usual beatbox stuff (some old-school hip-hop ones, a slightly poor DnB one, a quick rendition of If Your Mother Only Knew) and they seemed interested in what was happening. They'll take a while to do a proper analysis of the results but apparently there's a lot of muscular activity happening around and above the larynx while I'm doing kicks and snares and suchlike.

Some voice specialists are worried that beatboxing is bad for your voice so it was good to know that, after 7 years of beatboxing, I don't seem to have anything weird or wrong with my vocal folds, I'm not doing myself any damage.

One of the sounds that worries specialists is vocal scratching, so I gave them a bit of that. They confirmed that it involves a lot of constriction to produce that sound, and they also confirmed that there are lots of really fast pitch changes (one-and-a-half octaves in 150 milliseconds!). Whether that means it is bad for you I'm not sure. I don't actually do much vocal scratching myself.

There'll be more sessions, and at some point there'll be a video online, but that's all for now. I have a printed-out photo of my larynx but you don't want to see that ;)

There were also some tests with a laryngograph, which showed some of the controlled-weirdness involved in beatboxing, and some interesting discussion about whether super-deep bass tones were bad for you or not. The "received wisdom" is that they're dangerous since they involve your "false vocal folds" pushing down on your real vocal folds, but some researchers have evidence that if you do it right, that's not what's happening, instead your false vocal folds are basically flapping on their own. Watch this YouTube video on "Extreme vocal effects" to see what's happening when singers make deep growly sounds...

| science | Permalink