HomeBlogsthatwesguy's blogBeatboxing vs. Mouthdrumming

thatwesguy's picture

"Vocal percussion is the art of creating sounds with one's mouth that approximate, imitate, or otherwise serve the same purpose as a percussion instrument."

That sounds good too. So, beatboxing is the kind of vocal percussion that goes with hip-hop.

Wikipedia agrees: "The term 'beatboxing' is often used as a synonym for vocal percussion, but in fact is just one type of percussion, often used to accompany hip-hop music."

No problems so far. But then, what about 'mouthdrumming'? Well, let's be clear. When I started doing this in the mid-nineties, I needed a way to distinguish my style from beatboxers, so I started using the word mouthdrumming. As I see it, if beatbox is the kind of vocal percussion that goes with hip hop, then mouthdrumming is the kind of vocal percussion that goes with rock and jazz.

We're most of the way there, but there's just one teeny tiny other point I'd like to make about the whole thing, which is that in the definition of vocal percussion I cited above, vocal percussion is described as something different from a percussion instrument but which serves the same purpose. I object to this distinction; I regard mouthdrumming as an instrument in its own right. It's not an approximation of, an imitation of, or a tool similar to an instrument; it's an instrument, period. I'll try to illustrate the point: I don't sound exactly like any particular drum kit, but then again, no drum kit sounds like me. The only difference in my mind is that my load-in and breakdown takes a lot less effort.

So I guess I'll leave it at that: Beatboxing is the vocal percussion of hip hop culture and music. Mouthdrumming is the use of the mouth as a percussion instrument in rock or jazz music.

There. That oughta do 'er. But lemme know if that doesn't clear it up for you. After all, what good's a word on whose definition everyone doesn't agree?

Stay in the groove, lads and lasses.

?W

Wes answers your mouthdrumming, vocal percussion, and beatbox questions at www.mouthdrumming.com/askwes