This MRI shows you how to become the ultimate beatboxer

May 14, 2014

If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably encountered fistfuls of terrible beatboxers—they’re spotlight-hogging dorks at parties, carnies-turned-street performers, or thirsty YouTube personalities. We can’t blame them for trying, though, because when pulled off with aplomb, beatboxing can be nothing short of awe-inspiring. Take Rahzel, for instance.


Listen to a dude like Rahzel, and beatboxing sounds almost impossible: Using only vocals, he manages to incorporate the sounds of synthetic drum machines, basslines, and sung lyrics, often in tandem. Now, to figure out the mysteries of beatboxing, a study conducted by the University of Southern California has run a beatboxer through an MRI—the commonly used medical imaging technique—to determine how the phenomenon actually works.

They’ve released their findings here, and have deconstructed how beatboxers recreate rim shots, snare drums, 808 kicks, and more.

Here’s the video the study posted after they ran a beatboxer through an MRI scan.


The study also posted screenshots detailing how, exactly, to pull of specific sounds while beatboxing. Check out some of their findings below.

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