By Ben Bang, 16, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS
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Ben hopes beatboxing will be recognized as its own instrument.


For years, I’ve had a dream of performing on stage. I’ve wanted to feel the excitement of getting attention from a huge crowd. However, I never had a chance. I am horrible at singing, playing instruments, acting, telling jokes and dancing. One time, when I was 11 years old, my violin tutor told my parents that I was not only “not good” at reading music, but also had no talent at all. As for dancing, I went to a party one time with my friends and danced. After the party, my best buddy called me and said, “Ben, I like you, you are cool and all that, but just don’t dance please. You were even making me embarrassed when you tried to robot dance or whatever you were doing.”

I felt like I would never reach my goal of performing until I started beatboxing.

Felix Zenger, a famous beatboxer, describes beatboxing as “making music out of your mouth.” Beatboxing developed when it became a part of hip-hop culture in the 80s. With the help of microphones and amplifiers, it’s now easier for a beatboxer to perform in front of a large crowd.

In seventh grade, I was on the verge of falling asleep watching a talent show when one of my friends went on stage without any instruments, introduced himself and started making insane sounds out of his mouth. The beats came out of nowhere and soon I started clapping with the crowd and rocking my head. The sound effects he used reminded me of a DJ scratching a turntable or computer sounds. It was unbelievable. I felt as if he was from another planet.

My first try was full of spit

Ben (center) beatboxes with friends Perry Nguyen, 14, playing the saxophone, and David Ha, 15, on the electric guitar.

The next day I asked my friend how to beatbox. He tried to teach me the basic beatboxing skills. The first time I tried the “kick drum,” which should sound like slapping a hardcover book, it sounded more like a fart or just some air coming out of my mouth. Each time I tried “high hat,” which should sound like a sprinkler, too much spit came out of my mouth. The hardest, however, was the “snare drum,” which sounds similar to the “kick drum” but has a more cymbal-like quality. I sounded really pathetic compared to my friend. But after months of practicing daily, I was able to beatbox more than a minute without messing up or going off beat.

After eighth grade, I moved to the United States. I had a very hard time with English and I was too busy adapting to a new environment to focus on beatboxing.

But this June I was searching videos on YouTube for the first time. Suddenly I thought, “If there are millions of videos, won’t there be ones of beatboxers?” I typed “beatbox” into the search and hundreds of videos showed up. I was surprised when I saw videos by pro-beatboxers because I had never seen a beatboxer other than my friend. While watching Zenger, Roxorloops and Joel Turner beatbox, I thought to myself, “How in the world can they make such sounds?” They made all sorts of mechanical sounds, DJ scratching sounds and imitations of trumpets and electric guitars. After that, I went on YouTube to check out the Beatbox Battle series and more beatboxing video clips. Because it was summer, I watched tutorials about beatboxing skills almost every day. One day, when I tried to learn “abra scratch,” which sounds like a DJ scratching a turntable, I practiced for four hours to get the hang of it.

Ben’s beatboxing basics

Once I found out about more skills, I practiced everywhere. I love practicing while taking a shower since the structure of the bathroom makes the sounds echo, and beatboxing sounds better when it echoes. I will turn on my iPod, put it in the corner and start beatboxing to add more texture to the music. While beatboxing, I feel relieved from homework, grades and all of my worries. I just follow my flow of beats as the song plays. Then I start daydreaming about grabbing a mic and performing on stage. I realize that I’ve been taking a shower for half an hour when steam covers the whole bathroom.

I finally came closer to my goal of performing when I beatboxed along with my friends. A few months ago, my church friends gathered around after the service and started playing drums, bass and acoustic guitars. Before thinking about it, I jumped in with a mic, followed the beats of the drums and started beatboxing. My friends were amazed. However, they told me, “You need to learn how to play drums! You’ve got all the beats in your head!” I didn’t like this comment since I knew that beatboxing can be an instrument, not just a step to learning the drums.

Since then, I’ve beatboxed a few times with my school friends while they played guitars and saxophone. They said, “Dang, you’re good! It sounds good all together, too.”

Even my parents are impressed

With beatboxing, I actually have something special about me that has caught other people’s attention. I was proud when my parents heard me beatboxing and their response changed from “Let’s stop making noises in the house since your sister is studying,” to “Well, you’ve got some talent there, son. Try to do something with your talent. Start a club or something so that you will actually achieve something with that.”

Now it’s a habit to beatbox whenever I hear hip-hop, pop songs, rock songs and even classical music. But, I have to practice more so that I can create my own style of beatboxing. I have been working on making some scratch sounds, a noise that helicopter blades make as they spin and advanced snares to embellish the beats. I keep practicing so I will be ready to perform when the chance comes.