The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Life 101

Did you catch our first installment of Life 101 in the fall issue, where campus experts share their “how to” tips? If not, take a look at our last issue's feature for Life 101.

How to… beat box

Spartone beat boxer David Boyd
Spartone beat boxer David Boyd

It's one thing to be a proficient singer, able to make your voice soar in seamless harmony with others. It's something else to train your voice to sound like another instrument — a jazzy trumpet or a booming bass drum.

But you can learn, says Matt Hanson '09, who went from a vocal rookie to one of the primary beat boxers for the Spartones during his tenure with UNCG's premier male a cappella group.

He enrolled at UNCG as a music performance major focusing on trombone. He also found himself drawn to the Spartones by his longtime fascination with the barbershop sound and the intricacies of singing with no music.

“I never had any vocal training,” he says. “I decided to try out for fun.”

That lark launched a four-year career with the 'Tones, the last two as one of the group's primary vocal percussionists. It's an important job — just like a drummer in a band, the percussionist helps set the tone, dynamic and tempo for songs.

Matt learned the craft from other members of the Spartones and spent months honing the three basic fundamental sounds: bass drum, snare drum and high-hat cymbal.

Want to learn? Here are Hanson's tips:

To mimic the boom of a bass drum: Make the sound of the letters “b” and “p” together forced out with a burst of air.

The tinny ring of a high-hat cymbal requires you to make the sounds of the letters “t” and “s.” Put lots of emphasis on the “t” at the beginning and let the “s” hiss to a stop.

For the snare drum sound: Make the sounds of the letters “p,” “f” and “t” together, forced out with a lot of air and a bit of buzz. “Exhale the sounds, pushing air from your lungs,” Hanson says. Don't get frustrated if it takes more time — and a few napkins — to get it just right. Matt warns that the snare is probably the hardest of the three.

All of the percussion sounds will take time to perfect. “You are not going to master them in five minutes or in a week,” Matt says.

“Once you know the basics, go and explore and make it your own,” he suggests. “Find out what works for you.“

How does that sound? Watch the 'Tones in action as they demonstrate Matt's tips (above).

Rude awakening? How to get a good night's sleep

Dr. Mona Shattell, associate professor of nursing, is interested in a variety of mental health issues.
Dr. Mona Shattell, associate professor of nursing, is interested in a variety of mental health issues.

Mona Shattell, a professor of nursing who specializes in psychiatric and mental health, has written about her own struggles with sleep and waking. She offers the following tips for the multitude of people out there who need better sleep and a more pleasant awakening.

For better sleep:

Avoid caffeine in afternoon or evening. As we know, caffeine is a stimulant. Great for mornings, not so great at bedtime.

Avoid heavy alcohol consumption. However, a little can be helpful, for instance a hot toddy at bedtime. It helps me sleep better!

Avoid exercise in the evening. It is stimulating and not helpful for wake-sleep transition.

Avoid stimulating TV or movies before bedtime.

For a smoother wake-up:

Get enough or more sleep. You will be more able to “get up” or awaken if you have had enough sleep. I suggest at least eight hours per night.

Do not go overboard on your alarm clock. Use only the minimum amount of stimulation to wake you.

Try an alarm that plays music or nature sounds. These are generally preferable to buzzers.

Use an alarm that allows you to adjust the volume. Turn down the volume to allow for just enough stimulation to wake you but not so much that you will awaken in a jarring, physically arousing, adrenalin-pumping “flight or fight” response.

Let there be light. If your awakening time coincides with natural light, consider sleeping with the blinds or curtains open somewhat to allow natural light into your sleeping space. Natural light is a more gentle way to move from sleep to wakefulness.






Video Transcript

Text-only version of video of “How to beat box.”

My name is David Boyd. I'm with the Spartones. This is my fourth semester with the group. The Spartones are the premier all-male a capella group on campus. We're comprised of about 20 undergrad students, who all got in through audition. I'm a voice major in the school of music so I get graded a lot on my singing, and it's very technical and stuff like that. I find it really refreshing to, twice a week, go hang out and sing with a whole bunch of my friends — you know, laid back. No one is grading you and technical aspects and stuff.

(Singing — Everybody, rock your body right. Backstreet's back, alright.)

If you're ever wondering how to start beat boxing and working on your sounds I have three basic beat boxing sounds you can start with.

It's essentially the sound that you make anywhere that starts with a B, so if you were using the word “beep” you take out everything but the initial sound. So you end up with a “buh, buh, buh” and if you don't voice it, you come up with a uh, uh, uh, which is half way to the sound. The rest of it is pretty much tightening of the lips and using a lot of air and explosiveness and pressure in your mouth to create the bass kick which sounds like “puh, puh, puh.”

The second sound is the high-hat and it sounds like “tsss, tsss." The S trails off like a cymbal would do. So the bass and the cymbal — “pwah, tsss, pwah, tsss.”

The basics of the snare drum are a PF combination sound. It's the same as the bass drum. It's a lot of pressure, a lot of air. Think of the word “poof” as the P and the F at the end and take off the “oo.” So you have “pf, pf, pf” which is kind of weird to say without a lot of air but that's what happens when you take out the “oo,” and you'll sound stupid, but you kinda have to do this to get the sound. If you tighten up the lips, you come up with “pfff, pfff, pfff.”

So to put together the three basic sounds like (he beat boxes here)

(Singing — all I need, all I need, all I need, all I need)

Freshman year, I was kind of an outsider. I wasn't the best at making friends early on in college. Getting into the group helped 'cause all of a sudden there were all these people who wanted to know me, which made me feel like part of the campus. That was pretty refreshing to have that camaraderie.

(Singing - Friendship and love to the end)






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