How to sing, rap and beatbox - performing

  • Learn about how the voice can be used in different ways and different styles including singing, rap and beatboxing.

  • Listen to the vocal styles of Plan B, Vince Staples and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

  • Find out how to protect and train your voice.

Watch how Tara changes her breathing and vocal technique to perform with the band.

The voice is a personal instrument and no two voices sound the same. Using the voice is an important form of communication, both in spoken word and music.

Throughout the history of music, the voice has been used to communicate a variety of ideas as a means of personal expression. Vocal performances are also used to entertain in opera, musicals, concerts and many other types of shows.

Singing

There are many different styles of singing. Singing in a classical style, like opera, often requires a lot of training.

Pop music singing is different. It uses the middle range of the voice (or chest voice). Popular music covers many different music styles, such as jazz, rock and pop.

When singers sing different notes at the same time, like backing singers do, they are said to be singing in harmony.

Learn how to sing like an opera star with these five top tips.

Beatboxing

This is when a voice is used to imitate the sound of a drum machine and percussion sounds. The vocalist makes different sounds at different pitches using their mouth, lips, tongue and voice. Often a microphone is used to help with the overall effect too. Beatboxing can also be used as a backing for rap, and is often associated with hip-hop music.

Rapping

This is a vocal style which involves a performer speaking in time with a beat, and often in rhyme. It can be performed in a variety of ways, either over beatboxing or a musical accompaniment. Rap is often associated with hip-hop music. Its components include:

  • Content – what is being said
  • Flow – the rhythm and the rhyme
  • Delivery – the tone of the speech

Listen to these examples of vocal performances

Listen to Plan B's Live Lounge cover of Tinie Tempah's Pass Out. It opens with a beatboxed introduction, with the vocalists making the sound of a drum kit as well as the synth hook from the original song.
Listen to Vince Staples rap in time to the beat in Big Fish. He varies his flow in this verse to add interest to the rap and rhymes at lots of different points.
Listen to Amahlati by the Soweto Gospel Choir. This is an African choir with a direct sound and blend. Notice how they sing in harmony.

Your turn

Using your voice is a personal thing but there is a style of singing for everyone. If you don’t know what style you might enjoy, experiment to find out what works for you. Here are some suggestions on how to start:

  • Pick a style of music you’re interested in. If it requires sheet music, you are likely to find lyrics and music on the internet. Listen to some versions of a chosen song and have a go – it doesn’t have to be perfect!

  • Don’t be put off if it doesn’t sound good at first. Keep practising and try to copy the song styles as best as you can.

  • Find other people to perform with, whether that’s in your home, at school or in groups with friends. It’s much more fun to have a go together.

  • Listen to lots of music and performances, both professional and amateur.

  • If you want to pursue this further, consider finding experts in the style, for example singing teachers, local choirs or online tutorials.

How to look after your voice

If you are a vocalist of any kind, it is important that you take some basic steps to look after your voice. Here are our key tips:

  • Drink plenty of water every day.

  • Focus on good posture to avoid tension and strain.

  • When you are singing or speaking, try to breathe properly by supporting your voice with deep breaths from your chest, which will take the focus off your throat.

  • Always warm up and avoid putting strain on your voice by shouting and whispering.

Explore the score

Try performing the song The Sound Of Us.

Download the sheet music and learn to sing the song solo or with a group.

The Sound Of Us - Full score
document

Listen and sing along

Listen to the recordings of the band's song The Sound Of Us.

Try singing along and performing your own version.

Listen to the band performing their song The Sound Of Us.
This recording just has Tara's vocal part from The Sound Of Us. Listen and focus on the lyrics and melody.
Listen to the electronic mix of The Sound of Us and see if you can perform your own version of the track.

Keywords

KeywordDefinition
beatboxingThe vocal imitation of a drum machine and other percussive sounds.
rappingA style of music including the spoken word in time with a beat.
operaA piece of performance music telling a story, using solo singers, chorus and orchestra.
chest voiceThe lower register of your voice, often used for speaking. It usually has a warmer tone. When you put your hand to your chest while using it, you will feel a vibration.
loopWhen a musical idea, rhythm or other sound material is repeated.
choirA group of singers who perform together.
scattingWhen the voice is used to imitate an instrument, often singing random syllables rather than real words.

Next steps

How to sing, rap and beatbox - improvising
How to rap
Playing together