Beatbox Subculture In The Development Of Musical Abilities Of Adolescents


In reliance on the ideas of foreign researchers about the possibility of using hip-hop culture and its elements in various types of education for children, teenagers and students reveals the potential of beatbox in the development of musical abilities. The purpose of the article is to present the contents of the three stages of introducing a beatbox subculture, as an element of hip-hop culture, into the process of musical education of adolescents: introductory, where knowledge about hip-hop culture and its element — beatbox; technical, where the beatbox performance technique is formed; creative, where teenagers independently develop a beatbox performance project and demonstrate it in a concert version. It is pointed out the need to respect the health-saving approach at all stages of training. The principles of introducing beatbox into the process of musical education of adolescents considered within such disciplines as "Musical literature", "Solfege", "Vocal" and additional musical classes. The sequence of teenagers mastering the beatbox technique from simple sounds to connected sounds that mimic the sound of percussion instruments is revealed; it is proved that beatbox contributes to the development of such musical abilities as a sense of rhythm and tempo, as well as articulation skills of students in music.

Keywords: Hip-hop subculturebeatboxtrainingmusical abilitiesteenagers


The modern youth subculture is a variegated and diverse palette of currents the listing of which can take a large amount of time. The scientific works of the authors, who consider these or other aspects of the named phenomenon, the problems related to the history of the emergence of youth subcultures are most often considered (Jordan, 2009), with the definition of the content and function of specific, local subcultures (Yafalian, 2017), the emergence and extinction of certain ethnic bases in the subculture and their mutual influence (Rivera, 2007), the identification of psychological and social bases for the emergence of a particular youth subculture (Amendola, 2018). In some sources of foreign researchers (Bennett, 1999) one can even see the rationale for the legitimacy of replacing the term “subculture” by “other terms However, all these innovations in terminology, after all, remain only considered by the authors. In the majority of articles, monographs, and scientific researches, an established term is found - subculture, which will be used in this article.

In literary sources reveal the possibility of using youth subcultures in the process of teaching and raising children and young people (Cason, Young, Foster, & Ortiz, 2017; Kumar, 2018; Love, 2015; Vasyagina, 2013; Walker, 2019). But, in the life of the younger generation - adolescents and young men, who are the creators, carriers and consumers of this culture, it has far from always a positive meaning. Separate subcultures generally have a negative impact on young people, calling for violence, and even suicide. In this regard, it can be stated that it is pedagogy that can help young people to avoid subculture directions that negatively affect the personality.

The methods contributing to the disclosure of the material presented in the article are the analysis of sociological, musicological, psychological and pedagogical literature related to the promotion and distribution of youth subculture. In addition, the methods used to conduct the study include generalization and systematization of literary sources, questionnaires, and diagnostic tasks.

Problem Statement

Almost every subculture, in one way or another, is associated with a particular type of artistic activity: visual, choreographic, and musical (Lukov, 2006). The analysis of the content and conceptual positions of various youth trends, trends and subcultures makes it possible to say that one of the conceptual foundations of these phenomena is musical creativity: performing and “listening”. Obviously, therefore, in the literature devoted to youth subcultures, such a concept began to appear, highlighting music as the whole necessary direction of all subcultures - “musical subculture” (Yafalian, 2016).

One of such “positive” youth “musical subculture” is hip hop. The attitude of critics and researchers to the hip hop subculture is different. Some of them do not consider it a culture at all, someone points to its huge cultural potential. Hip-Hop is a form of counter-culture that many critics have questioned as a legitimate area of academic study. Some critics disregard the artistic qualities of Hip-Hop while others disregard it because of their lack of understanding of the genre. Despite numerous criticisms and rejection of hip-hop music as a cultural phenomenon, some researchers (Walker, 2019) note its innovative nature, its popularity with listeners and performers (Tyurina, 2017; Smith, 2000) and influence on the world musical culture (Walker, 2019).

Elements of the hip-hop subcultures in dance education are used today by teachers to train classical dancers (Walker, 2019).

Another look at familiarization, but, already with such a musical component of hip-hop, as the rap reveals the American Researcher Kumar (2018). According to the author, rap can be used in middle and high schools for teaching various social sciences. Another subject that can be mastered through the inclusion of the hip-hop subculture is, paradoxically, mathematics. American authors (Cason et al., 2017) even consider such a thing as “hip-hop pedagogy”. Another interesting idea of introducing hip-hop into the educational process for primary school teachers is Love (2015). The author believes that the preparedness of teachers of junior and primary classes for hip-hop education (NNO) will contribute to the successful training of their future wards - urban children of primary school age.

In the process of reviewing the literature on the problem of using hip-hop subcultures in education, its element such as beatbox is highlighted. The popularity of hip-hop culture is quite high in the world, in particular, at the talent shows, which are held both in the USA and in various Asian and European countries. Learning to beatboxes, as a rule, happens to amateurs on their own, most often through the use of the Internet. It should be noted that in foreign literature (McAlpine), when teaching music, the authors use a video game system that can be included in this process through the FMOD package, as well as through the use of a number of unique musical electronic instruments, for example, even one that is called the same hip-hop element - beatbox. However, as McAlpine (2016, 2017) notes, one way or another, self-study under these programs can be fraught with failures and failures, therefore, the author believes, the help of a mentor is necessary.

Research Questions

In this study we try to verify next hypotheses:

  • The possibility of using hip-hop subcultures in adolescent music education in the certain disciplines: «Vocal», «Solfege», «Music literature».

  • Use of hip-hop subculture for the development of certain musical abilities of adolescents: rhythmic feeling, the ability to “hold” a single tempo in performance and development of articulation skills.

  • A number of methods and techniques that were identified for the three stages of introducing beat-boxing in musical education of adolescents.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the article is to develop the content of the stages of the introduction of beat-box as an element of hip-hop culture in the upbringing of adolescents in the music school, providing methodological support for these stages, and justifying the effectiveness of their use through initial and final diagnostics.

Research Methods

In the study described by us, the elements of beatbox, as the most interesting for teenagers, were used to familiarize with this significant element of the hip-hop subculture, to develop their rhythmic feeling, the ability to “hold” a single tempo in performance and development of articulation skills. This introduction took place in the classroom on solfegge, vocal, musical literature and additional musical classes in an educational institution - school number 32 of the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Before the study, we conducted initial tests for the development of rhythmic, feelings, tempo perception in the performance of rhythmic formulas and articulation skills. The study process included 18 adolescent children (from 12 to 15 years old), included in the experimental group. The above tests were carried out both for the participants of the experimental group and for the group of teenagers who were engaged in a special instrument, solfegge and vocal according to the programs, in the content of which the elements of the beatbox were not entered. Initial diagnostics of the experimental group showed:

- the predominantly low level of development of rhythmic feeling;

- the average level of development of the tempo sensation;

- low level of development of articulation skills.

In the control group, which included teenagers studying music at school, the results were slightly higher. The higher level of development of the sense of rhythm and tempo in the control group was explained by the fact that all adolescents included in this group had already passed a certain way of learning to play the instrument, solfege and vocal. Then, as an experimental group included children who either did not study music at school at all, or began to study it recently. For three terms of the 2017-2018 school year, an experimental group of adolescents was engaged in the modified programs of the following disciplines: “Musical literature”, “Vocal”, “Solfegge”;

For the process of introducing beatbox elements, it was important to observe health-saving learning grounds for protecting the voices of beatboxers' imitating instruments, as indicated by a number of researchers interested in vocal education and beatbox learning (Sapthavee & Sims, 2014, Nagovitsyn, 2017).

The introduction of beatbox elements into the musical educational process included three main stages. The first was defined as a trial, which solved the problem of presenting adolescents with a brief history and development of the hip-hop subculture, demonstrating the most interesting examples of performance by domestic and foreign beatboxers of works, familiarization with sites where the beatbox technique was demonstrated. All these tasks were solved on the discipline “Musical literature”.

The second stage, the technical one, at which the task of mastering the technique of Beatboxing by teenagers was solved. For this, a sequence of actions of the teacher for teaching adolescents to beatbox was developed, reflected in the article by Nagovitsyn (2017). The complexity of performing beatbox compositions for teenagers also lies in the fact that, in contrast to the traditional vocal technique of sound processing, in classical and even pop vocals (Tagiltseva, Konovalova, Dobrovolskaya, Zhukova, & Ovsyannikova, 2018), in some technical elements beatbox is found, for example, one that is associated with the pronunciation of sounds on the breath, as opposed to the traditional - singing on the exhale.

The specified sequence of actions of the teacher was realized in several disciplines: "Vocal" and "Solfege". On the “Vocal” discipline, the teacher, using the method of exercises, achieved a clear pronunciation that coincides with the metro-rhythmic and tempo basis of the exercise, the basic sounds, which, first of all, the beatboxer should master. These are the ones that corresponded to the letters of the Russian alphabet: B, T, K, S, R. The exercises included certain rhythmic formulas that were presented to adolescents. These sequences were pronounced by each teenager at different tempos, ranging from largo, to allegro, to various metro-rhythmic combinations of the named sounds. The sequence of mastering sounds was, according to the recommendations of well-known beatboxers, first: B, T, K, then, after these sounds were mastered by the students, the teacher included the sounds of S and R.

After mastering the previous content of teaching by teenagers, the teacher included three main sounds in the process of acquaintance with the beatbox technique, and combinations of several sounds imitating the sounds of percussion instruments. In various foreign sources such sounds have the same name: kick, hi-hat and classic snare.

The means of achieving the metro-rhythmic, tempo and articulatory precision were complex rhythmic formulas, including the need for the performance of kick, hi-hat and classic snare.

For the formation of tempo unity of performance, which depended on the development of a sense of rhythm and the possibility of keeping pace, a metronome was used at the lessons of solfegge, which exhibited a certain BPM value (beats per minute - the number of beats per minute). At the same lessons, adolescents demonstrated rhythmic formulas developed by them, and, for greater effect, those who had good computer skills created 3D compositions that created the feeling of being at a concert (gig). This technique is currently actively used in teaching music to children and, in particular, when they perform choral operas (Konovalova et al., 2019) and in museum pedagogy (Gorlitz, 2018). Note that for students it was particularly interesting to use the “continue bit” technique when, after several cycles of performance, the beatbox composition was first a fellow practitioner and then a well-known beatboxer whose performance was taken from internet sites about beatbox. The teenager attentively listening to this composition, after it was stopped by another performer, began to continue and develop it (Konovalova et al., 2019).

The third stage of introducing the beatbox elements into the musical educational process of adolescents became creative, in which the tasks of forming the skills to develop their own versions of performance using familiar sounds were solved but using certain musical material. These skills were formed in the process of additional music lessons with adolescents of the experimental group.

The sequence of performance was presented to students in the form of certain actions, the result of which was the personally developed beatbox composition. This is the choice of the type of performance: a Capella, by the accompaniment of the sound of a particular instrument (play live) or by the accompaniment of the backing track; choice of methods of execution from mastered: kick, hi-hat, classic snare; creating a rhythmic formula by rhythm recording; analysis of your own performance at a certain pace and using the metronome.


After the introduction of the considered stages in the process of musical education of adolescents, a final diagnosis was carried out, the results of which showed significant dynamics in the development of rhythmic feeling, tempo feeling and articulation skills in adolescents. Comparison of the initial diagnosis with the final, as well as the results of the diagnosis of adolescents studying music according to traditional programs, is shown in Table 1 .

Table 1 -
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The results of the experimental group clearly demonstrate the dynamics of the development of a sense of rhythm, tempo feeling and the formation of articulation skills, which proves the success of the application of those stages of introducing beatbox culture into adolescent music education. At the end of the third term, a questionnaire was conducted among the students of the experimental group with questions concerning the specifics of the hip-hop subculture, the culture of beatboxing and attitudes towards this culture. Due to the fact that adolescents on the subject “Musical literature” dealt with the theme of modern musical subculture, their answers showed that they have knowledge of the origin, development of this culture, its specific artistic features, and manner of performance and means of creating beatbox compositions.

But, of course, the main result of the experimental work was the fact that beatbox enabled the more effective development of rhythmic feeling in students of music than in those adolescents whose training did not introduce this element of subculture.


The presented content of the three stages of the introduction of the subculture of beatboxes can be fully or partially used by teachers of children's music schools. for the development of musical abilities of students. This study cannot claim to be an exhaustive solution to this problem - the development of musical abilities when using elements of the beatbox culture. It can be continued in terms of how elements of the beatbox can be rationally combined with the development of musical abilities such as melodic hearing. Promising areas for further research are the search for the most appropriate for adolescent’s content of a set of special conversations about youth subculture, which will allow each student to orient in decent samples of such a subculture and to distinguish them from examples characterized by a low artistic and musical level.


The authors of the article express their gratitude to the teacher of the school number 32 of the city of Yekaterinburg Zaplatina E.A., under whose guidance the experimental work was carried out, the director of this school Okunenko L.A. for understanding the importance and necessity for the process of musical education of the content of our research, Nagovitsyn A.V. bachelor of the Institute of Music and Art Education of the Ural State Pedagogical University, who actively acts as a beatboxer at various concert venues in the city and region, for advice and recommendations on the introduction of beatbox elements into the process of musical education of adolescents.


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14 July 2019

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Psychology, educational psychology, counseling psychology

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Matveeva, L. V., Yafalian, A. F., Konovalova, S. A., & Tagiltseva*, N. G. (2019). Beatbox Subculture In The Development Of Musical Abilities Of Adolescents. In T. Martsinkovskaya, & V. R. Orestova (Eds.), Psychology of Subculture: Phenomenology and Contemporary Tendencies of Development, vol 64. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 702-709). Future Academy.