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How To Beatbox To Start A New Track

If you’re at all musically inclined, odds are you’ve had a great song idea stuck in your head that never made it out of your brain and into your DAW. Next time you get hit by the fever, record yourself beatboxing the track, and follow this Mad Zach tutorial on moving from an off-the-cuff recording to a first draft of a track. You don’t have to be an expert beatboxer either – click through to watch today’s tutorial!


We know that barely anyone has their beatboxing skill at the level of Dub FX or Beardyman, so we recommend approaching recording your song ideas in a more traditional and relaxed manner. To simplify the approach, try keeping the beat going in your head, but alternating between different parts that you’re voicing out loud. Start with the drum rhythm, and then move to the bass and leads. This will let you layer your ideas – some basic warping in your DAW will make lining them up very easy.

Don’t be afraid to look or sound ridiculous, remember, it’s just a sketch. I also tend to have much better luck if I drink some coffee beforehand (although this usually results in drum and bass tracks). It can also be helpful to get physically into the beat. Don’t just sit there with your arms at your sides, jump around, leap on furniture, wave your hands and shake your ass. By becoming more kinetic, you can preemptively “feel the crowd” and almost create a song with a dance. You don’t have to record to a click track, but staying at least sort of on beat will help you out a lot when bringing the sketch into your DAW.

Understanding basic beat box sounds and how to make them:

  • Kick – try saying “boom” with an emphasis on the “boo” but instead of the “oo” make it a more guttural breathy ending
  • Snare – “pshhh” or “kkkee”
  • Hats – “tss” or “cht” (sharper)
  • Bass – “bow-wow”, “woomp”, “vrump”, etc

iOS users: Loopy is the perfect app to sketch out ideas with into loops – read our microreview.  

Some people aren’t inclined to use their mouth at all for this type of idea-based production work – instead opting to tap out a rhythm with pencils or drumsticks on a surface. Another household instrument that works really well when recording your ideas is a kazoo – it might be an annoying buzzing noise to anyone in the same room as you, but it’s really easy to get some basic harmony and melody ideas onto a recording using a kazoo.

Ever used a vocal audio sketch to start out a track? Let us know how it worked out for you in the comments below! 

  • Yago

    Max, your vids make me fly, I’m learning quite a lot of interesting stuff here. Keep it up, sounds great!

  • Partyghost

    I use this method quite often but with a little twist! With Live 9 and the new audio to midi functionality I can hum in basslines and melodys then convert those directly to midi! Pre Live 9 I would do the same thing by using Melodynes export to midi function. Voila!

  • Ok, this is a fun tutorial!

  • Anonymous

    Well done demo! I actually do this as well. I often will sing the various tracks one after another so I get a better feel for what it is I’m trying to do. I sometimes keep the sounds I create as they give a different vibe than the midi track.

  • Anonymous

    Another awesome one Zach, thanks

  • Eli

    This is great! Also, (and yes this is kind of dumb) but I record through my mic, I’ll tap on my jeans to make single claps! sounds real good. I’ll also do some things with my mouth…. well creative things…

  • ClassickHitz

    for anyone producing music tracks this should be second nature…

    I don’t know a single producer famous or otherwise who hasn’t adopted this technique as a primary ‘go to’ method of making music

    I saw Michael Jackson do this is an Oprah Winfrey interview for the song ‘Remember the Time’

  • Robert

    Hey Zack! i think a lot of people will want to know why you choose to do this method as opposed to using Live 9’s transposing capabilities.

    (I have my own reasons why I would choose your method, but I think people will want a explanation from you!)

  • Robert

    Important tip: You MUST make those same types of faces when beatboxing

  • Neetlejuice

    Holy shit that was good. I always expect quality from Zachary, but that was much more than what I expected. Thank you boss man!

  • Anonymous

    awesome tuturial. i am a classically trained composer and absolutely loved this lesson. thank you!

  • typeomega

    was just talking about this in the production forum,

    good stuff . if you have live 9 then you can even take this one step more and use a vst like g-snap or auto tune to lock your “beat boxing” into key then use abeltons convert harmony to midi function and let abelton do most the work. ill also use g snap then pass it into a vocoder do get some other unique sounds.

    • Mad Zach

      yeah it really helps to auto-tune before doing the audio to midi conversion

  • Romyn

    Henrik Schwarz does this as well and I very well understand why; ideas rarely pop up inside the studio for most artists. Instead they tend to reveal themselves under the shower, on your bike etc. etc. Not recording your idea at that moment is just plain stupid because you’re destined to lose your thoughts over time. Great tip Mad Zach!

  • Alexi Zenieris

    Awesome tutorial, but Zach, you don’t need to EQ your sidechain. If your drums are coming from a Drum Rack you can simply choose the specific sample you want to sidechain to from the second drop down in the Audio From menu in the Compressor!

    • Mad Zach

      ahh yes I am fully aware of how the side chain works, however I don’t want to side chain to just one sample but rather, all samples in the drum rack that occupy that frequency. The top of the kick (but not the bottom), snare, and any punchy 500Hz type sound :p

      • Alexi Zenieris

        Ah whoops, should have figured. Great tutorial!

  • Adam Pearson

    that was great

  • Samuel Narvaez

    I do this all the time!

    this is one of the easiest ways to start a new track.

  • great vid…..your tuts are the best, wish you were a Logic man!!!

  • wardtf

    So when is this track going to be released?

  • chris


  • Stephen Webster

    I remember seeing an interview way back with Michael Jackson, apparently he used to do this all the time!

  • Markus Smet

    This guy deserves his own show. He is a legend.

    • Obscure Machines

      Sick method!

  • weltraumpapst

    cant you just use the slice audio to midi function in ableton 9?

    • Mad Zach

      it does not work well at all for beatboxing 🙁 plus I like this way because its more hands on and gives you more freedom

      • Expo

        i’ve had good experiences with the audio to midi on the simple drum idea side of things.. not so much on harmonies… but yo MAD ZACH.. this is completely off topic but i’ve asked you about this before.. can you please help me understand how to create the non retriggering lfo’s you use to mimic crab/transformer scratches? i have a lot of your drum packs but not all of them and i know you did it on at least one of them but i’m not sure which and this knowledge would seriously help me. Regaurdless your the man and your videos/drum packs/taste in music is f#%K!ng awesome. peace

  • KIMchi kush

    great stuff as always. mad zach for prez!

  • Mad Zach

    how hits are made 🙂