By Wayne Forrest, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

November 8, 2018 -- Have you ever wondered how performers can so fluidly make those syncopated beatboxing sounds? Researchers have shed some light on the mystery by using real-time MRI to show how motions of the mouth and tongue create different beatboxing sounds and styles.

MRI provides a dynamic view of beatboxers' entire midsagittal vocal tract at a speed fast enough to observe the movements and coordination of this artistic articulation just before a sound is made. Real-time MRI can also show how the oral manipulations differ from normal speech.

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Real-time MRI offers a view of beatboxing mechanics and how performers create their unique sounds. Video courtesy of Timothy Greer.

"Using real-time MRI allows us to investigate the difference in the production of music and language and to see how the mind parses these different modalities," said study co-author Timothy Greer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California, in a release from the Acoustical Society of America.

In other words, beatboxers can create sounds that are not seen in any language.

"They have an acrobatic ability to put together all these different sounds," Greer added. "They can hear a sound like a snare drum and they can figure out what they need to do with their mouth to recreate it."


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