An Interview with Alec (Part 1)
Tis the season, Forte fans!
We hope this December greets you with well wishes, good fortunes, and a strong finish to your 2018.
Since this is the season of giving, we wanted to give you a surprise Christmas gift of our own – a sneak peek into the world of our very own vocal percussionist, Alec!
The unsung hero of 6-1-forte, Alec is the lone member whose primary role is NOT to sing in the a cappella group. This being a unique angle in the group, we got curious to learn more about his world, and want to bring you along with us!
Read on to get a peek into the life of a vocal percussionist, as we sat down to interview one of our own!
How did you get into beatboxing?
Good question! Believe it or not, my friend Kourtney Timmons, an old college buddy, was in a cappella group at Ball State that I knew of. At the time, I was loosely into a cappella, and I went to see his group perform and ending up loving it. Coming out of the experience, I just thought vocal percussion was so cool. Kourtney was not primarily a vocal percussionist (VP), but what he did teach as a start were some basic sounds that included kick, snare, and hi-hat.
I tried to start doing it and led to me looking up YouTube tutorials, practicing in the shower, the car, experimenting while doing chores, etc and casually learning while going about my daily life.
As I got better, I kept looking up tutorials and different sounds, and even got into researching beatbox battles.
When I eventually moved to Columbus, I also tried to connect with the local scene, attend some battles, workshops, etc., which were helpful to see what others could do. Ultimately I met Jenny Briggs, who worked with me and who scored me an audition with SNAP! Performance Productions. This was a local performing arts group that put on original musicals to popular music, and it gave me a chance to cut my teeth on doing VP for an actual group. From there, when that group disbanded and 6-1-forte came together, the rest was history!
How do you arrange your own stuff and hone your craft?
My process is not necessarily rigid or organized, but to start, basically I listen to the music and get a feel for the general rhythm and of beat of the song. This includes looking for:
Realism of percussive sounds
Imitating drum sounds
Getting a sense of rhythm, and replicating it
Adding twists and creativity based on that existing drum track
Creating a fairly similar pattern to the original
I may also choose to mix it up on the arrangement, depending on what our arranger (Eric) does, or if I am feeling a different vibe for the song / part I can branch out on my own. As I do that, I usually have a couple goals too.
To imitate in a sense, specifically key sounds and drums you would expect to hear
To incorporate synthetic sounds (i.e., with bass oscillations)
As an additional note about honing my craft and finding new material, I would first note the thing about vocal percussion is that it is very different than say a beatbox battle, and the point of VP is to accompany the group and arrangement.
Beatbox battles, to be fair, are kind of where I really started learning a lot of my material and skills on being creative. From that exposure, I would take what I learned and jam in my car, listen to music that inspired me, and even build in moments from incidental life routines to how I learn.