battle plan

A Battle Plan

My name is TyTe. I've been part of the beatboxing scene since beatboxing started. I've been honoured to judge (be on the jury at) the 2014 UK Beatbox Championships, the 2015 Grand Beatbox Battle and the 2015 World Championships. This article explores some suggestions for how battles could develop and may be of use to those starting out and developing their own battles. The following are in no particular order!

1. Judges

a) An odd number

There should always be an odd number of judges; 3 or 5 is ideal. This means that if a suitable system is in place for judging (one that is also an odd number of rounds - see later) the battle there can never be a tie. For showcase eliminations 3 judges are better than 5 judges as it makes the totalling of scores more simple.

b) Selection Criteria

Traditionally, judges have also showcased at battle events. This means that judges have been chosen on their ability to perform. This has often been financially necessary as the organiser can get 'two jobs done for one fee'. However, ideally, the judging panel (jury) should be chosen on their ability to judge. Any performances are then a bonus. What makes a good judge is impartiality and experience. You want judges that are committed to the event and are of a sound character (i.e. not prone to arguments, getting drunk or stoned while on duty, etc.) The previous year's winner does not always make the best battle judge! It is important that the battlers feel that the judges will take them seriously and be impartial.

c) Position

One of my biggest gripes about judging beatbox battles is that the judges are often in the WORST place to hear the sound! Judges should NOT be placed on the edge of the stage listening to a monitor mix. The placing of judges on the edge of the stage is a legacy from breakdancing battles - but of course, in a bboy battle, the sound is much less important than a good view. In a bbox battle the sound is the most important thing! Judges should be placed in the audience - preferably on slightly raised platform where they can see and hear the event properly. You don't see the judges of X-Factor (or any other TV battle) off to one side of the stage!

d) Resources

The best thing you can do is assign a person to look after the judges on the night. This person ensures that the judges are in place when they need to be, ensures they have all they need, etc. If the judges do not have a table, make sure the judges have clipboards and a pen. Trying to write notes on a flimsy piece of paper is not good! The papers for each judge should be clearly labelled with their name, preferably in a folder, and the papers should be in the right order. Spare pens and a supply of drinks is also important.

2. Judging

Over the years I have used all sorts of judging criteria - everything from convoluted scoring mechanisms to a simple 'gut' feeling. Personally I think there is a mid-way. There needs to be BOTH a simple criteria as well as personal opinion. The former informs the latter! In other words, a personal decision should be informed by the criteria used. Let me explain.

a) Criteria

For battles, whether 1v1, Team or Crew, there should be a simple scoring criteria. The number of criteria should be ODD - either 3 or 5. With an odd number of judges and an odd number of criteria there can never be a tie between two battlers. The scoring criteria should NOT be a points system but a simple tick box for each criteria with which to compare the two battlers. I suggest the following criteria:

  1. Musicality - (pitch, tone, composition, arrangement, melody)
  2. Technicality - (speed, clarity, complexity)
  3. Originality - (freshness, diversity of routines, sounds and rhythms)
  4. Battle Prowess - (How well the battler engages his or her opponent)
  5. Audience Engagement -(How well the battler engages the crowd - including crowd response, entertainment value)

It would look something like this - note: The table would probably be horizontal so you can fit many on a sheet - this one's for demo purposes only!

The judge simply puts ONE tick in each row. Therefore Battler A or Battler B will win 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2. This criteria can then be used to inform or reinforce the judges decision.

b) No abstaining

Judges should NEVER be allowed to abstain from voting. No crossed arms!  If a judge is unable to make a decision then the judges need time to discuss and come to a decision together. Judges should not be pressurised into making a decision. They might need time to think about it more. However, it should be agreed beforehand and made clear whether discussion between judges us allowed. There should never be a need for extra rounds (see later)!

3) Eliminations

a) Eliminate Eliminations!

Now, I am not a fan of eliminations (either online or live). In fact I think eliminations suck. Due to time constrains, right now they appear to be a necessary evil. As soon as we can get rid of eliminations the better. An elimination is where a beatboxer stands in front of the judges and performs for a set period of time, for example, 1 minute. The judges, once they have heard all the beatboxers perform, decide which beatboxers should go through to the battles (e.g. top 16).

Eliminations are bad for several reasons. Firstly, the judges are not judging a battle. Someone might do a great performance but be a terrible battler! Secondly, when there are many eliminations rounds it becomes very difficult to judge between them. For example, at the World Championships there were 111 male solo performers! Thirdly, they are not much fun to watch compared with an actual battle.

beatbox-battle-order

Battlers that enter a competition should always BATTLE their way to the top. You don't see golfers on a driving range being eliminated on their ability prior to a competition!

Knock-out battle eliminations should take place prior to the main event - either on the same day or the preceding day. These do not have to be in front of a a live audience or on a fancy stage. A simple PA system, one mic and one judge is the minimum! The question is, how do you minimise the number of eliminations that will take place. Well, there are several solutions to this and I will discuss these next.

b) Limited Entrants

The number of entrants for a beatbox battle needs to be limited to powers of 2. e.g. 8 (quarter-finals), 16, 32, 64 or 128. This number needs to be clearly communicated. The easiest way to limit entrants is to do it on a first-come-first-served basis. This also has the advantage that the battlers that *really* want to battle will get their entries in first. The entry is open until all the battle places are filled. Late entrants will be put on a waiting list - again, on a first-come-first-served basis.

c) Seeding

For places where at least one battle has previously taken place, a seeding system needs to be implemented such that the previous year's winner is automatically entered into this year's competition. The round they get put in will depend on the number of previous battles, etc and is at the discretion of the organisers. For example, if the competition is limited to 64 entrants, then the previous 3 year's winners all get automatic entry into the first round.

d) Entry Fee

I am a big fan of entry fees for competitions and I am at a loss as to why beatbox battles do not charge entry fees. An entry fee has several advantages:

  1. It weeds out entrants that enter 'for the sake of it'. As beatboxing becomes more popular you will discover that many more people will be wishing to enter competitions. An entry fee immediately means that a battler needs to think seriously about entering.
  2. An entry fee can be entirely used to cover prizes for the winners. Many battles struggle with sponsorship of prizes and an entry fee helps with this.
  3. Prizes mean it is worth battling for third and fourth place. For example, if there are 64 battlers each paying 10 ($£€) to enter then that is 640 ($£€) that can be divided between the top 4 battlers. For example, the division of prize money could be as follows: 1st place gets £300, 2nd place gets £200, third place gets £100 and fourth place gets £40.
  4. An entry fee gets a commitment from a battler. A battler is much more likely to attend if they have paid up-front.

4) Format

a) An Odd Number of Rounds

Many battles use a format where there are two rounds with each round lasting for a predetermined amount of time (e.g. 90 seconds). There are two problems with this format:

(i) The biggest problem with this format is that it is not a battle. It is a showcase with each battler performing two showcases. If there are only two rounds Battler A will only ever get ONE chance to respond to Battler B.

(ii) The second problem is that a two-round format can end in a draw. Remember that we need an odd number of everything to prevent things ending in a draw - an odd number of judges and an odd number of judging criteria? Well, if we are going to do a showcase battle then there also needs to be an odd number of rounds. Therefore there needs to be 1, 3 or 5 rounds in a beatbox battle.

b) Judging after EVERY Round

Whether a showcase battle or a timer battle (see below) the judges should judge after every round. So, for example, if it is a single round (i.e. 1 round) then this is straightforward. Each Battler performs their showcase battle and the judges judge that single round. However, if it is a 3 round battle then the judges judge after each round and it is the first battler to win 2 rounds. If it is a 5 round battle then it is the first battler to win 3 rounds, and so on. This battle format has the advantage that there is greater tension and is more entertaining. The battlers also know if they need to step it up, for example, they are losing 0-1 after the first round!

c) Use Timers

However, the showcase battle still does not give the starting battler much opportunity to battler or respond, so let's take it a step further and move from showcase battles to timer battles.

Battles need to move to a timer model of battle where each battler has x minutes that they can use as they see fit, for example, 2 minutes (120 seconds). To make this work two countdown timers are required, one for each battler, and both the battlers and a time-keeper need to be able to see the timers.

When Battler A starts, their countdown timer starts. They do as much or as little as they want. When the battle switches to the other opponent Battler A’s timer stops and Battler B’s timer begins to count down. The battle finishes when both battler's timers reach zero.

Although this will require some equipment and someone to run the timers there will be significant advantages.

  1. There will be better flow. The battle iallowed to bounce back and forth between the beatboxers in an actual battle. Beatboxer A could roll out a sound or pattern and Beatboxer B can chose to beat it or switch it.
  2. The battle would be more entertaining to watch for both the audience and the judges. More drama!
  3. It will be much easier to judge as the judges will be judging the whole x minute battle and not the last ‘round’!

A massive shoutout to ZeDe for the feedback and for honing my suggestions!

4 comments

Leave a reply