I like to sing. Problem is, I can't stand most lyrics written by anyone but Frank Zappa. I'm more into the sound of the voice than the meaning of the words. I've ruined more than a few otherwise excellent songs for myself simply by listening to what the singer is saying. I'm not into willful ignorance, but I think I'd enjoy today's pop music much more if I didn't understand English.

Regarding my own voice, I find rhythm more fascinating than melody. I like demonstrating complex lines to fellow musicians (or unsuspecting coworkers) using only vocal syllables.

Dig these wicked vids.

I saw that first one a year ago and flipped out. It's exactly what I like to do, but with the awesome turned to 11. It inspired me to improve, so I came up with some exercises.

The way I see it, there are three primary syllables for speaking rhythm: da, ga, and ba. Respectively, they correspond to the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, and the lips. Many others are derivatives of these three: ta, tha, tsa, la, na, ca, pa, ma, and all possible vowel sounds. Or you can omit the vowels. Think of a simple beatbox with bass on 1 and 3, snare on 2 and 4, hat on the and of every beat: b ts c ts b ts c ts.

The beauty of these three syllables is in the ease of combining them. There's no tongue twisting when you say daga daga daga, daba daba daba, or gaba gaba gaba. Those are my first exercises. They're good for long solo car rides.

The next step is grouping into threes: dagaba and bagada. I have to think of words at this point to keep track. I use "Dagobah" (Ready are you?) and "bucket o", and I stick with eighth or sixteenth notes to avoid giving emphasis to the same syllable every time. For example, dagobada gobadago badagoba.

That's as far as I've made it. Once I'm comfortable with groups of three, I'll move on to fours ("take a bucket") and fives ("got a bucket o"). And I still need to practice isolating each syllable, as in George Thorogood ("Bubububububad"), Piglet ("Oh, didididear."), and Dave Chappelle ("GAGAGAGAGAGA!").