Busking advice

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Busking advice

Postby stewie » Sun Dec 20, 2009 3:02 am

Recently a farmers market has started up close to home. It's small at the moment (around 10-12 stalls) but it's pretty popular and will likely grow. Myself and a couple other people want to take a try at busking and the organizers are quite keen on having us. We've played a few gigs before (always purely for fun and free beer) and have no shortage of material to play, but we've never busked outdoors so I was looking for some advice on gear. We'll have two guitars and harmonica along with vocals. We have two 10 watt battery amps with two input channels with separate volume controls on each amp. The harmonica player should be plenty loud without amping but usually when I play slide I tend to be on the quiet side (even with a resonator) so we thought I should be amped. We also might want to mic the vocals. We thought about running both guitars through one amp and vocals through the other, or alternatively one guitar and vocals through one amp and the other guitar and vocals through the second amp. I should mention that we can have power if we want it but we want to try and do without if we can.

I was wondering what the other buskers out there use. Do you amp yourselves at all or play completely unplugged? If you don't amp yourself do you have any problems with being heard? I'm looking forward to giving it a try!
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Re: Busking advice

Postby Buffalo_Bill » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:31 pm

I think we can't give a good opinion of your set up from online. I think a test run in your driveway with a few friends listening will result in some useful opinions and reveal problems.
Are you taking power from your car battery? You can do that with a Power Inverter. I just saw some 400watt models for under $50. on Amazon.com.
You gave me some ideas, I can do this too. I wish you would list your location in your profile so it would appear on your posts.
Bill
Last edited by Buffalo_Bill on Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby allanlummox » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:52 pm

My advice may be of limited use - I've been playing Farmers Markets for many years, but what I've found is that a National Resonator guitar and a loud voice is plenty of volume - and a better sound. I have used cheap resos on occasion - and they can do the job. But the best reason to busk with a cheap reso - is to raise the cash for your National!

I used a Crate Taxi for a little while, but it really didn't sound great. I'm afraid my only advice is to check out cats like Bukka White and play with some force - play it like you mean it.

The vendors like it too - the unplugged sound goes well with the fresh produce. I generally come home with my groceries for the week courtesy of the market - and a sack of cash.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby stewie » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:28 pm

The battery powered amps we have run on D-cell (?) batteries so they're very portable. I hadn't realised my location wasn't in my profile (I just updated it) - I'm in New Zealand so it is summer here now and farmers market season! A test run would be good idea and maybe we'll try that over the holidays. I agree that completely acoustic sounds the best and I'll try experimenting with that too.

I'd love to be a force of nature like Bukka White or Son House but somehow that never comes through in my playing. I've always found it interesting how often a person's personality gets reflected in their style of playing. I'm a fairly laid-back person and my playing tends to be more mellow, and a more out-going person can take the same instrument and have a loud, aggressive sound.

For the market I think they just want background music and don't want us to be too overwhelming so what we have might be about right. I guess there will have to be some trial-and-error the first couple times to see what works and what doesn't. Hopefully we'll make a few dollars but I'm not too worried about that - I just find it fun to entertain people. :)
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Re: Busking advice

Postby jbone1 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:46 am

Jolene and i have busked a farmers market, and some street corners- for a few years now in good weather. usually spring, summer, and into the fall are when we do this. wintertime sees our market shut down, between november and april or so. we live in arkansas usa btw.
we've never used sound gear, just instruments and voices. something i found out quickly is, it is NOT about big volume. busking is a visual thing too, people will see a guitar and harp or a banjo, fiddle, whatever, and be attracted to that. the folks who want to hear music will come closer.
i have a bassy voice, Jo is a soprano. each carries pretty well. acoustic guitar and harp can be pleny loud for an audience to hear within say 50 feet. i did have to learn not to try and sing or play too loudly as my voice and/or my harps would suffer. these days i am very aware of the stress i can put on both that lead to blown reeds and hoarse voice the next day!

i'd say try total acoustic, and work on quality rather than real big volume. if you are breathing well, from deep inside, and using your air column, you can have plenty of focused air to work your voice with and not stress your vocal cords at all or very little. and shaky is right too, maybe a guitar with a bigger sound is a good idea too.

at any rate, it's very cool that you have the farmers market folks in your corner. the best way to find what works is to go do it and see how it comes out. a small video camera can be a very useful tool to help identify things that can be better.

please do let us know how it shapes up!!
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Re: Busking advice

Postby allanlummox » Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:05 pm

Just a quick point - you can learn to sing as loud as it is possible for you to sing - and not stress your voice production mechanism. I worked with a professional voice instructor with this specific goal - and have managed to put in some pretty much non-stop sessions of 4 hours and more without becoming hoarse as a result.

Jbone is right though - big volume isn't the only way to go as far as entertaining the folks goes. One advantage of using no electrical amplification - your ultimate top volume isn't going to make anyone angry. With amps, it's possible to be unpleasantly loud - and not know it.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby ricochet » Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:14 pm

Not having such vocal training, and having recently been on a heavy rehearsal schedule and then performing in our church choir's Christmas program that had me singing loudly above my comfortable register, and then doing a skit yesterday playing Joseph's pissed-off dad when Joseph came in to tell his parents about Mary's pregnancy and the angel's visit, I'm pretty hoarse! After some of the rehearsals I was sounding like John Lee Hooker without trying to!

(Why in the world do choral music arrangers want to make men sing so high?)
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Re: Busking advice

Postby stewie » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:46 pm

Vocals are the one thing I've been trying to work on a lot lately. I'm not a very good singer but I figure at least I should learn to sing in key. About a year ago myself and the harp player I'll be busking with started jamming about once a week for fun, but since he's always playing harp I was forced to sing. Slowly I'm getting more confident with it and I'm working on projecting more and being louder. Fortunately the other guitar player we'll usually be busking with is a really good singer and she'll do a lot of it so it won't be just me. Myself and the harp consider her our secret weapon - an attractive blond who is a great guitar player and singer! We just hide behind her and let her carry the show!! :D

Thanks for the advice and I think I'll suggest to others that we first try it without any amplification and see how we go. Like everyone here has pointed out we're just there to add colour to the market and not overwhelm the whole thing. I think once you start amping up it's hard to go back since you start relying on it. It will be a fun little thing to do and maybe we can get some other gigs out of it somewhere down the road. I'll let everyone know how it works out!

Rico: I've never thought about what Joseph's parents reaction to the news might have been - that's hilarious!
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Re: Busking advice

Postby ricochet » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:38 am

I suspect a lot of people have never thought about it, but Mary and Joseph would've found themselves in a world of shit. Luke tells us Mary went off to stay with her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months, while Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, and she was supportive. I'm thinking it wasn't a happy scene back home. Pregnancy before marriage was highly frowned on.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby allanlummox » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:46 am

Well, Catholics snicker about it a lot.

It's kind of how Joe got his sainthood.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby 1armbandit » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:09 am

I played a few times in the local park this summer. K.I.S.S. is the rule for me. Everything I take with me fits in a gigbag with backpack straps. Guitar, tuner, capo. harps and rack. Throw it on my back and jump on my bike (bicycle).
I am working on projecting my singing and things are improving. I did two services Sunday with no ill effects.
You can always add stuff that you decide that you need.

Jack
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Re: Busking advice

Postby NEONMOONY » Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:08 am

I like the simple idea. Never take more than you can haul in a cargo van pulling a trailer.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby 1armbandit » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:10 pm

NEONMOONY wrote:I like the simple idea. Never take more than you can haul in a cargo van pulling a trailer.


How am I going to carry that stuff on my bike? :lol:

Jack
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Re: Busking advice

Postby ricochet » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:43 pm

Just throw your bike in the trailer too.
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Re: Busking advice

Postby maxx england » Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:28 pm

For sale:

Van & trailer.

Details, call Dr J Culp,
Bristol,
Tennessee 8)
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