playing on the street....busking

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playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:23 am

we played along the hot night spot street here for about an hour last evening. we rarely do a busking thing in the evening,much preferring to play during a daytime at the farmers' market. but we thought, why not hit the area near the market at happy hour time right in the heart of night life land?
Jolene is regrouping after an injury to her deltoid muscle, which wraps around the shoulder. she's switched to a smaller body guitar that's easier to play. it took several weeks of visits to the therapist to get the injury healed.
i had called a guy who has a shop on the main drag and he told me we could come down and play, so we packed the car and drove down, about 12 minutes from home. as busy as it was in the area i had to park 3 blocks away after dropping Jo off to secure a spot to play. good thing i'm a fast walker!

we got busy pretty quickly, doing several songs we've done many times. the difference in what's required of a harp player between a duo and a full band is very big. in a duo the harp must fill in and contribute about 1/3 of the sound. rhythm and fills and accents besides solos during most songs. in a band setup, the harp is understated most of the time, accents here or there and a so.o where needed and invited. so last evening was a sort of shock to my system since we've done very little acoustic busking this season. weather has prevented us getting out much. if it wasn't raining, it was 90+ and humid! last evening it was a bit above 60,the high yesterday was about 75 and today will be less. what a treat!

the thing about street playing is, one may not get a whole lot of audience,or occasionally one will get as big crowd for a song or 2. but since volume is limited, if people come close to watch it means they are truly interested in being there. we made a few bucks in tips in the hour we played, and also had a young guy come over in the middle of a song and buy a cd! which he was still around after we finished the song so we signed it for him. and- as we were playing our last song a guy dropped a big tip in the guitar case, which definitely made it worthwhile. and it's not just the money, but the fact of someone appreciating live music enough to spend a gratuitous buck to hear and see it. and in and of itself, just being outside in nice weather and doing something you love with someONE you love, well, try and put a price on that!
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jeffl » Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:28 pm

That sounds great, jbone! I've never lived in a city that allowed busking at the time. I have drawn crowds in public when playing with my old sidekick... guitar and harp, and that's fun, especially if we really got a groove on. We got a date with a couple girls that way once, too. I went out with one of 'em for about 6 months.. she was alot of fun.
I wouldn't mind busking... I don't think there's any other way to get that kind of thrill; it's not the same as playing a regular gig.
Yep, you two have a good thing going.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:48 am

i could tell a story or 2- and will when i have time!
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby goldbrick » Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:09 pm

We busk all the time and often prefer it to a regular gig cause you aren't told what to play and what time how long a set etc. If the crowd is good we play all night if its weak we can pick up and go. Luckily Miami is a tourist area and Europeans love us where hey have more of a street performer mentality. We play for tips, drinks and sell cds

You will quickly get over stage fright and develop a thick skin as people can be nice or a$$holes and they are in your face. I love it

Right now just waiting to get out of the rainy season here and we will be back at it full force


http://www.youtube.com/user/miamistomp?feature=mhee#p/u/4/XMTuoU0mYUs
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:33 am

early on, a few years ago, we had busked at the farmers' market a few times. we had a weekday free and decided to go downtown near the market. the market was empty but there was a busy spot across the street. a tourist bus route stopped there frequently and there were several lunch spots close by where downtown workers would take their break. so we went over and set up, played for maybe 30 minutes, tips ok, a lot of folks walking by like they were in a hurry, it's lunchtime on a weekday, so we keep playing. middle of a song i glance up and 2 cops are standing there, politely waiting for the song to end!
which they were real nice, but told us we had to find another spot. i being the bold sort i am asked them if they knew where we could go and they pointed across the street and told us that the guy who owned that store would let up play there. he had a little alcove where we wouldn't impede traffic.
we went over and played for a while longer. it was cool. i hear some places with instantly run you off or write some huge ticket.

people don't realize, this is not panhandling. it's street performance. i've seen some really terrible sneers as people walked by, at the same time others are staying close to listen and applaud! i guess it's subjective and it depends on the city you're in.

a kid the other night told us that busking is not allowed in his city, which happens to be a national park. the businesses there are protected from the slavering hoards by the federal government.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:03 am

one of the first times we ever went to the farmers' market, it was closed. Mother's day. we just went down to sort of get the feel of playing outdoors with no amps and no walls. as we played several songs we realized that the place was not empty. there were several homeless people hanging out in the shade.

one gal- probably about our age and obviously living on the streets- stood and listened to a song we were playing, i don't recall which one but something Jo was singing- and this gal just stood there with such a look of peace in her eyes. like maybe we just made her Mother's day.

another time we were at the market when it was hopping, lots of vendors and lots of shoppers and gawkers. so we're sitting in one place playing, and we have these little $5 home recorded cd's of a few songs we did. two young guys stood a bit away watching us for a long time. heavy metal shirts, piercings, kind of goth-ish. maybe 19 years old or even younger. eventually they head over and Jo and i are both thinking, uh-oh, here it comes, hecklers, robbers, murderers! kids these days, who knows, right? so we finish a song about when they stop in front of us. "excuse us, ma'am, sir, do you really want just $5 for a cd??" which yes, just 5 bucks. these young guys just liked what we were doing enough to scratch together 5 bucks to get a cd! never judge a book by it's cover.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby s1120 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:08 am

Nice storys jbone!!! Not sure i could do that myself... I mean other then the fact that my skill level is WAYYYY low at this point..[but Im working on it.] Not so sure I could take the rude, nasty people that realy dont want you there playing... Maybe Im just too thin skinned. Maybe once my skills improve my mind will change.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:50 pm

well it does build character. and some good habits. no matter how much or little you know, you learn to project well yet not blow out harps. you get a feel for what works and what doesn't as far as material, and surprisingly enough a lot of times the simpler the better. mostly peoples' attention spans are short esp if they are walking by from point A to point B, so a catchy thing that allows for a lot of punch works well. a simple I-IV-V or even a hang on the I groove works.

one time pretty early on we had a guy come over and basically get into this big dance routine between us ad the audience that had begun to gather. he was obviously trying to intercept any tips that were coming our way. he basically alienated the crowd for us and then had the sand to demand some money for drawing a crowd for us! i shined him on in a hurry. lots of times this is why it pays to get the dang permit. you can go, "i am paying off my permit, do YOU have a permit, can i see it?" and that will run some interlopers off. on the other hand we've actually teamed up with another busker from time to time, supported him and he's supported us, and we've both done a little better tip-wise.

there is noth9ing wrong with just finding a coffee house or similar venue when you're getting started and offering to play for a cup of joe and tips. this gives you needed exposure and will help develop that thicker skin. it's more fun than any 3 people ought to have. after the jitters fade!
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby s1120 » Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:35 pm

jbone1 wrote:there is noth9ing wrong with just finding a coffee house or similar venue when you're getting started and offering to play for a cup of joe and tips. this gives you needed exposure and will help develop that thicker skin. it's more fun than any 3 people ought to have. after the jitters fade!


Thats is one of my goals I have. I have a long way to go before I have the skill levels to pull it off, and probably longer before I have the guts!!!!! :mrgreen: But to be able to get up and play before a handfull of people would be nice.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:16 am

are there any jams or open mics near you? because these are sometimes good places to get your feet wet. or at least hang out at and get an idea of what it takes to be on a stage. they are also a good place to meet potential partners or teachers or students depending on where you are on the continuum.

i was born a natural ham i think. i've never been afraid to make an ass of myself in front of people. why i missed out on standup comedy i'll never know, but music has been a great vehicle for me anyway. i have seen incredible transformations from wallflower to band or duo member if the motivation is there. some people just catch the performance bug, others find a reason to set aside their own fear and go ahead.

these days my partner sometimes takes a break and i'll noodle around with a chromatic or diatonic by myself for a few minutes while she regroups. it doesn't seem to work as well as with the guitar. but i've seen guys with "just" a harp who blew my socks off.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby s1120 » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:21 pm

jbone1 wrote:are there any jams or open mics near you? because these are sometimes good places to get your feet wet. or at least hang out at and get an idea of what it takes to be on a stage. they are also a good place to meet potential partners or teachers or students depending on where you are on the continuum.

i was born a natural ham i think. i've never been afraid to make an ass of myself in front of people. why i missed out on standup comedy i'll never know, but music has been a great vehicle for me anyway. i have seen incredible transformations from wallflower to band or duo member if the motivation is there. some people just catch the performance bug, others find a reason to set aside their own fear and go ahead.

these days my partner sometimes takes a break and i'll noodle around with a chromatic or diatonic by myself for a few minutes while she regroups. it doesn't seem to work as well as with the guitar. but i've seen guys with "just" a harp who blew my socks off.


Sorry to hijack your post here. :D

I have been the quite guy hanging in the corner most of my life, but once I hit my 40's [im 46 now..] I relised that I had WAYYYYY to many regrets about things I did not do becouse I was afraid to step up and be noticed!! So over the years Ive been steping up, and just DOING. Ive been playing for about 4-5 years now, after trying as a teen...and just never doing it..[see above..] been coasting and learning a lot.... but not realy getting far... I just started with a teacher, and have grown by leaps and bounds in my eyes!!! Im my own worst cridic and thats something I need to turn around..

As for open mic's.. I have a comunty theater in town that does them every month or two. Ive never been there to see how it goes though. Im thinking within a year I should have enough skills to give it a shot. [if the nerves hold up!!!!!!]
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:21 am

well for sure i have had time to wish i'd begun really learning harp- and vocals- when i was a kid of 5 or 6, which i could have done if i'd thought of it! my grand dad was my first influence way back then. it took me many years- sadly after he had passed- to even begin thinking i might be able to make a harp do anything pleasing to the ear. once the bug had bit me, it still took me a lot of years to really begin to do what i wanted to. i never had a teacher per se until i was in my 40's. at that time it was a couple of my peers who sort of nudged me in the direction i needed to go in so i could advance my skills.

on one hand it's never too late, on the other hand if you have made a good start, GO FOR IT is what i say. in my mid 40's i made a decision to ALWAYS do music from then on, after a year break from any playing at all. for me that was a big mistake. not that i lost any skills, but i lost a YEAR and nearly my sanity. when that year was up i made a decision to just never let go of music no matter what, and i've held pretty hard to that and never been happier. currently my wife and i have a great blues/roots duo and i get to work with a full band here and there as well. i've had time to get some nice gear together and harps i like well. there is at least one blues jam a week here as well.

as for the fear factor of public playing: as big a ham as i know myself to be, i remember how hard it was sometimes to walk the few steps from a table to the stage. but a funny thing happens when one takes a spot on stage. once that first note gets hit, everything falls into place! not that errors are not made but more that, hey, it's live music, i'm up here playing for free, what is the worst that can happen? i can sound crappy and then go home and learn a better way to do that one thing. and another, and another, etc etc. ultimately, it was playing out live where i made most of my progress. once i knew what a harp could do and at least some of how to make that happen. so i just suggest that if you know how to make some decent sounds on a harp, swallow the lump in the throat and take a stage any time you can. my wife is such a huge example of this, she never saw herself as a stage type live performance type, but somehow she's been doing just that for 5 years now as my duo partner! and this from knowing basically nothing about blues guitar or singing. in her mid 50's she re-invented herself. the rest is history as they say. we recently released our second cd. we've played from the hometown here to little rock, el dorado, helena, clarksdale mississippi, to baton rouge. jonesboro. arkadelphia. a lot of joints, a lot of tip gigs on the street and spots in clubs in all those places as well.
anything is possible but you must be willing to reach for it!
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:26 pm

last evening we went back to our little spot and played about an hour and a half. the weather was perfect and there was some deal going on like kids' night out or something, which had a lot of people on the main drag walking around. i think there have been conventions in town also.
almost immediately a gal came over and hung around on and off the whole time we were playing. she was a bit "off" but harmless at any rate and she did help attract some listeners. we were also joined by a young guy who came over and asked us if we knew a particular song. which we do, and we were actually about to play it anyway, so that was sort of funny! he hung out for a while as well and both of these folks really got into our music. which always feels good. Jo recently put lighter strings on her acoustic guitar, which we were afraid it would sound too thin, but it sounds great and her fingers suffer much less.

we didn't sell any cd's but i gave one to the guy whose store we play next to. he's been really nice to us. and we made back more than we spent to get there to play although we won't be retiring any time soon. one thing we love to see is children who perhaps for the first time are seeing actual live music being made. some of these kids are mesmerized and don't want to leave! one hopes that maybe a seed is being planted at moments like that. we may be helping establish the next generation of actual musicians!

coming home after a set like that is always a really great feeling. the whole time we were there we had not one single worry. and our evening at home was mellow and easy as well.
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby goldbrick » Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:37 am

Speaking of busking we will be at this Coconut Grove location again 2 morrow nite. Come on by if you are in the neighborhood 7-10pm


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8V9KGzdL4w&feature=related
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Re: playing on the street....busking

Postby jbone1 » Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:22 pm

would if we could goldbrick- hope you have a good one! we went down thursday again to our spot and had another nive evening there. while i was parking the car Jolene was already getting a tip for basically tuning her guitar, and the guy then bought a cd as well! later on after we'd headed home and gotten a bite to eat we hit a jam near here and i got to blow through a friend's vintage blackface champ- one of the GOOD ones. it sounded awesome!

so- a doubleheader of great fun in one night. can't beat it!
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