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Anyone ever tried busking?


crystal
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My teacher says we should hang out one afternoon downtown and play some tunes. I live in an old, historic town in VA, which draws a fair number of tourists on the weekend. There is an area of about 3 or 4 blocks where it is closed to traffic. It has old cobblestone streets, and is only open for walkers.

She wants us to hang out down there and play our fiddles. We know a fair amount of celtic tunes, including some two-part tunes which are a riot to play. The idea is exciting to me, but is also very scary!!!!!

If you have ever done this before, how did the people take to you and mainly, do they accept you if you're not a star player???? Just mediocre at best.

I don't want to be offensive and be told to go home.

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If you are referring to a town in the tidewater of Virginia with the initials, CW, beware!!! The local law does not like buskers. I tried it as a college student several times and was shooed away by the local constabulary. Apparently, the city council considers busking a form of panhandling. This requires a special 'permit' which is IMPOSSIBLE to obtain....I tried. I got around the problem by busking on College property right across the street from the touristy part. I was just a student practicing on school grounds...I also accidentally left my case open. I enjoyed my "practice" so much that I made some decent pizza money. crazy.gif

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Dm,

No, I'm not talking about the tidewater region. Actually, I live in Winchester, VA. I know that other people play downtown from time to time. There doesn't seem to be any problem with it that I've seen.

As far as panhandling, trying to collect money is the last thing on my mind. If I could even get up the courage to do it, the sheer thrill of it would be reward enough! smile.gif

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crystal, hello, it is nice to have you back.

last month in France i played alot on the streets. I had to carry my fiddle around for a few days before i "broke out".

I found that if i played for myself, and pretty much regarded it as a practice session, as dm said ,that it went well. on the other hand, if I played to impress the passers by I felt a sense of failure. i soon realized that if they found it enjoyable, good for them, if not, so what. Kids are especially appreciative.

Play for yourself. just as you would at home.

I had a great deal of fun, made alot of friends and made a little money.

By the way dm, I graduated from W&M in 1970. I know just where you mean. College corner at Richmond and Jamestown rd.

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Crystal,

Welcome back, first of all. Nice to see you again.

In a week (June 24th to today), I've played in front of over 100 people on 4 different occasions: 1) Queens Botanical Garden reunion, 2) In front of a friend that I haven't seen much in the last 4 years + his parents + a friend couple of those parents that I've never met before, 3) A end-of-year recital by the music school where I take lessons, 4) Today, at a bday party (I wasn't the main attraction - a virtuoso was, but I still had a certain audience).

I've learn so much in this ridiculously charged week. All the potential scenarios, fears, misconceptions about playing in public were all washed away, revealing a small number of simple truths.

1) Outside of a symphonic hall at $100 the ticket, outside of a exam-recital in a university program or conservatory, outside of an orchestra audition -- in other words, where you have an average sample of society listening to you, NO ONE cares if you have perfect, dazzling technique or not.

2) If you can play a tune that has its own understandable beat to it, you WILL find people who'll say they enjoyed it. The beat surpasses your intonation mistakes big times.

3) You're playing fiddle tunes! You'll have even more success than the one I had with classical pieces!

4) When you're about to utter the first note in public, don't think in terms of: nailing the first note, nailing the second note, nailing the third note, etc. Just think in terms of: how can I feel relaxed AND simultaneously convey the feel and beat of the music so that it is both enjoyable for me and for the others.

5) The tip "just play as if you played for yourself" is a good one in the very beginning, but you'll soon be asking yourself: "how can I feel inspired by the audience so that it boosts my playing". That's where I'm at. I've been able to neglect all these people looking at me. Now I want to USE their indirect help to improve my musicality.

[This message has been edited by Mu0n (edited 07-01-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by crystal:

Actually, I live in Winchester, VA. I know that other people play downtown from time to time. There doesn't seem to be any problem with it that I've seen.

I visit there sometimes, and would love to hear you guys. I have a niece and nephew that go to high school there. Old&InTheWay who posts here, is also from your fair city.

The city would probably really like it if you played stuff like 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'.

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It is interesting the word busking. People have played for fun or profit in cities all over the world for at least the last fifty years since I have seen it done during that time frame. I used to do my practicing in malls, corners, parks,or wherever in Pa, Md. D.C., and at the shore resorts in Md. and Jersey. Yes, in French Canada and in England now that I think of it. Haven't done much in the past few years. Yes, I put my case in front of me. I played from memory and from music. I was amazed at the responses from people. Many asked for pieces( I used to have a thick book of pop music beside classical music.

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quote:

Originally posted by Azeotrope:

Old&InTheWay who posts here, is also from your fair city.

Wow, quite perceptive. What Crystal forgot to mention is that she and her teacher also want her husband (me) to join them on guitar. I've been trying to convince her to do something like this since she started playing, but who listens to me?????? laugh.gif

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Wow! I didn't know Old&NtheWay was married to Crystal!

Crystal, I never busked but I had a very exciting experience one night at session. Three of us decided to go outside and play some music together for fun. A couple and another man stopped and sat down at a table and watched us. Every time we stopped playing they told us how much they enjoyed our playing and requested a few tunes.

Finally, the man came over and laid tips on a table in front of us. We could not believe our eyes. He laid a $20 in front of each of us. That was $60 total, for a tip, for 3 people that were just messing around. We were all standing there with our eyes bugged out, and our "leader" told him he was very generous, and asked if he was sure he wanted to do that.

I had never received a tip before in my life for playing. If he had given me a $1 I would have thrilled, so you can just imagine how I felt over the $20.

They were not drunk or anything, just really BIG music lovers, I guess, who had an appreciation.

It's been quite a while, but we still talk about our $20 tips. One friend says it was worth the bragging rights, alone.

I think busking would be like that, with a few really exiting moments. If you do it, let us know all about it.

Yankee Fiddler

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There are places that love buskers, and places that hate 'em' !

For goodness sake suss it out first. I know people that can earn $100 in 2 hrs in the right place. ... In the wrong place - they're lookin at a short spell in a very small room !

The particularly 'good' places to busk in GB, are in areas where cultural & artistic exchanges don't come as a shock to the average shopper (voter,wanker) !!!! ... i.e Bath, London, (specifically culturally 'embued' areas !) Other than that , you could have a pleasant time, ..... & just about cover your costs !

It shouldn't take you long to figure out what 'type' of a 'buskable' area you're living in.

If at first you're not sure of the kinda reception you're likely to receive, ---- wear dark glasses and a wig.

Miranda.

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quote:

Originally posted by Lanier:

Crystal,

I thought of Winchester when I read your post. That's a nice place for a walk in October, hope to come across you playing there.

Lanier

From your profile, I'm guessing you come up for either the NSSA shooting thing here (although I thought that was earlier than October) or the Cedar Creek battle reenactment. Am I right? If so, maybe we can keep an eye out for you.

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I busked on and off for a living for quite a few years.It started to get to me after a while.Sure it sounds great,stand around,play some tunes,maybe or hopefully get some cash.I got a lot of good responses from people and a some horrible responses as well.Sometimes people who are working nearby

or just walking by might not really like the music you play.Is it ok to force it on them?

Some people will walk by and throw money at you like you're some kind of beggar.Which,when it comes right down to it,you are.Musicians shouldn't be beggars.It's degrading.If you want to make some money get some paying gigs.If you just want some expreience playing in front of people go to an open mike night at a local cafe or pub.

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I don´t think that musicians on the street are some kind of beggars. As long as someone has to give something, he is no beggar. Musicians give the music and they give a good atmosphere (depends on how good they are). Yesterday I played in the city of Heidelberg. There are special places where it is allowed to play for one hour, then you have to find another place.

All of these places were full of musicians and so my band and I(retort bass, guitar, violin&voice) used a place where it was forbidden. But no one cared. We play old rock songs and we really can be loud (our bass-player makes a very good show when he holds his instrument like a guitar and starts to jump around like Angus Young).

My band was not sure what to do when the police came, so I told them to stop with their play when I stop to sing.

..well it was the first time that we played in such a big city.. so I was nervous and I closed my eyes to concentrate on the music. No one could see my closed eyes because of my dark glasses. We were playing really good and so I opened my eyes just in the moment when I screamed "Wild thing!" and in front of me stood two officers... For a moment I became even more nervous, but as I went on to sing they threw some change in my case and went away.

Another nice thing happened when we took a break. A group of american tourists came and one of them looked at the bass and said: "this is my instrument"

We had a very nice and short jazz-jam-session, then we started to play "o, when the saints go marching in" and the whole group was singing with me.

We had a lot of fun.

We didn´t earn as much as we expected but we earned much more than the classical musicians that used the places where it was allowed to play.

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Dear Ed,

Gosh, I think that you misunderstand the reason that I would be doing it. It's certainly not for money.

Both my husband and I work good jobs and whatever pennies you possibly could get from busking, wouldn't be enough to make a difference anyhow.

For me, I have been playing a little more than a year now. I started out at 34 years old. I am proud of how far I've come, I guess. To be able to get these songs learned and to pull something like that off, sounds scary but fun. If it were something that came easy for me, I wouldn't be so scared to do it. Especially not for someone's spare change.

It gives me (us) an opportunity to play and practice and I think that 99% of the people would enjoy listening to it. With some practice, maybe someday we would be good enough to get a real paying gig.

As far as forcing it on people, smokers force their stench on me all the time in public. Which is worse?

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 07-06-2001).]

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crystal, for me the important thing was not to EXPECT every one to like it, and even accect that some people may DISLIKE it. When I finally got things in perspective I realized that either way, I was not an important part of anyone's day, for some a moment of enjoyment, and for others zero. It's not a big deal, but it is FUN> DO it for CRYSTAL

PS I also shut my eyes to guarantee I don't try to read anyone's face. laugh.gif

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quote:

Originally posted by crystal:

As far as forcing it on people, smokers force their stench on me all the time in public. Which is worse?

The smokers are worse, but give me a street full of smoking buskers over the noise and air pollution forced on me by the traffic.

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Dear Crystal, It's my understanding that busking means playing for money.If you just want people to hear what you've accomplished, great!

That's why I suggested an open mike.If you want to play on the street people will think you're busking(which to a lot of people is synonymous with begging) even if you're not(and you can make a fair bit money,not just pennies)

As far as the comparison to second hand smoke, that seems like comparing apples and oranges or a red herring or something!?

As far as it not being a big part of peoples

day it isn't,except for the people who have stores or something right where you're playing.I've had people come running out of their stores and raging at me.They have to hear it all day.So,be careful where you do it.I'm not trying to rain on your parade but you did ask.I was just answering honestly.

This is just my opinion,maybe I'm too thin skkinned or my playing just sucks(!)I like to hear music on the streets.So whatever you decide good luck!!!

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Crystal,

Just DO IT! Then you have had the experience. I've only busked once - with a friend at Circular Quay in Sydney. We got a few dollars and some lollies thrown in but the main thing was we had some fun. Have a go and let us all know how it went!

Tara

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When I started to play in public I thought not of busking. I was much to shy to believe that anyone could like it much. It was just a little foolish play on the violin, accompanied by my friend with his guitar. We used to play on a lonely place in front of a castle. There were not many people who could here us and we played just for ourselves. Sometimes we did get good reactions from the people. One time a school-class passed us. They were on a trip to different castles. When the kids saw us, they came and started to dance to our music. That was a great moment for me. We started with busking as a practice in public. We didn´t care for the money. People were never annoyed by our play.

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