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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > “Busking is great training”
“Busking is great training”
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475 posts
Jun 11, 2020
5:20 PM
Adam made this comment on Kham’s evil woman thread. I have some ideas, but would be interested in other’s thoughts about why this would be so,
Phil Pennington
1749 posts
Jun 11, 2020
8:20 PM
It's about the most honest gauge of how you are doing.

While you can get pity money I suppose, if you can get someone to stop and listen and get some cash out for a tip, you are doing something right.

I've gotten gigs from busking, and been invited and played in street performance series.

I love it, but don't do it as often as I'd like.

3232 posts
Jun 11, 2020
9:15 PM
Jo and I have busked for years. It's where we began to find our depth and learn about volume and about interacting with a non-captive audience. You learn how much sound you can make and how much is optimal to attract people. You learn that you will never turn everyone on but that some will dig what you have and show it.
I used to blow out a lot of harps until street playing taught me about the front lines of a focus not force approach to playing, and to singing.
The reward is not always cash though that can be a good gauge. Some places loaded us up with produce from vendors who appreciated what we brought to the market. There have been times we "almost" made gas $ to come in and get home.
But one Mother's day Sunday we went to where the Saturday market is held in Little Rock, just to get out and make some music. An obviously homeless woman came over and raptly stared at Jo as we were playing something sweet. She gave us tears of joy from her heart. We had a child, maybe 6 or 7, crippled, strapped into a wheelchair, sit and boogie with us for a half hour one day. Toddlers in strollers up to octogenarians bobbing heads and tapping feet have rewarded us with their joy.

We learned our depth. We grew a thicker hide because every time out is not rosy. We got kicked off the street by the cops here and there but also were given a new place to play that was better.
We got gigs playing on Cherry Street in Helena some few years back. The owner of the oldest juke in the USA had us in to play; and Roger Stolle, owner of Cat Head Blues store in Clarksdale, hired us 3 years in a row for the Juke Joint Fest. Local kids, poor beyond anything you see most places, were so fascinated with my harp set I gave them each one. Who knows but the next big harp guy will be one of them?
In a notable town in Wyoming of all places we went from busking in a park to playing one of the major joints there several times.

Where we are now it seems like nobody plays on the street. Twice now we've wowed a few folks, made some tips, sold a CD. In coming days we're looking up the farmers markets locally here to see if we can get some of that action.

A key feature for me, and I think my 16 year partner would agree is, we cherish playing together. This means even if there's not much love, adoration, fanfare, or money flowing, we still give each other joy. This in turn is infectious. But we always have a good time with music.

I know how fortunate I am in this current situation. But any deal you can do- even solo harp- out in public, can be a true plus in your development.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




Homeless Joe
13 posts
Jun 12, 2020
5:24 AM
I learned more from my public playing than I ever learned in my living room.

Last Edited by Homeless Joe on Jun 12, 2020 5:25 AM
578 posts
Jun 12, 2020
7:21 PM
can relate homeless joe-----2 ways to rate yr playing what u can do in the living room-------what u can do in front of people

If I don't ever play in front of someone------I won't get a clear picture of what to improve on.

Kingo bad i agree Tips and "volunteered' Praise r a great gage. If woman asks me "how do I look?' of course I'll say great.

Unsolicited praise or lack there of--is gratifying or humbling. It can definately go either direction.

However on humorous note--If someone doesn't like my playing, Ill ask them if they liked disco. If they say yes---I THOROUGHLY DISREGARD THE COMMENT
6677 posts
Jun 12, 2020
11:42 PM
I suppose it’s a bit different from a regular gig but it’s kinda hard to say exactly why. Maybe because you’re not in a ‘venue’ and you are working for attention a little more than maybe a regular gig where people turn up and you already have attention.

Apart from that though, I think just any sort of performance puts an edge on what you’re doing; you’re gonna work at it, practice, think critically about what you’re doing and how to get attention and just apply some discipline
2134 posts
Jun 13, 2020
2:43 AM
I estimate I have done it about 500 times. The first time was on a dare by my wife. I had been playing seriously for less than a year and I could sort of play parts of maybe half a dozen songs. Extremely amateurish. I busked near the overseas passenger terminal in Sydney. I got a few coins, probably more out of pity than anything else!
I have met many new people, some of whom have become friends, including a bluegrass band I used to sit in with after every session, a poetry slam group I used to play for, a lady who hired us to play at her wedding, another woman who hired us to play for a CEO Association, a barman who used to give us a meal and booze in addition to $200 a session. He was a free spirit and was fired when the security cameras caught him dancing naked on the bar after closing time when the boss was in Fiji. There was the elderly lady in a fur coat who said “that brings back a LOT of memories,” when I was singing Hoochie Coochie Man, and the aboriginal lady who dug around in her purse and finally gave me five cents. I valued that more than $50 bill from a businessman because I’m sure it meant more to her.
I used to imagine I was improving 1% per session. Of course that oversimplifies things, but by I am sure the busking helped improve my chops.
More importantly perhaps, it changed my character. I used to be painfully shy and wouldn’t talk to strangers. People must sense that I am more open because they will come up and talk to me. I have no problems chatting to anyone these days.
I have many more tales. I heartily recommend it!

BronzeWailer's YouTube
558 posts
Jun 19, 2020
12:26 AM
Here in Paris, we've emerged from confinement and the buskers are back out. I've come across a jazz singer and guitarist duo 3 or 4 times over the past couple weeks in my neighbourhood. This Sunday is summer solstice - the traditional "fete de la musique" will be downscaled this year due to social distancing rules, but nevertheless I am sure there will be buskers all over the city.

Last Edited by A440 on Jun 19, 2020 12:28 AM

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