I'm going busking
After two years of procrastination and a lot of excuses, I decided to really go busking next week. Not to earn money (I don't use a tip box/open my violin case) but to practice performing in an 'easy'way. I checked the rules about busking (no permits required for acoustic playing) and looked for a spot to play: a non busy pedestrian zone between two shopping streets, so not a lot of noise.
I made a setlist with songs I can play without sheet music, that are not very classical, and that I feel comfortable playing: 4 or 5 songs of filmmusic and 3 fiddle tunes. Not very much but enough for me to make my debute on the streets :)
I think about playing the set two times. The first time my goal is not to choke in my nerves and just play the tunes right and in tune. Then another time, perhaps on the corner of the shopping street and try to really perform/look around me to the passing people.
To be really honest, I also post this here to make it a bit public so I feel I can't chicken out again ;)
But of course also the question to all of you with experience: do I overlook something that I really need to know before I gonna play next week?
Lunchtime today I saw an extraordinary young violinist busking in Glastonbury's (England) High Street. Everything was there in his playing - tone, projection, intonation, musicianship. I reckon he was probably a 3rd year student from one of the London colleges.
1. Open your case and collect tips! There were probably many passers-by who wanted to tip and were frustrated that there was no easy means to do so. You can always donate the tips to a local charity if you feel bad about taking people's money.
I agree with Paul. Leave your case open.
Yes. Leave the case open and donate the money if you don't want to keep it.
Buy a fake book (a big book filled with popular tunes) so you can take requests. You can get paid to practice sight-reading and improvising (and you'll get better tips if you take requests).
You might check local ordnances for any prohibitions - and possibly as protection against bully cops.
Yes, I would leave the case open as well. People will want to give you some cash and it will be weird if there's no where to put the money in. I think that if you really want to "rock" the streets, you really must play whatever is famous on the radio. Unless it's a really famous piece like Pachelbel canon, random people normally don't pay much attention to classical.
Over many years of playing jazz gigs in various venues, I have found that taking requests has had surprisingly little effect on the bottom line. Mostly that's because very few requests are actually placed. But once in a while there's a
Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words! And also the anecdotes, really love that :)
Yeah, please, keep us informed, hahaha. I wanna know how it goes, how nervous you get, how awkward it is at the beginning, and when do you start feeling comfortable playing.
you may want to have a small sign that informs people what you plan to do with their donations. And if you can get some pamphlets or other handouts from these organizations have them available too.
You can also bring along a giant battery-powered boombox with backing tracks.
Don't forget to remove your spare bows from the case before you let people throw coins into it.
An individual player can't play a symphony, Paul. The instrument you're using to busk with is largely irrelevant; an electric violin is probably best in many cases. Joshua Bell's story is a very interesting one, but I can tell you, as a metro rider, that even if I'd heard an amazing violinist busking in that station, I'd still have been scrambling to get to my next train in the allotted 30 seconds or so.
Yes you can, as an individual player, play a symphony, people do it all the time with the 9th, and with Mozart's 40th, and with pretty much any orchestra work. They arrange it. There are orchestra works that are played way more in individual instruments, for example the flight of the bumblebee.
Joshua Bell played in a busy railway station, wouldn't matter what he played, people don't stop and listen because they are in a hurry catching trains and going to work, and in too much of a hurry to even drop a coin. So busk where people are going too-n-fro from their lunch break perhaps. The point of the OP busking is to gain experience playing to an audience not to make money, so why would he play boring contemporary radio pop songs, he wants to practice his repertoire. It doesn't matter which genre is played, there will always be a connection because the sidewalk consists of many generations. I played my repertoire of gypsy tunes and made a considerable amount.
People do NOT play the 9th Symphony or Mozart 40 arranged for a solo instrument. That's absurd. There are sometimes simplifications of the "Ode to Joy" tune that appear in beginner's method books. There are some orchestral works that get reduced for solo piano and every once in a while you might see such works arranged for violin and piano. Flight of the Bumblebee is one such work, which has gotten arranged for lots of different instruments; it lends itself well to such arrangement because it's basically a single voice (the flute) with orchestral backdrop, as opposed to the rich texture of most symphonies which decidedly don't lend themselves well to arrangements.
It's amazing what tips can do for the ego of a burgeoning musician. I've been playing farmers markets for almost 10 years now. It's a long gig (4 hours), but in the beginning I was so excited, I would play 4 hours without a break.
What do you mean by "people do NOT"?
In high school a tuba playing friend used to make a lot of money busking at the local shopping centre - all the stores paid her to move on! She was a good enough player threat they always seemed to do it with a smile...
The two most popular buskers I've seen play classical concertos with orchestral backing tracks (large crowds with lots of phones out but the owners of said phones rarely donate), and Irish jigs and reels (plenty of money from passers-by, minimal crowds). Neither does top-pops.
Here you go:
Jeez, Lydia. Do you know nothing of the Liszt-Paganini transcription of Beethoven's 9th Symphony on the G string? I play it all the time!
Hah, Christian. One does have to wonder what would have happened if instead of Liszt transcribing Paganini for piano, Paganini transcribed Liszt for violin. :-)
To be fair, the youtube I linked of the arrangement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a cartoonish rock version -- with a backing track. The backing track does not contain much musical content, but there is enough there to establish the harmony, so it's not 100% obvious that the arrangement would work with violin alone.
Well I did it :)
Enjoyed reading of your busking performance.
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