Over the past couple of months I’ve ventured out into the world of Busking, and loved it. It’s something I feel every musician should try at some stage. And with the experiences I’ve had and stories to tell, a documentation in a blog format seems like a good idea. Here I’ll be sharing these adventures with you and keeping a record of my busking journeys.
So welcome to my website! and my first ‘Solo Bass Busking’ blog post!
I hope you enjoy!
First Steps Into Busking
I began busking occasionally in early October, about once a fortnight. I was highly inspired by seeing other buskers, I thought “Why not just go practice in the streets!”. I found that the more I busked, the more I enjoyed it and the more intrigued I was by the opportunities that would arise – playing out in the streets opens many many doors! I was also surprised (as many people are) at how much money I could earn and how many people I connected with, whether it be; a smile, a compliment, a drunken dance or a general chat about music, life and the universe. I connected with a lot of people on a whole new level, a level totally contrasting ‘the connection’ you get when selling someone the latest discount on biscuits (“3 for a £1!! You’ve sure made my day sir!” – Old Lady in a Red Dress).
This first step into busking made me question why I was sticking at a job that didn’t fulfill my passion or give me this ‘positive connection’ with the world. So I started busking more frequently, travelling around a bit more and spending any day-off out playing in the streets, the income and happiness that came from it just made sense to pursue it full-time and work my a** off as a busker/musician. So I did. I left my comfortable job in retail, to become a full-time busker/freelance musician. And, it sure has increased my happiness, boosted my confidence as a solo performer, presented many opportunities and introduced me to a lot of great people and friends. So if those aren’t good enough reasons to take a leap of faith, then I don’t know what is. Admittedly I probably chose the hardest month to busk – Winter is Coming! But I’ve made my choice now and I’m not giving up, as they say – “Be that fool!”
A Solo Bass Busker!
So here I am, a solo bass busker –
“That’s only got 5 strings!”
“You’re making those sounds with a bass?!”
“I thought guitars were smaller and had more strings, why is yours so long?”
“A bass guitar, with a capo?”
A few recent comments I’ve received.
The picture above was taken in the town of Kidderminster – a very small town with an incredible background of music. The weird looking thing behind my amp is actually, ‘street furniture’ in the shape of a vinyl stack, there are many scattered around the town center, each with a brief story on the towns music history. (Also the lady in the background is totally smiling because of me bass riff…).
My current set-up consists of; my bass, battery amplifier (QTX QR10PA – highly recommend), a few pedals (Boss DD-7 + Line 6 Dl4 – once again both highly recommended), a bass case to carry it all, collect donations and show my enlarged business card and …a capo. It’s quite an easy carry, I’ve seen other buskers cart a tonne of stuff around and I’m glad my set-up isn’t that bulky (well just yet, I’m thinking of expanding with new instruments + more pedals). So it doesn’t take long to set-up and I can condense myself into a small performance space.
I’d explain my sound to be quite relaxing and melodic, with a soundtrack/math-rock feel to it, you can make your own judgement by checking my music out here – Chatfield Demo. I like to give the space I’m performing in a relaxing/chilled out soundscape. I feel that nowadays some people rush about and stress too much, so when I’m busking I hope to think that I can give the public a sound that helps them forget their worries for just a moment and …relax (Notice your breathing – regularly – it’ll calm your body and mind). There have been occasions where people have sat next to me and thanked me, receiving a thank you from people is incredible, this is something I appreciate so much and I just can’t explain how much it means to me when this – me playing bass in the streets – creates a reaction like that. ‘A positive connection’, that’s what really makes the whole busking thing worth while, plus you get an immense amount of practice!
Performing out in the streets. Puts you out in the open. To a lot of people. I mean a lot. Like sometimes…… strange people.
I do really like people, and busking has shown me the generosity of people and has really opened my eyes to the positive energy that flows through us all…but, being there ‘out in the open’ invites anyone to come speak/interact with you, and with this I’ve met some strange people. Example A:
So there I was playing away, adding more percussive layers to my loop and I had this sudden cold shiver down my neck, followed by the sound of breathing and a voice “Do you play any of that metal? You know, like, Judas Priest, like, Pain Killer? Like”. I turned around to see a small man stood basically resting his chin on my back, lacking teeth, holding a plastic bag filled with ‘Frosty Jacks’ (A cheaper/stronger cider) and an open can of Strongbow in his hand, his smile was wide and his head was bobbing. It was definitely a unique way of introducing yourself to someone, I wouldn’t advise his kind of approach to someone you intend to date. “Ermm…not really. My tunes are far slower and it’s just solo bass”, I didn’t really know how to initially react, but that was my reply. I paused the loop and turned to him, he had a kind smile but his head bobbing was a bit intense, “Go on mate, Metal like! Show me how fast you can play like! Shred it!!! Wheeyyy!!” (followed by the rock horns). After many requests of Metal tunes, I think he got the message that I wasn’t a metal player, and then continued to talk in a more conversational way. He told me about how he enjoyed cider thoroughly and he had a bit of a drinking problem, and that Metal was a way to release energy and go a bit wild “…I set a few bins of fire last night…” – releasing energy..? It’s crazy what people tell me when I’m just there in the streets playing. I then played a tune for him, which he started dancing to, everyone seemed to give us funny looks, probably thinking we were a duo act. “Go on, play that bit faster like!” he shouted during one point of the song, I tried, but I couldn’t play fast enough for him. “Nah mate, like I actually really enjoy your music, mellow ennit like. I’d give you some money but I don’t get paid till next Tuesday like”. He searched his pockets again and found 30p throwing it in my case “That’s all I got like! Sorry! Keep playing though, good stuff mate! Take it easy like”, smiled and bobbed away into the distance swinging his bag of Frosty Jacks about.
A strange encounter with someone I must admit, but it made me laugh and smile a lot seeing him dance with his wide smile bobbing away.
There’s been a few encounters with drunken people, the majority of the time they’ve been very friendly and quite funny, like that one. I did have someone stumble towards me with a Special Brew in one hand and what smelt like a joint in the other, “You’re playing is s*** mate, where’s Bob Marley?! Give me some reggae reggae dance beats man!”, before I had time to reply he continued “Wouldn’t even give you 10p mate!”….ermm okay, good! He stood staring at me intensely for a minute, did some weird arm sweep and stumbled away.
I’ve also met some sober people too! I don’t just attract the strange ones! (Although there are other stories to share on strange encounters, but I’ll save them for future posts).
I’ve interacted with a lot of musicians, who’ve asked for collaborations, exchanged details, got me gigs and asked me to join bands/attend certain music nights. It’s a great way for musicians to find other musicians, the ultimate networking venue – the streets. I’ve had so many amazing chats with musicians and music lovers, sharing with me their experiences busking, artists I should check out, their musical adventures, advice on living as a musician and just general music chats. Some have been interested in a certain technique I’ve been playing and asked how to play it, and I’ve met older people who have just started learning guitar wanting to know how to play barre chords without their fingers hurting. It really is amazing the people that you meet, when playing out in the street, (that moment when you rhyme two words, and you think about pursuing a career as a rapper….) because you’ve made a beat, and they think it’s pretty sweet, so they drop some dolla for you to eat, take a pic and post a tweet, feeling pretty upbeat, what a nice greet, feels like a treat, to make a beat, for the people on the street……………………….(mic drop…)
A Busking Tip
I’ll end this first ‘solo bass busking’ post with a tip for any of you who are wanting to busk, have thought about busking or you’re just generally interested in busking.
Just go do it!!
Seriously, just go out there and play, because the only way to really know if busking is for you, is to just do it, go out and hit the streets with your music. Even if you have no material ready or are unsure on what to play, just – grab your instrument (whatever it may be) and play something that’s true to you. Because it will, for sure, open your eyes to a new way of performing, give you practice and generally feel great to know that your music – your music – is out there filling the streets with sound, providing it with a whole new soundscape. It will be nerve-racking/scary at first but once you pass that line, you’ll feel great!
Whats the worst that can happen?! Someone will ask you to turn down/move – turn down/okay move to a different spot. You’ll get in trouble with the police – as long as you’ve checked it’s okay to play there through the towns website – you have the right to be there.
What is the best that can happen?! People will love your music, share a compliment, donate money, ask where to find your music online. You will get better at your instrument, become a better performer and gain confidence in your music. You will meet amazing people! You could even meet your future lover (it’s been known to happen). You’ll make someone smile! The possibilities and opportunities are endless! – so – JUST GO DO IT!! Please! Because I’d love there to be a future where music is just anywhere and everywhere!
Thank you for following my website and reading this post!
See you next week for more of my busking adventures!