Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serenading the pavement

Hey hey!

I hope y'all have been staying cool! I haven't. I hate this weather. I also hate people who complain, but I will break my (non-existent) positive rule today, and say I'd like to complain about this. Being in business, and dealing with other businesses, if something isn't right, you pick up the phone and yell at somebody about it. "You call these guitar picks?!" But the weatherman is just like an umpire after the call at home plate is made, and yelling doesn't do any good. Phooey.

So, I'll give it up, and talk about something productive! The summertime is a great time to get outside and play some street music!

I've been meaning to myself, but the CD project (almost done!) is top priority right now. I've learned a lot playing on the street, technically called busking.

Now, of course, check with your local laws to make sure that it's allowed in your city, but most likely it is. I play in Alexandria, VA, and other than a noise ordinance, they say "have at it!"
It's fun, challenging, and a neat way to pick up a few extra bucks. It's also a nice contrast to have an endless audience as opposed to a stationary one.

Here's what ya need to get started:

- An acoustic guitar (or electric with a loop station - or an electric/acoustic Ukulele! I've seen it! It's AWESOME!)

- A bowl for the money! I used a guitar case once, and some rich boater dropped a dollar in the case and said, sincerely actually, "good luck with everything, buddy." Grrr! Of course, that's not the first time people have thought I was homeless...There was the bum on the subway asking for donations, and then he said to me "Hey, we should get YOU some donations!" OK, it was a bad hair day.

- Several songs. You don't need a bunch to get started - just a few, 'cause you'll end up repeating them, as the crowd always changes.

Find your "pitch" (area to play), while being respectful of any veteran buskers, and get ready to rock!

Curtis Blues, my street music mentor, has taught me there's two main types of customers:

- The walk by traffic, throwing a dollar your way as you jam.

- The show traffic, where a large crowd gathers, and you put on an impromptu gig for 'em. (Make sure you can get 'em to pay - people love to slink away at the outskirts.)

You'll also get the folks who will just stop and ask for a song. These are great, BECAUSE they can be the start of what buskers call "an edge." People tend to be skittish, and won't stop unless other people are already stopped and listening. So, if you can get a few people watching you, the more cautious will stop and listen.

There are many, many aspects of street performance, and I don't have a clue about most of them. I've shared what I know, and hopefully it will be of use to you in your quest. It's quite a learning experience, and a great way to sharpen stage skills.

So, throw your fear in the garbage, put on some brightly colored shoes, and hit the streets! It's way fun.

Rock on!

- Josh


Merry ME said...

Hey Josh,
I just wanted to stop by and give you a high five. Read your mom's blog about your student's talent show last night. She's pretty darn proud of you. Heck, I'm proud and I don't even know you.

I love what you are doing with the kids you teach. It sounds like you are teaching them waaaayyyyy more than just music. Think of how different the world might be if every kid had this kind of encouragement. SOmetimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes just one person to listen and really hear, speak truthfully from the heart, and deep down care.

Three cheers for you!
Rock on!

Josh Urban said...

Hey! Thank you so much! I surely do appreciate it. They're a pretty awesome crew. AND they teach me fun jokes! I've certainly got a great gig.