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Busking Equipment

What Will I Need To Go Busking ?

Traveling light and just taking your acoustic guitar busking can be great if you are planning on playing in a subway, a pitch with great acoustics or in a narrow street, but if you want to play in a city or crowded street on a Saturday afternoon, you may find your acoustics being completely drowned out by the background noise generated by your surroundings.

The busier your surroundings, the noisier it will be and the less distance your sound will travel. You may not notice as you walk to your pitch, but as soon as you start playing, you could find that you can hardly hear your own guitar, and neither can anyone else. If the general public can’t hear you, you won’t make any money.

You can always sing louder, but your guitar may need some form of amplification to give it a fair chance.

There are many different types of busking amp on the market, and they can be purchased from about £20 upwards. Expect to pay around £50 for a semi decent one.

You will need to find one that suits your needs, but in general you should buy one that works with mains power and can also be operated with batteries. A decent set of rechargeables and a charger may cost you almost as much as your amp, but they are worth it in the long run as buying a new set every time you go busking will cost you serious money. A set of rechargeables can be recharged up to 1000 times and won’t take long to prove their worth.

I would recommend that you need your amp to be able to kick out at least 15 watts RMS and have at least two inputs. You may find you need to plug another guitar, mic or mp3 player in as well as your guitar at some point, so the extra input will come in handy.

Always buy something slightly better than what you actually need at the time of purchase, as your needs are bound to increase the more you use your equipment.

The only problem with larger busking amps is that they can be quite heavy. I don’t mean heavy in their own right, I mean heavy when carried a mile and a half across the city with a guitar in the other hand searching for a good place to pitch. If you have other health problems or injuries, this can become quite a problem.

Sometimes you might find you only require slightly more amplification than your guitar can give on its own, in which case, you may only need something with one input and a very limited output like the tiny Marshall practice amps you can get for around £20. They are only about 6 inches tall and run off a 9 volt square battery. The sound they produce is not great but they can be clipped to your belt or hidden behind your guitar case to act as a small reinforcement to your guitar acoustics when you need a little boost. For bigger pitches and a better quality sound you’ll probably need something bigger.

Check out my article and calculations guide on powering busking equipment and full band setups at small and larger type out door venues.

Below is a list to give you an idea of the things you could take on your busking mission to get you going. It is only a guide and you can alter it to suit your own specific needs. I take my iPod with some home made acoustic backing tracks just to add a bit of colour to some of my songs.

Busking Equipment List

Amp

Guitar lead + spare
Batteries
Song list
Plectrums
Guitar
Strap
Ipod and leads
Remote control + receiver
Guitar stand
Capo
Cloth
Water
Phone
Spare top
Spare strings
Busking permit
Business cards
Head phones
Pen + paper
Cash for parking
Guitar case or cash pot
Van keys
Sun cream (Summer)
Fingerless gloves (Winter)

Remember to sun cream yourself up if you are out busking throughout the midday sun. In the Summer months between 11am and 2pm you can get seriously burnt if you are stood in the same spot for hours on end. Even if it doesn’t affect you now, in a few years time you might find your chances of getting skin cancer have been greatly increased by your endless hours of singing in the scorching sunshine with no protection.

Winter brings different problems and freezing fingers is one of them. Standing in the same place for three hours in the freezing cold is no joke and you may be able to play for a while, but sooner or later your fingers will freeze, and trying to finger pick becomes almost an impossibility.

Really thin, fingerless thermal gloves will keep your fingers above freezing level and hopefully allow you to play for longer.

It may sound bad, but thermals worn under your clothing will go a long way in keeping you warm enough to keep playing. It isn’t pleasant trying to perform when you are frozen to the bone. Normally you would be moving around and walking from place to place which keeps your body temperature at a decent level, but when you are busking, you are generally stood in the same place for hours on end getting colder and colder, and a few minor alterations to your clothing can make a big difference.

As usual, the message is ‘come prepared’. Keep some business cards on you as you will often be approached by people interested in hiring you for a gig or wanting your details for future reference.

Don’t always expect people to give you cash if they appreciate your music. I have been offered and given all sorts of things from beer, cigarettes, fruit, biscuits, wine, chocolate, drugs and just about everything else you can imagine. You might even get a few anonymous love letters or telephone numbers dropped in your case if you’re lucky.

It’s all good, but make sure you keep an eye on your busking pot or guitar case. Kids chuck all sorts of things in there for whatever reasons, and half eaten chocolate biscuits will make a hell of a mess of your felt lined guitar case if left unchecked for any length of time.

Other Posts of Interest

Busking
How Much Can I Expect to Earn ?
Busking Permits and Permissions
Famous People Busking
World Record Busking Attempt
Street Musician Busking Pot

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11 comments to Busking Equipment : What You Need To Go Busking

  • I use a Roland Mobile Cube and a guitar effects case, made from Samson attache case. I busk regularly and put You Tube videos up. The video details all my gear.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLgCdhJnE3Q

  • Emma

    Hey,
    I am entirely new to busking and this is really helpful, thanks for all the practical tips. Silly question, what lead do I need to connect my ipod to the amp?
    cheers
    Em

  • Hi, Ipod’s have a 1/8″ stereo jack plug output ( the small stereo headphone socket ), and your amp will probably have either RCA red and white plugs on the end or the usual 1/4 ” stereo input jack plug or perhaos an xlr mic inbput socket. You should be able to go to your nearest Hi Fi shop and buy a lead or combination of leads with an adaptor or connector that should easily allow you to do so. Just ask the guy behind the desk and he’ll easily be able to help you out.

    I have a sack full of leads bought over the years for different jobs and with the right connectors and adaptors can connect just about anything.

    Cheers

  • Paul M

    Hi,
    really useful site you have here.
    Maybe a silly question, but if I amplify my acoustic guitar won’t this drown out my vocals? My singing is ok (so i’m told!), but I don’t seem to have a powerful un-amplified voice – it’s just not very shouty. I can’t seem to turn my un-amplified voice upto 5 let alone 11.

    Just that you don’t mention anything about mikes, & stuff. More gear to lug around & increase the hassle factor?

    Many Thanks.

    Paul.

  • Goran Adeborn

    I have had a lot of different fabric made “buskeramps”. The last years I have made a lot of experiments and finally I made the “perfect buskeramp”.
    A small 4 x 50W amp. (TDA7850) and Lipo batteries. Not heavy and you can play at full power for 4 hours with a 5000mAh 3-cell LiPo-battery. Recharged in an hour. I only use 2 x 50W. More than enough. And stereo effect makes it even better.

  • Hi Goran, I’m interested in making an busker amp similar to yours…can you tell me how a standard micro phone is wired onto one of the input channels…how to wire the guitar lead to the other input…how do you control volume and levels? what are the best speakers to use.

    Very much appreciate your feed back, David.

  • Goran Adeborn

    Hi David,
    As my old mother just died I have a lot to take care about. Please send me an e-mail and remind me in about 2 weeks. Keep Playing!!
    /goran

  • Antonio

    Hi there,

    This website is really useful, thanks. I have only a question. I have been asked to use ONLY solid cell battery. Do you know what they mean and where to find them?
    I am quite new about busking so, please, could you tell me also how can I plug a battery to my PA?

    I have a little amplifier, microphone and backing track from my iPod.

    Thanks in advance,

    Antonio

  • Hey guys, I thought I would let you know how I have been getting on with my system. I started off trying to power my setup with one of those emergency starter battery systems, but the battery deteriorated quickly. I now use a Ah leisure battery, and I tried it out first time yesterday, on quite a complicated setup, including 4 track recording.

    Here is a short video:
    http://www.markus-k.com/snow-falling-video/

    Tomorrow I intend to try it out on the public, and if you want, I will let you know how I get on with my battery and such. If it all works fine, I plan to go round all historic places in Europe this summer.

    Peace

  • For sound I use a 10 inch Behringer powered speaker. Really great sound quality and very light and small.

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