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
|Guitar lead + spare|
|Ipod and leads|
|Remote control + receiver|
|Pen + paper|
|Cash for parking|
|Guitar case or cash pot|
|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.