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Ready to Busk Out? Tips for Street Drumming and More!

Busking is a pretty familiar sight around the globe. It can be a representation of the need to “busk a move” when the music hits, or, a way to earn a little extra cash. Some people busk because they just can’t help but feel the music, or love the adoring crowds that street performing (especially drumming!) can pull together. Whatever your reasons are for jumping into busking, there are always good and bad ways to go about it.

First, if you’re going to be a street drummer or a busker, you need to pay attention to the local laws and regulations, and even your neighborhood’s preferences. In the U.S., busking usually falls under our First Amendment rights to free expression, but, you also don’t want to step on the toes of those who govern the land on which you’re “doing the busk.” In other words, you can (mostly) busk if you want to, just run it by the person who owns the spot you’re squatting on. They’ll appreciate it, and, can even give you some guidance about whether you might need a license or any other information.

Busking is about sharing, after all, and you want to keep the love alive so that you can keep on doing what you love - drumming.

You should also keep the following in mind when you busk:

  • Don’t turn it up to 11. The area you choose for busking stardom may have noise ordinances, or you could have businesses that just don’t like the potential noise you make. Don’t amp up your drums and if you’re asked to keep the volume down, be courteous.
  • Stay out of the way. Foot traffic is great for busking, unless you’re forcing people to walk in a busy street or across the entryway of a business. Be considerate, and watch how people respond (applause, donations, recording contracts, etc.) to your thoughtful street drum kit placement.
  • Be prepared. There’s nothing worse than a busker who only knows a few songs, or a bunch of songs that aren’t up to snuff for performing. Practice, have plenty of material, and have a way to steady your nerves so you can shine like a rhythmic deity.
  • Dress for success. If you look like a street urchin, you will be treated as such. If you look like a professional drummer looking to entertain the masses… you’ll be surprised at the positive reaction to your entire show.
  • Use your manners. Saying, “thank you,” to any of your supporters shows that you appreciate their help. Even those who don’t toss any cash your way deserve a smile and a nod as you’re drumming away. They’re appreciating your talent, so appreciate their… appreciation!
  • Safety first. Just remember that even if you’re out in a public place, you could be at risk for others who don’t appreciate your personal groove. Or, they want your money. No matter what, your safety is important, and you should take precautions like bringing a buddy, or having a safe place for donations, etc.
  • Love thy busking neighbor. Plenty of places offer streets full of buskers, and most of the time, they get along pretty well. Be sure to respect your neighboring street performer – they’re in the same place as you for many of the same reasons, and you’d surely appreciate the mutual support.

And, of course, you need the right drums for the job. Whether you're a djembe drummer, love the congas or are way into bucket and prop drumming, your instruments are vital to busking.

Street drumming can be a great way to express yourself and to develop a fan base, and it’s also a fun way to get a community involved in music without having to pay for a concert ticket. If you think about it, you’re not just giving yourself a chance to be in the spotlight, but, you’re actually performing a public service by keeping the beat alive.You are a hero, a busker… a street drummer! Now get out there and busk away; with each beat you’re giving the world a whole new rhythm – yours!

28th Jan 2015 Kristin Stancato

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