Part One – Visual Presentation

An aspect of crafting the performance is visual presentation. Not only in terms of ones attire (which I will speak to later) but also what one surrounds themselves with, props and such like, essentially how the performance is staged and ultimately received by the audience.

I wanted a worn-in aged / vintage lived-in feel which appealed to me for several reasons. First it speaks to age, and by association experience which in turn infers confidence. The pre-owned, used type of styling of new electric guitars has become increasingly popular, ‘road warn’ is the new black for guitar manufacturers like Fender and Gibson.

Secondly when attempting to elicit a donation from an audience, an aged warn-in styling is more agreeable to an audience over giving money to someone playing with shinny new gear. There in lies the rub. An affordable, efficient portable busking amplifier, one which offers both vocals and instrument input, is a relatively modern invention, with contemporary styling and just a bit too shinny. Second-hand / used equipment goes some way to taking the shine off the gear but this approach is not always possible or feasible with things like digital processors, efx and alike, they are simply not always available, and as it turns out not always reliable.

I’d like to think I’m fortunate, being of an age and having played a guitar for a long time, I have my very own ‘road warn’ instrument. The portable battery-powered amplifier and pedal-board (including digital efx processor, distortion stomp box and cough switch for the mic) have proven to be a little more problematic.

Having started with a second-hand amplifier which swiftly died, I took the plunge and purchased a new model of the amplifier, a Roland Cube Street. I have to admit that I purchased the amp before I’d considered the performance visual presentation and consequently purchased the bright orange model which has subsequently been re-sprayed black.

The pedal board has been housed in a custom made wooden case styled to look like a vintage crate/case. Initially conceived to be just a box to house and obscure from the audience the efx processor, distortion stomp box and cough switch, after repeated use it now includes power / audio interface sockets on the exterior surface of the box linking to the equipment within. This modification was made to enable the cables going to and from the case to be easily removed. Prior to this modification the cables, (two 2 meter ¼ inch jack leads and two 2 meter microphone XLR leads) would be wound around the case during transportation and storage which left the cables and associated plug ends vulnerable.

Pedal Board

Camera Trial and New Collection Box

Camera Trial performance today using 3 GoPro Cameras. One positioned inside my pedal board at my feet pointing up at me (bottom left), the other two attached to a stand behind me. One positioned pointing towards the audience space, just over my head the other very high up point down giving an aerial shot of myself and the donation box.

Video Trial

The videos were shot in 4K which has turned out to be problematic to process. The GoPro also is recording 10 mins max before starting a new file.

The camera position at my feet, which was intended as the primary camera angle to record the performance, needs to be relocated. (Watch this space)

ADDED (Dec 2nd): Having taken some time considering the camera relocation, I will be exploring two alternatives or even possibly relocating two cameras. Camera obscurity is key to a natural response by the audience. In the trail, while I had a twenty or so people come up to me, no one acknowledged the cameras. 

Alternate Placement 1: I spotted a video on YouTube where the player actually attached the camera on a flexible arm to the head of the guitar this worked well.

Placing the camera on an arm on the guitar head may be too prominent.

Alternate Placement 2: Alternatively I have also been thinking about repositioning the camera a little further away from me and higher up in an attempt to record what the audience sees. To move the camera away from me it need to come out of its hiding place in the pedal box. I have some merchandise (CD’s, Badges, Stickers), I’m thinking the camera could be obscured by this.

Exhausted the batteries of all three cameras with continuous recording of some of the setup and all the performance, collectively spanning just under 2 hours. Donations collected amount to £39.26 – Money donated to GIST Cancer Research.

Side Street Busking Location Stafford

The new collection box worked well. Very clear for audience to see where to make donations and the box itself did not obscure the amplified which was an issue with the last performance using the traditional guitar case.

Busking Pitches

Side Street Busking Location StaffordBoth pitches identified are in closed shop fronts. This provides better acoustics for the Cajon and as autumn is upon us some degree of cover. The first pitch (above) runs parallel to the main high street at a four point junction, close to parking which generates foot traffic into the town centre. The second (below) is on the high street, towards the centre of the town.

High Street Busking Pitch Stafford(Date Added 2nd Dec) I have ruled out the second pitch (see above), not only is the shop now in redevelopment but having spoken with the County and  Borough Councils its clear the North end of the town is currently the ongoing focus of attention in terms of reestablishing better foot fall and retailer investment. As such there are possible opportunities for collaboration.     

Moving Your Gear

The one-man band set up i use for my busking is pretty compact and luckily it all fits in a collapsable trolly.
This includes:

    • guitar & guitar-case

    • Custom Cajon (with integral snare, casaba and bass drum sounds)and associated foot pedals 

    • Hi-hat with iPad bracket, and tambourine holder

    • tambourine

    • Street Cube Amp

    • Pedalboard inc Boss VE-8 and Loopi Mic Mute

    • Head Mic

    • iPad

    • Cables

    • Memory foam cushion

Busking Trolly

Money Collection

During an initial trial performance I used my guitar case as the receptacle for receiving donations. Using the guitar case in this way is common practice and so more readily understood by the audience. Added to this and by way of an additional audience prompt, the case contained an initial £5 float. (£34.34 taken during the 90 mins performance).

However presentationally, the case was problematic in so far as it created a physical barrier / disconnect between myself and the audience which was amplified because I was seated (sat on a Cajon). Much of the writing around ‘busking tips’ suggest the need to be unique. Could an alternative receptacle help ?

Box to Collect Donations
With Flashing ‘Thank You’