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  1. #1
    Bears on Bikes
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    Packing a small guitar and street performing along the way

    Has anyone had any experience and/or success with packing an instrument and performing through each town along the way to pick up some extra cash?

    I'll be travelling across the states in May on limited funds and wondering if it's worth the added weight and complications that go along with a relatively fragile piece of equipment. I'm interested to hear of anyone who's made it worth the effort... in dollar billzzz.

  2. #2
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    There's guys like Ben Sollee. What kind of guitar? Small traveler acoustic, electric, etc?

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    Street musicians are just beggars making annoying noises. Hold out your hat and those who care to subsidize you will, without the aggravation. Better yet, stay home and work until you can afford to travel.

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    have a chat with IMI he takes his guitar with him on tour not sure if he does any busking though.

  5. #5
    Bears on Bikes
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
    Street musicians are just beggars making annoying noises. Hold out your hat and those who care to subsidize you will, without the aggravation. Better yet, stay home and work until you can afford to travel.
    Sounds like somebody forgot their thermarest :O

  6. #6
    imi
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    Nah, no busking, just strummin' 'n songwriting.

    I carry a full sized classical guitar in a hard case strapped to my rear rack with just one strap (around guitar's waist and ends of rack) and one bungy cord (from rack up 'n under case to strap). Hard to explain, I'll describe it better with pics if you're interested.

    The extra weight (about 6kgs) is no big deal, your legs get strong!

    Other ways to do it. A 3/4 size guitar, Travel guitar like the Martin or Washburn, Soft case but that can be risky.

    Don't spend too much money if you're going to be in hot climates. Glue slowly melts/deteriorates causing the bridge to work loose. This doesn't happen too often, so don't let it put you off. I've traveled for many years with the same guitar, had two failures, but would not take one of my nice ($2000+) guitars on a trip.

    Airline regulations are another can of worms. Not many people fly with both a bike and a guitar but we are obviously hated by the world's airlines!

    Twice I have bought $100 guitars at destination and given them away at end of trip as this worked out cheaper than extra baggage. You MAY get away with a guitar as hand baggage but this is getting harder and harder... I've given up trying :/

  7. #7
    imi
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
    Street musicians are just beggars making annoying noises. Hold out your hat and those who care to subsidize you will, without the aggravation. Better yet, stay home and work until you can afford to travel.
    "Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
    -Plato, Symposium

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    OK, I'm a grump Seriously, though, I expect there are folks in most areas who need to panhandle (or beg) to eat. If one CHOOSES to take a cycling vacation, and beg along the way, isn't it possible he is drawing from a limited pool of goodwill/ discretionary funds/ etc. available along the route?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Simon Cowbell's Avatar
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    Busking isn't begging, it's performing a public service. I think of it as urban beautification. That is unless you're playing banjo which is more akin to extortion.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
    OK, I'm a grump Seriously, though, I expect there are folks in most areas who need to panhandle (or beg) to eat. If one CHOOSES to take a cycling vacation, and beg along the way, isn't it possible he is drawing from a limited pool of goodwill/ discretionary funds/ etc. available along the route?
    I see it quite differently. A street musician is providing a service. Not everyone will like the music of course, personal taste and all that, but it isn't begging.

    If I hear music I like enough to stay and listen to, I'll pay for it. If I don't like the music, I won't. It's all dependent on whether I like the persons style or music. It's a payment for performing.

    In contrast, I almost never give to panhandlers.

    One other note: from what I've read, a lot of panhandling isn't for food or shelter, but for drugs/alcohol. Put another way, giving to a busker or street musician doesn't use up any reservoirs of my good will toward panhandlers because they're different things.

  11. #11
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    Echoing what imi is saying, consider traveling with something like a 3/4 sized Little Martin. They're pretty tough -- essentially the body is made of a formica like material. I've seen them used for under $200 from time to time, and I think they are fun to play, and they have a pleasant (if smallish) sound.
    Last edited by OldZephyr; 12-07-11 at 03:55 PM. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
    OK, I'm a grump Seriously, though, I expect there are folks in most areas who need to panhandle (or beg) to eat. If one CHOOSES to take a cycling vacation, and beg along the way, isn't it possible he is drawing from a limited pool of goodwill/ discretionary funds/ etc. available along the route?
    you dug a nice hole for yourself with that post theres a lot of musicians on this forum

  13. #13
    imi
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    We're ALL touring with a musical instrument:

    The conspiracy of silence that has surrounded P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)? For two centuries began with his own parents. He was the last and the least of the great Johann Sebastian Bach's twenty-odd children, and he was certainly the oddest. His father ignored him completely, setting an example for the rest of the family (and indeed for posterity), with the result that P.D.Q. was virtually unknown during his own lifetime; in fact, the more he wrote, the more unknown he became. He finally attained total obscurity at the time of his death, and his musical output would probably have followed him into oblivion had it not been for the zealous efforts of Prof. Schickele. These efforts have even extended themselves to mastering some of the rather unusual instruments for which P.D.Q. liked to compose, such as the left-handed sewer flute, the windbreaker, and the bicycle.

    Pervertimento, S. 66 -- 9'
Bagpipes, Bicycle, Balloons; Str.


    source

  14. #14
    imi
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    ...with the result that P.D.Q. was virtually unknown during his own lifetime; in fact, the more he wrote, the more unknown he became. He finally attained total obscurity at the time of his death


    I'm sorry, this line just cracks me up...

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    I was having similar thoughts but more for relaxing at campsite rather than busking. Went to a local guitar shop and tried all the travel sized, nylon classics, and electric guitars. Didn't like any of them for what I needed. On the way out I looked through the ukulele deals for kicks and found the perfect travel sized instrument. Sure it's silly in theory, but damn fun in practice. Don't scoff it till you try it.

    Who knows, it might even net you nice busking change for the novelty alone.

  16. #16
    imi
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    Unfortunately some people don't remember to wander a ways off from a campsite to play, so as not to disturb other campers.

    The ukelele is a great instrument. 'though I don't play one myself

  17. #17
    Senior Lurker, mostly. DW99's Avatar
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    I picked up a baritone uke last year to take with me on my bike, it didn't work out. My fault, I should have gone to a music store to find one instead of ordering it. The strings are too far apart, once I get use to it then go back to the guitar, I'm all messed up. So over the winter I plan to look locally for something else to trade a really nice ukulele in on. I really like the size and sound of this uke though. It would be no problem carrying it on the bike. My guitars are "dreadnoughts", would need a trailer and someone to help peddle for either of those.
    "My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion.
    He said okay, you're ugly too." -Rodney Dangerfield

  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Long tail Xtracycle, and the guitar doesn't even have to be smaller . bring the dreadnaught .
    saw someone, did that, but had a winter gig as a teacher .
    songwriter , self produced CD to sell at the performances she could arrange.

    Rainsong Guitars solve the weather issue, they're cabon Finer composites.
    light foam case wont add much weight.


    Mandolin player, myself, they travel well , found a really small one ,
    Leo, , sort of a mandolin version of a pocket fiddle..
    had lots of people that wanted me to sell it before I started on the Trip.
    ... To them..

    Pub Jam sessions in Ireland and Scotland, made it worthwhile.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-07-11 at 07:11 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DW99 View Post
    I picked up a baritone uke last year to take with me on my bike, it didn't work out. My fault, I should have gone to a music store to find one instead of ordering it. The strings are too far apart, once I get use to it then go back to the guitar, I'm all messed up. So over the winter I plan to look locally for something else to trade a really nice ukulele in on. I really like the size and sound of this uke though. It would be no problem carrying it on the bike. My guitars are "dreadnoughts", would need a trailer and someone to help peddle for either of those.
    Yeah, I feel you on the string spacing. Going back to standard guitar just feels awkward! If you're looking for something more closely spaced and still small, try a Mandolin. Double-coursed strings make it feel like a playing a smaller 12-string.

    I think the best, packabale, way play a guitar on tour would probably be a small, short-scale, electric with a portable amplifier (like the pignose).

  20. #20
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    the martin backpacker guitar is a nice one.



    I like the Uke....... and the harmonica for busking. Have played for money in Seattle, New Orleans, California. usually just a few extra bucks, its no way to finance a tour IMO but fun for some down time people engaging. if i get better on the ukulele I'd likely bring one for some summer tours.

    Here's some uke music i did as background for a recent video i did.....
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  21. #21
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    I'd second a mandolin, or the Martin backpacker... Yamaha, Washburn, Traveler, all make travel guitars.

    As to your original question about "is it worth it" I'd have to say yes, even if you don't make any money. I couldn't see taking a trip without an instrument of some sort, even if it was just a harmonica.

  22. #22
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    people would kill him if he was to busk with that martin awful sounding guitar, a nice parlor guitar is the answer.

  23. #23
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    While busking seems to be common and accepted throughout Europe, I'm not sure how well it would be received in small-town middle America, and would likely be viewed as a form of begging (I'm not saying it *is* begging, just that your average person in Iowa might view it as such). Even big cities often don't look too kindly on it. A better bet might be to offer to play for tips in a local bar or pub each night. You get tips, the owner gets free entertainment for the patrons. Make a CD of some of your music that you can demo for a venue owner so he/she sees that you are not a hack. Just be sure to pick songs that will resonate with the locals... reggae music might not be the ticket in the middle of Alabama. Learn some good popular country tunes, for example.

  24. #24
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    I wouldn't rely on it as a steady source of income, especially when you are in more rural areas. Local regs. might also have an impact on brusking.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by briwasson View Post
    Just be sure to pick songs that will resonate with the locals... reggae music might not be the ticket in the middle of Alabama. Learn some good popular country tunes, for example.
    "That ain't no Hank Williams song."



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