Musical street performance, or busking, is the process of playing music on sidewalks or walkways for passersby, sometimes collecting tips as you go. Once you've checked out the local laws and regulations for street performance in your area, the next step is to figure out what kinds of musical instruments and equipment will work best for your particular talents and act.
Some variety of acoustic instrument that requires no electonic amplification is the most convenient option for any street performer. Acoustic instruments require little to no setup, need no electricity or extra equipment and they generally produce a quieter music than amplified sound. This makes them less of a distraction in busy areas, meaning it's less likely you'll be asked to move along from a good busking spot or cause annoyance to patrons who might not be interested in what you have to offer.
For a street performer, a good quality instrument case performs two essential functions; it protects the instrument from the elements and from wear and tear while the musician is traveling from spot to spot, and it traditionally serves as a place for passersby to deposit tips. While a hat or jar may substitute for the latter function, an instrument without the protection of a case is at risk in the rough-and-tumble environment of a street environment. Casing up your instrument is also a useful thing to be able to do if some patrons try to reach out and touch or play your instrument when you don't want them to.
If you have any power-amplified instruments, or if you plan to use a microphone for singing, you'll need a power source at your location or some form of portable power. Some busking locations may have outdoor stages or courtyards with available outlets, but this is usually only the case with more fomalized, planned street performance. More likely, you'll need a portable battery pack, available at hardware stores. Alternately, if you can perform close to where you have a vehicle parked, plug into your car with an AC adapter, but be careful not to drain your battery too much.
Since power options are limited for street performers, it's best to keep your amplification devices small. This is also convenient, since smaller amps are more portable and produce less sound, creating a more intimate music space that will only entertain those interested enough to come fairly close. A practice amplifier, made for the sake of personal playing rather than performance, is loud enough for this purpose, plus is small and takes little power.
- Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images