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My first solo fiddle busking experience

Posted by mauriceJ on Thursday, September 6, 2012

I’ll just start by saying that I haven’t been fiddling for all that long, but if you are reading this then you probably play the fiddle too and agree that the love and enjoyment one gets from playin dat  fiddle is simply one of the best things in life. Two days ago, a noontime jam session at a friend’s place was canceled and the next day an evening jam session that I planned to attend was canceled too, so I decided to try my luck at Busking. Family members at home prefer to not be distracted when they are watching TV and I can’t really fiddle to my heart’s content at home unless nobody is at home anyway, so why not, I thought.

Where I live, you have to get a three month $ 50 Busking permit and you are only allowed to play in a designated Busking spot, in the Central business district, and only for two hours max and only before 5PM, but I was having none of that and decided to play at a shopping mall which I will not name [ ha ha] ,chucked the milk crate and my fiddle in the car and drove to where I planned to go and just did it.

It seemed to me that as long as I was fairly low profile, not too intrusive or loud, if the music was alright, and the shop owners didn’t object there would be no problem, and that turned out to be the case, as even the security guards who walked passed just simply said hello, and the police doing their rounds drove by twice, and did nothing at all other than to have a good look to see what was going on.

A little quick planning was called for…First, on to the computer and create a ‘busk file’ with 22 tunes that I could play reasonably well, and download them to my I tunes, so I could hear them in my earphones as I played along on the fiddle-a good way to be accurate, yes?

How did it go, you ask? Well here is what happened. On those two days I busked around noon time for just under an hour twice, and twice  just under an hour at about 7 PM at another location.

That’s a total of 4 hours, and the take was just over $70 total, with one of the night time gigs netting me $23 + change. This is interesting cause I am 61 years old now, and I have been wondering how I would earn small change further down the track when I eventually become jobless, with my superannuation already spent- the house is all paid for but all the other bills will keep on coming! Now my future small earnings after retirement are drawn out on the sand.

I did get a surprise reaction from my lovely wife, when I told her that I went busking. Her first reaction was that it was a lowly degrading thing to do, almost like begging, and she did not like the idea of me busking at all, but she will eventually come around, [I think]. And my adult son & daughter, well they are indifferent to the idea of me busking and they know that dad does what dad does anyway, so they are neither for nor against it.

The experience was actually enjoyable, and some funny things happened too. At the night gig, one shopper dropped some small change in my fiddle case, then got in her car, took a picture, then got out again and put a $ 5 note in, other pple offered me cigarettes, or when they threw coins and missed the case, they would rush back, pick it off the ground and place it in properly.

I would say ‘thank-you’ to some pple, and they would say ‘no, thank you for playing, it sounds good’.  One person walked past and said ‘get a job’ others would pause to listen for a while, and others totally ignored me and just went past. All of the above, more or less what I  expected, but not the photo taking and the $5 note.

The best part was just playing the fiddle of course. Any fiddler knows you just start fiddling, you get into a trance like state, and you just never want to stop, and this was an environment where that could be shared too, by others who wanted to listen, and that is where I am coming from.

Your thoughts please?



10 comments on “My first solo fiddle busking experience”

richdissmore Says:
Thursday, September 6, 2012 @11:26:40 AM

i looks like you had some fun i go to jams were i,m wecome there are a few not to many i play most the time for free. i use to be a sim. pro. musician i played guitar and bass i work for over 40 years tell i had a stroke now i,m still recovering i can play some simple songs on my fiddle , guitar the job i had be for my stroke i was a welder have a g day

mudbug Says:
Thursday, September 6, 2012 @11:49:33 AM

So was this in the city? Amid the skyscrapers or down by the water? Good on ya! 17.50 an hour is great results!

Cyndy Says:
Thursday, September 6, 2012 @3:36:14 PM

I think that's REALLY neat! I wish I had your courage because I'd really like to give it a try. : )

Rene Says:
Thursday, September 6, 2012 @4:40:19 PM

Yup, I'm wishing I had the guts to get out there and try it...

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Thursday, September 6, 2012 @9:29:14 PM

What tunes played, Maurice? Which ones do you think went over the best? Thanks.

mauriceJ Says:
Friday, September 7, 2012 @8:39:35 AM

1. AngelinaBaker
2. AshokanFarewell
3. Walkin in the Parlour
4. BuffaloGals
5. Cindy-Rosinators Version
6. DownYonder
7. DrunkenHiccups
8. FlyAroundMyPrettyLittleMiss
9. I SawTheLight
10. LetMeFall
11. LookinForTheStone-Rosinators Verson style
12. MidnightOnTheWater
13. OLdGreyFlopEaredMule
14. OrangeBlossomSpecial-Combined Rosinators, and Craig Duncan;s version
15. Shove the PigsFoot
16. SallyAnn
17. PoorEllenSmith-Tommy Jarrell Style
18. UpJumped TheDevil
19. Walk Chalk Chicken
20. WalkinInMySleep
21. Wang Wang
I can't recall which tunes went over the best, but I will be sure to pay more attention to that next time. All my 'own' self taught invented versions, with no singing or other instruments. I hold the fiddle up high and bow any which way I feel like to get the sounds I want. My favourite way of playing is in pitch black dark at night so I have to feel my way to the sounds, and I play in an Amateur String Orchestra for a monthly contra dance, a Gospel group that practices once a week and performing twice a month, with friends at monthy music clubs-3 a month, also twice a week at friends place for an hour or so and every Saturday, a 2-3 hour old time fiddle jam session at a pub, and I learn at workshops at the Annual Fiddlers Convention at Yarra Junction in Australia, and learn at workshops once a year at Girgarre music festival. I took lessons for about 6 months, but then stopped when I discovered that I learn faster playing with others, and have a lot more fun, and no costs! On top of that I work, but you know the saying, busy people find the time to do more, and idle people don't have time for anything? Cheers, mj

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, September 7, 2012 @12:33:04 PM

Basically similar experiences.
You seem to have a taste for American Old Time, and that's good, BUT there IS an Aussie fiddling tradition too- many Aussie fiddlers showed up in the early days of the Hangout, and we had at least one thread on Aussie fiddling. Anyway... my philosophy about busking and performing in general is that one needs to do SOME "chestnuts". And in your case, that would be Aussie chestnuts! Now, there may be some other reason you have I don't know about it- maybe ALL the other fiddling buskers do that and people are sick of it- so maybe not... but barring a reason like that, I would tend to think you could even make a little more money if you threw in an Aussie tune at least occasionally. There are also a few Beatles tunes that sound kind of fiddley- Obla-Di Obla-da, and Yellow Submarine, and I find those go over well too. To some degree I try to "read" the taste of who is going by, and make a guess as to what they might like.
Still, even with a different value on our dollars, it's obvious you did well.

FiddleJammer Says:
Friday, September 7, 2012 @8:14:07 PM

Good on ya Maurice!

And, to others who are interested in busking, just go do it. It's a very controllable venue, you can play what ever you like and you can stay as long as you'd like. Each time you do it, you do it better. Don't be shy. You'll brighten someone's day.

Andah1andah2 Says:
Saturday, September 8, 2012 @4:37:28 AM

Great experience! I like your tune list. I imagine you played all of them in standard tuning? My wife has the same feelings about busking. I need to get up the courage one day. I have so many excuses.

mauriceJ Says:
Saturday, September 8, 2012 @11:51:57 AM

Yep, all in standard tuning....for now anyways...eventually I will start crosstuning, I suspect.

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