I have always had a fascination with street musicians and busking in general. There something romantic about performing in public and then depending on the kindness of strangers in order to get paid. Well, at least there is to me. Street musicians generally live on the outskirts of society. They are often homeless drifting from place to place, town to town. Shunned by all “right-thinking” people. But I don’t see them that way.
I have a policy of never passing a street musician without giving him or her a tip. Truth be told, it is hard for me to pass a street musician. I invariably stop and listen for a while. It happened just a few months ago. I was in Cocoa Village. I had just finished my voice lesson and I was walking down to Ossorio to get a cup of tea. As I got there I noticed a guy with a guitar performing a little farther up the street. Knowing I had two five dollar bills in my pocket, I figured I would drop one in his guitar case and then come back and get some tea.
So I walked up and listened for a few minutes. The guy was good. Nice voice, competent guitar work. The man was not young, so he was playing a lot of the songs I grew up with. I put the $5 in his case and started to leave. He said, “For that kind of tip, you get to pick a song.” Well, I couldn’t leave without getting my song, could I? I don’t remember what I asked for, but he played it. He even let me sing along. Anyone who lets me sing along is all right in my book.
We talked for a bit, then he did another song. More talk, another song. We repeated this cycle several more times. The afternoon was starting to wind down and the pedestrian traffic had gone. He decided to do one more song before he left. I gave him my other $5. We sang one more song together and we parted ways. I headed home. I never did get my tea.
I think part of my fascination with busking is that I am a piano player. So with one notable exception, busking has never really been an option for me. That one notable exception is my New Orleans story which I have written about before.
The reason I bring all this up is because technology has moved on, and there are some keyboards on the market now that can run on battery power. I have been reading reviews on a couple of Yamaha keyboards, the N-12 and N-32 Piaggero, to be specific. The reviews have specifically mentioned that because of their weight and ability to run on batteries, they would make excellent busking instruments. They are also reasonably priced.
So now I am seriously thinking about trying this. Today, I even contacted Cocoa Village to see if there were any requirements or restrictions. There are a few rules, but nothing that would be a problem.
At this point, busking is becoming a real possibility. Of course, me being me, I had to think through everything that would be involved. What would I have to have in order to start? What investment do I need to make? What time frame is involved? How much does everything weigh? How will I move my equipment? I am looking at this up, down and from every direction.
Given that my income is limited, I wasn’t sure I want to invest in yet another keyboard just for busking. So I broke the problem down. I needed a keyboard controller to play. I needed a sound source, namely something that sounded like a piano. Finally, I needed amplification. The Yamahas I’ve been looking at provide all three. That’s what makes them a good choice.
Well, wait a minute. Last spring I bought a small, lightweight PA system that can in fact run on batteries. I have a small keyboard controller that would work. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it was enough to at least try to see if this is feasible. That left me with needing a sound source.
Once again I looked to technology to solve this problem. It turns out that my Android phone is now able to connect to my keyboards. All I need is an $8 cable. There is even software that provides an outstanding piano emulation, and it comes in a limited free version. I already have a cable to hook the phone to the PA.
What’s the bottom line? I can try this for the cost of some D cell batteries and a cable. If it works out, I can upgrade bit by bit as I find good deals.
It is both exciting and scary to come this close to a dream I’ve had for so long. I am not scared of performing. Anyone who knows me, knows that. It is something else, my health. What if I am just not strong enough to do this? That scares me. The only way to know is to try. I will do a couple of dry runs at home. Maybe go out to my patio and play to the neighborhood. If that works, I will try the Village. If everything comes together, I will let you know when I am playing so if you are in the area, you can come out and listen.
Wish me luck and…