I have been dreaming of putting my kids to work and retiring on the sweet riches of their adorkability. Let’s face it: they each have more talent in their little finger than I could ever contribute to their genetic make-up. Busking is a great way to make a buck from any talent, but there’s more to it than just turning up on a street and rocking out a tune. In fact, the real benefit of busking has very little to do with the money it generates.
The best reward for kids busking is self-confidence.
Yeah, I know. You see the hat or basket out front and think, “Well that’s a nice little stash.” And yes, it can generate some pocket-money for your budding musicians. Just don’t use that as the sole benefit of busking.
Busking is performance art. It’s about having enough confidence in yourself to put it out there. Be it music, stunt work, sketching, or reciting poetry, it all comes down to using your innate art to entertain others. The only way to improve any talent is to practice, practice, practice. And some of the best practice is in front of people.
This is not about gaining the “right exposure”. A music profession isn’t for everyone. To be totally honest, Sinister isn’t currently looking at a music career. It’s about having a fun.
Sinister is 10 years old. He has been playing the trumpet for about three and a half years. He has been in the school band program for two years. I’m his mother and while I think he is pretty good, I know he is no virtuoso.
Yet I have noticed more improvement in the last month of busking than in a whole year of music lessons.
Because Sinister is learning how to play his music to an audience, not just sheet music to a teacher. When he makes a mistake, he is no longer freaking out and messing up the entire piece. He is learning to move on or sometimes improvise a recovery for that particular, misplaced note. He is understanding the flow of music. And he is really starting to pick up on human behavior; which music suits the crowd, which outfit matches the climate, when he needs to be solemn and when he can bounce around with a bit of fun.
If your kids are considering busking their talents, here are a few tips from Sinister to help you get started:
- Build Your Confidence: You don’t have to be perfect—in fact busking is great for any kid with perfectionist issues. The point of busking is to test yourself and your music, and have fun doing it! You’re going to need a few songs in your arsenal first, nothing overly complex but definitely more than just Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had a Little Lamb. You need to be able to play about 10 songs well enough to be recognized by people passing by, and not palmed off as “noise pollution”. Now is the right time to pick out your five favorite and start practicing for a month or so before busking (good suggestions include Star Wars, Disney, etc).
- Busking is the Ultimate Practice: If you have any music exams coming up soon, now is the time to practice them in front of a crowd. There is seriously no better way to conquer your exam fears than exposing every mistake to the greater public!
- Respect for Yourself, and Respect for Others: Protect your interests first and make sure you gain a permit for busking, for child and supervising adult. This also makes it a lot easier when interacting with other buskers. Let them finish their song before talking about the change-over, or sharing the public space.
- Be Grateful: You don’t have to stop mid-song to say thank-you to any coin dropped in, but any acknowledgement (from a smile, nod, or even a poster saying Thanks!) will show better spirit than anything you play.
- Feed the Music: No, seriously. Pace yourself. Drink plenty of water. Bring a snack if you need. Particularly for younger kids, take a break. This is not a job. It’s meant to be fun!
That’s pretty much it. You will be amazed at how much you can achieve by just giving it a go. Any money your kids make is definitely a sweet reward. But nowhere near the ambrosia of personal achievement. Every session I have attended with Sinister, I have been approached by a fellow musician or fellow parent-of-a-musician. We have shared stories and tips of busking, learning a little from each encounter. Overall, I have found the entire experience so positive I wish I had busked when I was a kid (except for the lack of talent and all).
If you take any video of your busking antics, share the link the comments below! Busking is a community event, and we’d love to check out the competition *wink, wink*