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Street musicians
7 February 2014
Funny Paper
Candlestick Park
Forum Posts: 2080
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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In my day, I've played my guitar out on the sidewalk, just a couple of times.  Once it was amusing: I had arrived way too early for an open mike at a restaurant in a shopping mall, like three hours too early, so it being a nice day, I sat out on a bench, opened up my guitar case, and sat back to practice.  I didn't intend to be playing for money, but people kept walking by and throwing money into my open case!

Anyway, the main point of my topic here is to note a very common guitar-playing style among street musicians.  99 times out of a 100, they strum broad chords with a pick, in a very basic 4/4 rhythm, mostly 3-chord patterns.  If they aren't doing that, they are picking, again with a pick, some bluesy riffs.  I have never seen a street musician actually fingerpicking, nor fingerpicking any chord changes that sound remotely sophisticated, nor employing rhythms that go beyond basic simple 4/4 stuff.

I understand that if you're out on the street, you need to be loud, and strumming with a pick helps to do that.  Still, it would be nice if once in a while I heard someone on the street do something like this...


Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...

7 February 2014
Thankfully not where I am.


Forum Posts: 24533
Member Since:
1 May 2011
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FP, that link at the bottom doesn't work, goes to a Beatles Bible 404 page.


"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris)

8 February 2014
Candlestick Park
Forum Posts: 1913
Member Since:
17 October 2013
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Some take it to quite sophisticated levels...

8 February 2014
The Foothills of the Headlands
London Palladium
Forum Posts: 184
Member Since:
18 January 2014
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I actually don't see street musicians very often. The last one I saw, though, was playing a rendition of Yesterday on a flute. He got a buck or two for his effort. a-hard-days-night-paul-8

8 February 2014
Behind the moon
Paris Olympia

Forum Posts: 328
Member Since:
16 December 2013
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You can count me in those 99 out of 100 street musicians. Although I only play when I'm in Germany, which, if I am lucky, is once a year for a few weeks. My first try at the very thing was exactly what I would want to hear from a street musician, the same thing Funny Paper noted, and I finger-picked through my most impressive of songs. But it is also right that street musicians need to be loud, so I decided to give singing a try. And that's how I started to actually get money. 

My playing itself is never the 4/4 rhythm and 3 chords to strum through, though, and given that I learn songs by ear, I always try to add a seventh or a fifth every here and there to make the whole thing more interesting. I've also noticed that people are happier to leave a tip when they see a horrible guitar being played. I once borrowed a really good guitar and barely made 20 euro in an hour, which compared to the money I made playing my uncle's terrible excuse for a guitar, is nothing. Singing was the key for me, and loud, emotional songs are those that attract most of the attention. 

I do allow myself the luxury to finger-pick as a few minutes break, and I've been lucky to encounter a few people who actually cared to listen. However, there is no escaping the fact that most people can't really tell the difference between strumming and actually playing something more complicated just with passing by. So it all comes down to the reason a street musician would come out to play, really; to make money or to share the music. For me, it is safe to say that it is a bit of both, although I do lean a bit more on the money side of things as it is the only way I can actually make some. Could make money, actually, while I was in Germany. Here in Macedonia, especially the town I live in, if I'd dare to sit down and play, I'm sure people would throw tomatoes at me. 

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