[Harp-L] busking/street performing -- seeking advice

Peter Beck kpfbeck@xxxxx
Thu Jun 30 11:41:58 EDT 2016

Hello Fellow Chewers of the Tin Sandwich,

I believe that many harp-l participants have experience as street
performers, and I would greatly appreciate the benefit of any advice and
wisdom you can impart. I’m inbetween day jobs and hoping to fill some of
the time with busking as a solo act. I’m going to be “official”; the street
performer license in Chicago is $100 and it’s good for two years, so that’s
not a significant barrier.

My questions divide into two streams. General questions about street
performing, and specific questions about street performing with the harp.

General: I think I know what to do about bathroom breaks, and how to keep a
fleet-footed thief from stealing all the tips. I’m curious about requests,
as in, do you get them, and what songs do people request? But there’s a lot
I haven’t considered, I’m sure. If there was one thing you wish you’d been
told, before you started out, what would that be?

Harp: I’d like to describe my planned setup and see if it seems workable,
or if improvements can be suggested. I’ve got a Crate Taxi wedge amp, 15
watts. Please don’t tell me that’s not enough power for playing outdoors,
cuz that’s the amp I’m stuck with. I have a Shure microphone. The Crate has
an XLR input, so yay. It’s also got a stereo input from my mp3 player, and
I’ve got a bunch of good backing tracks ready. (I’m a big fan of the Jimi
Lee GrooveTrax set, and I’m augmenting that with some bluegrass tracks from
a Homespun set, and some of the Steve Cohen Little Walter play-alongs.)
I’ve got a cheat sheet prepared that reminds me of the key and BPM of all
the tracks.

Here's where it gets more granular and I need more guidance. I would love
to be able to vary my harp tone, and I have a little Zoom effects processor
that offers lots of possibilities. But it doesn’t seem to work well with
the mic and the amp. As in, the bypass doesn’t seem to be a true bypass,
and when I cut in the effect, the gain really jumps and I have to do a lot
of knob-twiddling to resolve feedback. (Yes, I’m running the mic thru the
effects processor. I realize that’s not optimal, but when I take the time
to fiddle with settings, the result is pretty decent. It’s just that I
can’t expect passers-by to hang out while I fool around with stuff in

Much obliged for any assistance you can provide.

Bright moments,

Peter Beck

kpfbeck at xxxxx

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