Tag Archives: Busking

Saturday 28th February 2015- Bucket Drumming, Junkie Interactions and a Gig

This morning I was tapping away on my buckets, entertaining people, drumming up some cash and dealing with the public.

When I first started busking I was afraid of people looking at me. That then upgraded to photos, videos, far too up-close watching like the Flower of Scotland Man, mid-performance conversations, heckling, and more recently, Junkie Interaction.

Lots of people smiled as they passed, although one elderly man with a great big beard paused in front of me to say “That sound is horrible. Please stop”.  A young guy jumped in beside me with a selfie stick, and a few other people took photos and videos. There’s a lot of tourists in Edinburgh.  I also got some (thankfully friendly) junkie attention. I chatted away, comforted by the knowledge that my Public Relations Frying Pan was within easy reach.

One woman strung out on something said she was a rapper, and wanted to try my buckets. She played along with me, the passers-by losing interest in the tuneless racket. Friendly woman though. She gave me a hug before departing unsteadily.

Previous to her, I had another inebriated admirer. He gave me 5p, which was actually very generous considering he didn’t look like he had much money. He was drinking a can of Special Brew or something similar. He said that he loved my drumming and wanted to marry me. We were chatting a bit and I explained that I busk for confidence when playing drums. He said he drinks for confidence, so I suppose confidence is something we have (or don’t have) in common. Busking for confidence when playing gigs will hopefully allow me to have the confidence to play well without requiring drinks, and have all my concentration to give the best performance I can because I’ll be sober.

Busking makes you kind of a part of the streets, even just for a short time, and people who live on those streets are interested to see what’s going on in their area.

Tonight we had our best gig yet. In an Irish Bar which was packed with people like sardines. The dance area was full, partly because there was nowhere left to sit. The bands there were really good and we’d met one of them before at our first gig in Paisley. One band had come all the way from England. They sounded a bit like Sleeping with sirens. My best friend came to see us too. It was loud, we were all packed together, it was hard to hear anyone talking. Before Johansen and MLC therapies it would have been a nightmare scenario.

I was nervous about playing, but not nearly as much as last time. Bucket Busking and fighting nerves with more nerves seems to be working.

People’s reaction to our music was really good and it was so hot in that wee underground bar all our hair was sticking up with sweat, we all went for it and it was an awesome night. It was so amazing to see people enjoying hearing us and having fun! I’m starting to feel like a proper drummer now.

Advertisements

Saturday 14th February 2015- Bucket and Samba Drumming

This morning I was bucket drumming again. Was I well-prepared? Well-rested? Chilled? Nope. That was kind of the point. Sometimes the only way to get over a fear is to scare yourself into not worrying about it anymore. In my case, performance nerves at gigs. If I can play on buckets badly in public, hopefully our next gig will not feel so worrying.

People seemed to quite like bucket drumming, just for the novelty of it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, just making stuff up as I went along, but I showed plenty of enthusiasm. I was drumming after all, and seeing people smile and give me change made me pretty happy.

One of my college friends heard me from the road and had come to see what the racket was. We chatted for a bit.

At one point, two guys in a white van, joiners I think, waiting for the lights to change had spotted me and rolled their window down. They found my buckets hilarious. They were laughing hard, slumped in their seats, not even looking at the road ahead. Something I have discovered recently is that I like to make people laugh. I did my best to entertain them, hamming it up a bit and grinning at them. I flipped a stick and caught it, which just killed them. I waved as they drove off. That was fun.

I had been playing for a short while when a man in a cowboy hat approached me. He introduced himself as Tad and said that if anyone bothered me, I should come see him and some of the other guys who sort of run this thing. I think I knew who he meant. There’s a bunch of amazing street performers who hang out in front of the Fringe Box Office. I asked if he was the tight-rope violinist, and was this his normal spot? Did he need me to move? “No”, he smiled “I escape from straight-jackets and stuff”. He recommended a spot higher up near the cathedral for better acoustics. Flute didn’t attract as much attention as this, although I have met a few of the street performers higher up the Mile.

Kind people gave me some money, one woman giving me a rose from a bunch she was carrying. I had kind of forgotten about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that was why the Mile was so busy!

Since I was the loudest thing on the mile, even giving the bagpipers a run for their money, I moved pitches regularly to give people a break.

On the mound, I also got a good response. Amused interest and encouragement mostly. Valentine’s Day seems to put most people in a good mood.

I was still tapping away when a man a few years older than me stopped to chat and said there was going to be a protest on the Mound soon. He was from a Samba drumming protest group called Rhythms of Resistance. Would I like to join? Yes.

I packed up to watch the samba drums and a rather fantastic paper mache dragon painted with Anti-climate change slogans.

I was waiting for them to start when one of the drummers asked if I wanted to join in. I haven’t played in a Samba group before, but it sounded like fun. I grabbed my mini saucepan and a stick.

Samba is great. The leader (called Benny I think) blew a whistle and did hand signs. I just went with it, playing beside some people with things like cowbells. My few sessions at Edinburgh Drum Society before my schedule got too full, helped with understanding the counting hand signals and pauses. We sort of move from side to side as we played, and at the end, marched around in a circle. It was a lot of fun! Hopefully I’ll see them at a meeting or two if I get some free Thursday nights.

After another brief performance on the Mile, I watched an amazing fire juggler from in front of the Fringe shop. He threw and caught flaming torches while balancing on top of a plank of wood, and cheerfully  warning us to “Watch where you step, some idiot spilled paraffin here!”.

His show was cut short by a policeman who was clearing the street. I wondered what for, then heard a familiar sound. Rhythms for Resistance were at the front of a procession of people blocking the road, with a queue of open-topped Tourist Buses forced to snail it behind them.

Sunday 1st February 2015- Today I’m feeling Optimistic

It’s February, and it’s still cold.

Today I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

I want to be a professional drummer. That would make me so happy I think. Playing music with my friends for a living would be amazing. And it’s not an impossible dream. Without MLC and Johansen, a career as a drummer would never have been an option for me. It’s amazing how much my life has changed since I started and finished these therapies- and what a completely different direction it’s taking from what it would have been otherwise. Without going to see Ian at The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I would not have the coordination to play drums. Simple, everyday movements such as walking and climbing stairs which nowadays are effortless and automatic for me, would still take up conscious thought.

And without Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation Therapy, I would still be afraid of loud noises.

A music theory teacher I had for a short time at school (before he was fired for insulting other members of staff) once said to me “maybe in a parallel universe, Jennifer will do something important with her life”. Imagining a Jenny in a parallel universe who hadn’t had help from Johansen and MLC makes me sad. I have a vague idea of what that story would be like, and as a lover of happy endings, I have a feeling I would be disappointed. Thanks to these therapies I have the opportunity to explore and live up to my full potential- whatever that may be. It’s my duty- and pleasure to live my second chance at life to the full. And of course use my experiences to help other people with Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes as much as I can.

My unpleasant theory teacher wanted me to be a musician. In some ways, he may get what he wished for. Although I reckon that I still have as much aptitude for music theory as a shellfish does for mountaineering. I play a small concert on my flute every weekend I can manage. Some tourists and streetgoers particularly like my flute version of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. The thought of him seeing me play drums- the last instrument anyone at the music school would have expected me to have a talent for- in my usual unquiet, finesseless and deliciously unclassical manner makes me smile.

Tomorrow is Plant Physiology. Meh.

It’s a testament to Johansen IAS that despite a hectic lifestyle juggling a full-time college course, keeping this blog, busking, and being part of a band in another city, my hearing has not been a problem recently. I barely think about it sometimes. I’ve been taking easy, clear sound processing for granted.

However, I will definitely be my Personal Listening Device for class tomorrow. It’s going to be 5 hours of lectures. My hearing may not be 100% perfect, but the fact that I’m so far managing to keep afloat with this course and with life in general astonishes me.

 

Saturday 24th January 2014 – First atttempt at Bucket Drumming

Today was my first attempt at bucket drumming.

After a short practice in my building’s bike shed I hauled my assortment of plastic bins and buckets to The Mound. I wanted to try playing somewhere a but quieter before I attempted Bucket Drumming on The Mile. The Mound seemed empty enough, with a few people around to watch.

My set up:

Snare and Bass- red Tesco bucket with a handle

High tom-  IKEA waste bin with a pretty floral pattern

Low tom- 2 stacked Dulux pots from my uncle’s shed.

The aim of this whole enterprise was to throw myself out of my comfort zone. My logic was that if I could play buckets badly to hundreds of passing tourists, then gigs with a proper kit playing stuff I’ve learned and practiced won’t feel so scary.

I set up my buckets tried to ignore how nervous I felt, and played an improvised beat badly. I did a stick trick, started another wonky beat, dropped a stick and looked up from retrieving it to see people staring at me. I freaked out, shoved my buckets back into the IKEA bag and almost ran out of there.

Town seemed busy today, for a winter morning. After the my first Bucket Shenanigan I went back out with my flute on the Mile near the castle. I earned £2. From a man who sang along with “Flower of Scotland” out of time, key and tune, while standing too close and staring madly into my eyes. Still, that’s 2 quid.

Bucket Drumming isn’t over. It really worked at scaring me, and although my playing was very, very brief, no one heckled me or phoned the police with a noise complaint. I will try again.

Sunday 7th December – Busking

This morning I went out for some busking, with a few Christmas Carols added to my repertoire. On the Royal Mile I met Elaine. She is the world’s most pierced woman, and a lovely person. Her colourful dress, dreadlocks, glittering facepaint and of course, many piercings bring colour to the Mile even in the winter.

She gave me some advice for busking and said that she liked my playing. When she came over to chat and listen to me play, some men wanted a photo with her. She told them to give me a pound instead, because she was busy listening to me right now.

I admire her courage to be the brightest and most colourful person in the street, not afraid to look unusual or to be herself. The world needs more people like Elaine.

Gradually I’m getting to know more of the people of the Mile. There are a few human statues (you have to be on the Mile fairly early to get there before a Human Statue), Market traders with small stalls, some bagpipers, Elaine of course, and a kindly portrait artist who has helped me out with advice when I’ve been busking. Further down the Mile are Fire Jugglers, circus acts and escape artists. They are a part of the street and also a small community, and one of the things I love about Edinburgh. It’s a very different city from Glasgow, but it’s growing on me. 

Saturday 11th November- Busking

Edinburgh has a beautiful Christmas Market complete with little Merchant’s log-cabin-style huts, lights, music and fairground rides. The huge Ferris Wheel lights up and can be seen from far away. The Royal Mile and city centre was packed with tourists on royal mile so I had a quick lunch then grabbed my flute.

I played on the mile, and then near the beautiful Market, all lit up for the gloom of short winter days. There was so many people it was hard to move. I must have played to about 800 people tonight as they passed, possibly more if I included people within earshot. Something new I had to deal with was weirdos within the crowd. A man who seemed pretty inebriated was fascinated by my flute. For a few seconds he stood nose to nose with me, muttering, pressing at the keys of my flute randomly, as if trying to play a tune. I kept playing despite this, ignoring him, and he moved on. That’s the biggest distraction I’ve had to deal with so far. With so many people around, I felt that he probably wouldn’t be a threat, but this made me consider what I would do next time. It was an eye-opener that where there are lots of people, and I’m drawing attention, I sometimes might have to deal with some nutters. I realised I really need to pay more attention to the streets and keep a look out for people who might cause me trouble or try to steal my flute.                                

It was the peak of Christmas Shopping Time, people holding onto their money, and I’m not the best or most exciting busker in the world. I earned less than £5, about 5p of that from the crossing near the Market. My pitch by a road crossing probably wasn’t a good idea, people rushing past me to cross to the opposite pavement, but the other places were taken or swamped by Christmas music from the market’s speakers.  It’s still money though. And after today I’m much less scared of our second gig!  

 

Sunday 12th October- Good day for Busking

Woke up and went busking. Sunny day, lots of people out on the Royal Mile. My list of songs is starting to get longer. I have a new knitted beanie hat in pretty autumnal colours, and it might be magical. I didn’t bring my Thank You-have-a-nice-day-smiley-face sign today. Strangely, my way of thanking people (because I play a wind instrument, most of the time I can’t stop to say thanks) seemed to put them off. Perhaps it reminds them of cardboard signs some people have when they’re begging. I’m not begging. I’m doing my best to entertain people and make them smile. The main aim besides a little extra money is to play in public so often that when it comes to my first gig on drums, I’m not really nervous.

People were very generous today. One very kind woman dressed in pink gave me £10! I saw her pass, looked down in my case and there were two five-pound notes! I was absolutely thrilled, Before I could gather my wits to shout Thank You! she was gone. I played for three hours in a few different spots. Sunstreams by Ian Clarke is a favourite. It’s one of the best ever songs written for flute. A guy about my age in a Guns ’n’ Roses tee and heavy boots gave me some change. I think he heard me play the start of Run to Hills by Iron Maiden as a break between classical pieces. I played part of This I Love for him. I think he heard it as he was walking away up down the mile and looked back. I love it when people enjoy music I play.

Busking has helped me get back my love of playing flute. After a five year ihateus I sometimes can’t wait to get playing, and think of all the songs I could learn for busking. It’s getting easier to play. My arms ache less after holding my flute up for hours, and I’m remembering more old songs. My sound is improving. Unlike at school, there is no pressure to be perfect, I just have to be good enough for people passing by to enjoy listening.

Wednesday 1st October- Reality & TV

Today I had a half day at college. I talked to the learning support teacher about my Auditory Processing Difficulties. My lecturers know I may miss information in lectures, and I can go to them or my support teacher if I need help.

After college I went busking. I made £2.67 and got moved on by a security guard because I was unintentionally playing outside Edinburgh High Court and interrupting a hearing. I’ve been living here 3 weeks. I don’t know where the courts are, and would never want to disturb people with my music. Some busking sessions are better than others. At least the security guard was friendly. I think she relaxed a bit when she realised I was there by accident and mostly harmless.

My evening was great. I ate more defrosted spag bol, with defrosted cake for dessert (salvaged from the toaster with forks and marigold gloves) and watched Chuck, my favourite TV series.

People on TV seem closer to real life people in the way that they act and appear to feel. I couldn’t see the similarity until now. TV has more depth and emotion now that real life does too. I’m realising that TV people are based on the way that real people act and react. There are a lot of social cues on TV as well as Real Life. It’s weird, but weird in a good way.  

 

SUnday 28th September- More Busking

I got up earlyish, practiced a little then headed out to royal mile. This morning I had put effort into learning the main song from  Frozen. I thought that people would like it, but the general attitude to it was more like, meh. Maybe they’d heard it too many times already. I did get a request from a guy with a 1ft Mohican for a flute rendition of The Dead Kennedys. I put it on my list. I do play some rock music. It’s something I’m working on it. At the moment I playing one of the more melodic songs by Nine Inch Nails, called Losing Hope. It’s slow, sad and beautiful. It’s hard to play angry, edgy stuff on a flute. And something I’ve noticed is that tourists often prefer happy songs. Playing endless mournful stuff won’t earn me much.

I did okay, £10 for about 3 hours. Some of that was spent walking to different pitches. The top of the royal mile seems to be best, but you have to arrive fairly early to get a spot. I thought I’d found a patch until a bagpiper turned up and drowned me out.  Since a flute is a piercing instrument and echoes on the buildings, I don’t need an amplifier. But bagpipes still trump all.

Would I have had the confidence to play in the street in the past, before I went to Johansen IAS & MLC Scotland? Never. My confidence is growing. Even events like yesterday help. It can’t go as badly as that, I think to myself. I’m just starting out at busking, and although I’m not the best street musician there, it’s a relief to probably not be the least skilled.

I wouldn’t have busked in Glasgow. It’s easier to start in a very busking-friendly city, where barely anyone knows you. I suppose that busking actually is a good way for many people to know and recognize you, but I’m doing it because I love music, could do with a little extra money, and want to kill my performance nerves before my first gig as a drummer. It gives my flute a purpose. I love playing to people and seeing some of them smile as they pass. I feel like thanks to the Johansen and MLC therapies, and my fresh start in a new city, old parts of me which I’d forgotten are starting to come back to life.

Off to a friend’s house in the afternoon. We bought some drinks, watched the start of Hot Fuzz and had dinner.

On my way home I passed a homeless man. It’s so sad that people still have to live without shelter, especially in this wealthy country. It makes me angry that life has failed them. I’d given him a little change on my way past, but almost forgot about the big bottle of Mango Rubicon in my bag and went back with it. I probably wouldn’t use it. Maybe he’d like it. When I asked, he said yes, he did want it thanks. He said you’re gorgeous I love you. Not in a creepy way, which is kind of how it sounds here. More like, in return for a litre bottle of mango Rubicon, he wanted to give me the nicest words he could find. I hope his life gets better. He seemed like a nice man and worth writing about.

That’s me written up the last week in one night. I’ve been too busy to write recently! The Gibberish Dictionary website is very neglected.

Now the theme tune of Frozen is stuck in my head. Tomorrow is my first day of a pretty much 9-5 course.

It will be a lot of work, there’s not doubt about that. But I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and chatting with my class. There’s a social side of college I never got near at school. Now I can talk to my friends, hang around with them, hear enough and have the confidence and attitude and energy to be completely included. Before I could hear clearly, it was like every sound and thought was foggy and I had nothing to contribute. Now I’ve been hanging around in a group with my college friends, talking and laughing. Maybe even the odd race on the wheeled common area chairs is in store for me. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

Sunday 21st September- My first Busking session

It was a sunny morning, so I had a quick, very quiet practice in my room, then went out busking. The top end of the royal mile heading towards the castle was very busy with tourists and street performers. Buskers, jugglers, a couple of invisible people wearing suits, a the Most Pierced Woman in the World (who is featured in the Guinness book of records), a floating man dressed as yoda, and some human statues. I moved a few times so not to annoy people, and because my list of music to play is still quite small. I played for about an hour and a half and some people gave me money! A generous woman gave me a two pound coin. Some of the tourists who took a photo of me also put some money in my case.

I think I made about £6.50.

It makes me happy that people enjoyed my music and paid me as a result.

Today there was an anti-climate change march in Edinburgh, so I joined it. We walked (you can’t really think o it as a march with smiling people in colourful clothes, plus their children and pets) along the city centre road and blocked a bus lane. It was fun.

Now I have to clean my bike, make dinner and tomorrow’s lunch, do my laundry and get ready for tomorrow’s garden road trip. We’re going to Dundee, which is quite a long way, but there’s not many people I’d rather be stuck on a bus with.