Music Gear News
Guide to Busking - Get Performing Outdoors this Summer
Busking means performing outdoors. Summer is the perfect time to bring your music to the streets, so we’ve put together this handy guide to get you started.
What is busking?
If you ever visit London or any other major city, you can’t help but see an abundance of musicians and entertainers performing on the streets. From solo entertainers to complete bands and theatre troupes, busking is a great chance to show off your music and even make some money (donated, of course).
How do I start busking?
There are three things you should do if you want to start busking.
- Hone your act. Make sure you have a great set list of material and you’re well-practised. About 30 minutes’ worth of music is a great starting point for your first busking trip.
- Get the right gear. Sure, you can go busking with an acoustic instrument and your voice. However, the streets can be surprisingly noisy, and you’ll want to make sure you can be heard. The easiest way to get amplified is with a battery-powered solution, and this is where our guide will help you. From compact amplifiers to battery-powered PA, these self-contained devices are perfect for performing on the streets.
- Check your local town or city council for guidelines. Every location is different with its busking rules. Some require you to apply for a permit, others may even require a visit from an official. Don’t take the chance and just turn up to busk – you may be asked to move on.
How to Busk
There are a few things you should think about on your first busking trip.
- Choosing your spot. Find a location that is suitable for your act. Loud and proud? Choose a high street with lots of people. Quiet and intimate? Seek a more relaxed location.
- If you’re in a popular town on a nice day, chances are there will be other buskers too. Don’t set up too closely to them or try to play louder. You should find a spot where you can perform comfortably and not compete directly. Also, don’t hog a spot for too long – 30 minutes is a great guide if there are a lot of musicians around.
- The locals. Shops and restaurants may well appreciate the atmosphere provided by a great entertainer. Just make sure you’re not playing the same material on repeat, and that you’re not inconveniencing any customers.
- Making money. Buskers are allowed to leave an open collection for voluntary donations. Some musicians can earn a very decent amount in a day! However, buskers are not allowed to sell CDs or merchandise – this would require a trading licence.
How to Power Busking Equipment
So, you’ve honed your performance and got the right musical instruments. Here’s your options for performing outdoors.
- Go acoustic. If you’ve got a nice quiet spot and a loud instrument, simply get performing! Choirs and brass bands have done this for decades.
- Go battery powered. Take your keyboard, microphones, electric guitars, or other electric instrument and plug into a speaker with a built-in battery.
- Go with a full system. If you’re a larger act with the need for a full PA, simply take your complete setup and seek out a marine battery or a generator. These will provide the power you need.
Which amp should I use for busking?
Here’s our pick of the top amplifiers for buskers. All you need to do is bring your own microphones or instruments, and you’ll be ready to go!
Guitar Focussed Amplifiers with Vocal Input
Play guitar? If you need an amp to shape your sound, as well as offer an input for a vocal microphone, a portable guitar amplifier may be the perfect solution for your busking setup.
1. Roland MICRO CUBE GX Guitar Amplifier
The Roland MICRO Cube is not only a great practice amp for guitarists, it’s also a fantastic busking amplifier. With multiple amp voicings, built-in effects, onboard tuner, auxiliary input, and powered by AA batteries, the MICRO CUBE is the perfect compact solution for guitarists.
Shop now | Roland MICRO CUBE GX Guitar Amplifier, Black
2. SubZero Rechargeable Busking Amp
The SubZero Busking Amp allows you to perform for 4 hours on a single charge – ideal for a day of busking. With both microphone and guitar inputs, this amp is the perfect solution for guitarist-vocalists. The guitar input offers multiple effects and amp models (including acoustic), while the microphone input has an independent echo effect. The SubZero Busking Amp also has a Bluetooth auxiliary input, so you can play backing tracks straight from your phone.
Shop now | SubZero Rechargeable Busking Amp
3. Roland Street Cube
The Roland Street Cube is the bigger sibling of the Micro Cube. A 15-hour battery life is more than enough for a day’s performing, while the independent channels for microphone and guitar allow you set up the perfect sound for singing and playing. 8 amplifier models make this a fantastic practice amp for guitarists, and the handy carry case is perfect for hitting the streets.
4. Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge Acoustic Combo
If you’re an acoustic instrumentalist, you should seriously consider a battery-powered acoustic guitar amp. Able to recreate the sound of acoustic guitars, violins and other acoustic instruments (provided they have an on-board pickup), these amps are known for their clarity and pristine sound. The Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge has two inputs for instrument and microphone, and it provides 12 hours of battery life – perfect for street performances. Professional musicians will appreciate the Bluetooth playback, DI output, built-in reverb/chorus, and 3-band EQ.
Shop now | Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge Acoustic Combo
See more | Guitar Amplifiers
Need more inputs? A portable PA could be the way to go for your busking setup.
5. Bose S1 Pro
The Bose S1 Pro is a super compact, multi-position PA speaker with two inputs for guitar or microphone. Each input features Bose’s incredible ToneMatch presets, optimised for acoustic guitar and vocals. A handy Bluetooth aux-in lets you play your backing tracks out loud, while the battery pack delivers 6 hours of operation from a single charge. This portable PA speaker is perfect for both outdoor performance and indoor use.
6. Mackie FreePlay LIVE
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE is a stage-ready solution with a lightweight and intuitive design. 150 watts of power provides crystal-clear sound, while the 15-hours battery life ensures you’ll never be caught short. The dual inputs allow musicians and vocalists to get plugged in, while the Blueooth aux-in and FreePlay Connect app provides total wireless playback and control.
7. Alto UBER PA
A PA speaker with up to 50 hours of battery-powered performance?! No problem with the Alto UBER PA. This compact speaker features dual inputs for mic/line as well as an auxiliary connection via Bluetooth and jack input. The Alto UBER PA excels with its super compact and rugged design – perfect for performing on the streets or taking to your next outdoor party.
Shop now | Alto UBER PA Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
8. SubZero SZPA-P15 Portable PA
This is where outdoor performance gets really serious. The SubZero SZPA-P15 features a powerful 15” speaker with a full and balanced sound. Two wireless handheld microphones are provided for vocal performers, while two hard-wired mic-in and line-in connections ensure you can connect your instruments or a mixing desk. A built-in audio player can stream music from SD, USB, or Bluetooth – perfect for backing tracks. With a battery-powered design featuring wheels and an extendable handle, the SZPA-P15 is ideal for busking.
Also check out the SubZero SZPA-P10X for a more compact solution with a single wireless mic.
9. SubZero Battery Powered Column PA
Have you heard of line array technology? Well, if you’ve been to a large concert recently, you have most likely heard it in action. The SubZero Portable Column PA features several miniature drivers mounted in a column, combined with a sub-woofer unit on the floor. The result is exceptional sound coverage across your stage, with minimal drop-off in volume the further back you are from the speaker. Combine this with a built-in 8-channel mixer, 6-10 hours of battery power, auxiliary input, and Bluetooth, and you have a great solution for busking in bigger spaces.
10. Behringer Europort PPA500BT
PA Systems like this Behringer Europort offer fantastic portability and power. How does 500 Watts sound with 6 input channels? The Europort features Bluetooth connectivity and support for Behringer’s own wireless Ultralink ULM Series microphones – simply plug in a Behringer USB dongle and you’re ready to connect.
So, what’s the caveat? Unfortunately, there’s no battery power here. This level of power and functionality means you’ll need to research external power options, whether that’s a marine battery and inverter, a generator, or outdoor mains power. If you can sort this out, you’ll be rewarded with the power of a full PA system.
See more | Portable PA Systems
Bonus – Handy Gear for Busking
Here are some items which could really help you with your busking performances!
Shop now | PA Speaker Stand by Gear4music, Single
Shop now | ADJ ACA/Case Cart Equipment Trolley
Shop now | Zoom H1n Recorder, Black
Read More | See the latest Music Gear News at Gear4music
By Matt Wilkinson
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