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Discussion Starter #1
So me and a few friends (a trumpet player and a trombone player) got done with a concert today and were not doing anything, so we decided to just start playing our instruments and "jamming" in the key of Bb (trom on a bass line, trumpet on a melody type thing, sax on the middle harmony) and it sounded pretty sweet if i do say so myself, and we even got a few bucks out of it and drew a pretty good crowd (even got some people dancing!). So we decided, heck why not do this more often for the fun of it?

So, I'm looking for ANYTHING that anyone can offer. advice, great tunes that you know work well and would work with only these instruments. We don't know any bass players who are decent enough to be able to do this with us or really any other instruments for that matter, so its pretty much just us three. Anything at all would be helpful! Thank you all in advance!
 

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I made $17.46 in three hours playing in the rain yesterday. What advice do you think I have?

So here is something we did a lot of in the Army Band, standing around, waiting to play the national anthem. One guy plays a four bar phrase, maybe a lick that goes up. You guys might want to write something down to remember it, but once you get the hang of it, you can manufacture stuff to blow on. Everybody play all in the groove together.

Then play a second phrase with the riff or lick going down. The easier, bluesy swinging simple stuff works the best, so you all sound in the pocket. Alternate the two.

Then a third phrase, so that you each can mix and match of them, play them in rounds like Row Row Your Boat. and see if you can end up all back on the first riff honking it out all together again eventually.

You can do the same thing with two funk licks that work call and response, but then have a popping background that each guy can solo over, in turn and insert the 'head' in between solos. There are so many ways to arrange head charts, that once you stumble on cool stuff try and remember it.

Then we got really crafty and then everybody play a simple blues lick like Rock Me Baby, Sunshine of your Love, or Diving Duck Blues then learn it C7 F7 G7 so you can play 12 bar funky country blues with stupid simple rock licks. Then each guy solo over that. It's easy to develop head chart type backgrounds, one of the two guys plays root third and the other guy root seventh. Simple punchy rhythms and hole notes so you hear the chords change easily. Once you figure out how to make that stuff work. I'm sure you will get bored, start adding 9ths and 13ths, and be funking away in time.

Generally people are so stupid. They don't know music from a hole in the ground. You can impress people so easily with music. The real key to making bucks, is in the entertainment bidnezz. Go to Goodwill, or thrift store to get some nice white shirts, loud ties, double breasted suit coats, and funky jazz hats. You can impress people even more if you make faces like you are really into it too.

Playing solo is a lot of work. A trio sounds like a third the work... and a third of the tip jar too. Hard to imagine a bigger group. I don't think you have to have a ton of material, it's just that the more stuff you prepare you won't get bored. Weekends a hundred people pass me every minute and are gone. I get all of about 45 seconds in the time it takes them to walk by. I could play the same thing over and over or play my StreeTunes list down with the same result. Trust me there have been days when all I did was play 12 bar blues for an hour in one key. It doesn't matter. Hey you guys, memorized the Omni-Book and play that stuff together like Super Sax. I'd give you money to hear that!!!

The other night a hot, hot blond about 25 comes up to me, listens for a minute with a big grin on her face. I never stop playing until I'm done. She goes,"Oohh, saxophone is my favorite instrument!!!"... and sticks a five dollar bill in my case then keeps going. I was playing Dizzy's tune BeBop. Twenty minutes later a most attractive middle aged woman dressed to the nines, heels, jewelry... looks me right in the eyes and says, "Thank you so much for playing music."

Meow. I never stop. She drops a twenty dollar bill in the case. I was playing TuneUp/Countdown changes.

You boys are playing with fire. Be careful. Music is a powerful thing.
 

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Oh TenorCat, Oh TenorCat
Certainly enjoyed your post.
Only thing I would add is to
Wear a hat on bright sunny days
So your head don’t roast!
DDR -> Typing from Bed.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
To those of you who are interested (me sharing my stories of my first real busking venture) we went out tonight and played a few tunes we had memorized, did our jam, and we came out with a $50 profit (total, about $16 a person) and that was after an hour, and we all had a blast doing it. The thing I notice is that the more you and your buddies are "into it", the more likely you are to get a crowd and thus get some money. Me and the other two horn players had like some synchronized motions going on and people were loving it. We all pretended to be crazy into our solos (half as a joke) and we had people dancing away in front of us. It was a pretty good time. We aren't really in it for the money, but for playing in a city where busking just plain does not happen, we got a much better turn out than I anticipated.

Oh, and tenorcat, you always have the most interesting of posts. I love your statement of "Generally people are so stupid". It about sums it up too haha.
 

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I go out every day to play. I'm humbled by people's generous and caring sprit... then witness or experience the most cruel behavior. Hustle and flo baby.

I so proud of you man. It takes some kind of guts to go play on the street. I know I never would have considered it until a few years ago, when I started busking by accident.

You are lucky to have found a place to do you thing, not get busted for noise, hassled by junkies or street kids... or have to "own" your spots. Shoot, the good weather is coming up and there are all kinds of events that you could set up on. If you pick you spots and maybe have a couple regular spots to hit on the weekend... you could make some bucks.

What else you got going on? Gonna bag groceries, mow lawns or wash cars for the summer? You guys just made your summer gig. You need hats right away though.

Listen man, when I was first starting to play the tenor, there was a bar band that was one of the first live bands I ever saw. They played a dance in the cafeteria of the Jr, College, the ticket was $1.50. They were called Tower of Power. I have followed them for all these years, through many incarnations and line up changes. Tower has always had the highest musical, writing, recording standards. Why are they not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?? Do yourself a favor and go see Tower while Rocco and DG are still kickin' it.

Watch this. These guys are not above a little choreography. It's kind of like; Hippness is what it is, Hippness is what it is, Hippness is what it is... but sometimes hipness is what it ain't.


I guess what I'm saying is, if you can play... you can do any thing you want. Shuck and jive goes a long long way, but musicianship, shedding, rehearsal is what it takes to be legit. A lot of people have ears. If you can create a musical vibration that resonates with people... you will be blown away how much money they give you. It's really that simple.

Last evening, $56.23 and a guy who has restaurant/bakery gave me two big shopping bags of food in two and a half hours. There was a little drizzle, but people were out and about. I played Joy Spring, Groovin' High, Twisted, Jordu, Daahoud, Impressions, Moment's Notice, Lazy Bird, Giant Steps, Seven Steps to Heaven, Well You Needn't, 'Round Midnight, and finished with three originals tunes until my chops were jello.

Got to get going to the Saturday Market... keep playing that horn every day.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I'm also going to be waiting tables this summer at a nice restaurant on the lake. After last night's little adventure though we are definitely going to attempt to make it a weekend thing (at the very least). I'm lucky in that I am sort of a pioneer in the street performing area in my town because really, there isn't anyone who does it. There's gigs here and there (nothing much for a horn section to do) but I have yet to see one other street performer. So maybe that will mean a little bit of a bonus paycheck for being one of a kind? One can only hope.

Is it just you who does it or do you have any other players with you or at the very least some backgrounds? It seems crazy to think that anyone could make money in this day and age with nothing but a saxophone and a hat. Especially on like bop tunes and other jazz tunes that "normal" people might not listen to. Maybe I underestimate the general public, but I don't really see those going over well. How do you make that work?
 

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I go out every day to play. I'm humbled by people's generous and caring sprit... then witness or experience the most cruel behavior. Hustle and flo baby.

I so proud of you man. It takes some kind of guts to go play on the street. I know I never would have considered it until a few years ago, when I started busking by accident.

You are lucky to have found a place to do you thing, not get busted for noise, hassled by junkies or street kids... or have to "own" your spots. Shoot, the good weather is coming up and there are all kinds of events that you could set up on. If you pick you spots and maybe have a couple regular spots to hit on the weekend... you could make some bucks.

What else you got going on? Gonna bag groceries, mow lawns or wash cars for the summer? You guys just made your summer gig. You need hats right away though.

Listen man, when I was first starting to play the tenor, there was a bar band that was one of the first live bands I ever saw. They played a dance in the cafeteria of the Jr, College, the ticket was $1.50. They were called Tower of Power. I have followed them for all these years, through many incarnations and line up changes. Tower has always had the highest musical, writing, recording standards. Why are they not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame??
+1. Tower of Power has been so good for so long; I remember seeing them as a high school kid the first time and LOVING them! IMHO they still are fantastic and I will still pay to hear them any time.

Good for you guys playing out - that sounds fun (if you can play - I can't). Tenorcat I make it to Portland every once in a while; if I see someone playing on the street, I'm going to ask!
 

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In this day of wall-of-sound, over-the-top vocal histrionics, and all-electric over-hyped music, a single un-amplified wind instrument being played on the street may appeal to a lot of folks, regardless of whether the music being played is some unknown-to-many bebop thing or one of the great tunes from the American song-book. So, those strolling by may be initially impressed enough to stop for a minute and toss some coins or bills into a hat or open case, JUST because of the seemingly uniqueness of it.

I'm guessing it is even better when the player is really good and/or the tunes are recognizable by more than the one-percent of the populace who listens to modern jazz. DAVE
 

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It seems crazy to think that anyone could make money in this day and age with nothing but a saxophone and a hat. Especially on like bop tunes and other jazz tunes that "normal" people might not listen to. Maybe I underestimate the general public, but I don't really see those going over well. How do you make that work?
Crazy. Yes, right.

Except I'm not into the show biz part... no hat.

What Dave has said here is very close to what happens mostly. It's a novelty for some people. But I have steady 'clients' who support me, or a guy gave me five bucks, saying I heard you the other day, you sounded great but I didn't have any money.

Don't underestimate how generally stupid, tasteless, clueless, gullible the great unwashed masses are when it comes to musical taste. Or how the corporate media brain washes us. I wonder how they make the stuff I hear on commercial radio work?

It's all relative. I don't see how people pay money to listen to Metal or Country. That is crazy. I get the music part, just doesn't resonate for me. I saw Black Sabbath on their 1st American tour. They were horrible. The worst band I ever heard. Worse than Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer or Grand Funk Railroad. I digress.

When I was ten I started playing clarinet in the instrumental music program in school. I took private lessons from an old Italian man named Joe Alessi, who was the principal trumpet player in the SF Symphony. He is a famous cat because he invented the Alessi Mute. My brother took trumpet from him, and my mother didn't want to drive us twice to lessons. He taught me how to count, practice, work with a metronome and fill the horn up. He wouldn't let me play a single note unless I was honking on it and supporting my air column. Very strict, never let me slide on anything. Either it was right or not.

In Jr, High, I took from Matt Schoen who played all the doubles, wrote, arranged like a maniac. My first lesson, he had to move stacks of manuscript paper for me to be able to sit somewhere. He copied/transposed charts in ink from the score. Old school musicianship. He was a union contractor and musical director for everything from shows to the circus. He hired orchestras to rhythm sections for a huge theater in the round. For many years he conducted touring shows for Tom Jones, Supremes, Strisand, Sinatra/Eckstien, BB King, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash... everybody... you name it. He had a rehearsal band on Wednesday nights with all the baddest horn players around. That is where is son Neil Schoen started playing guitar on his Journey to rock stardom.

At this point in time in the schools, we had these Solo and Ensemble Festivals every spring. Matt helped me to learn how to memorize music, how to perform pieces, try to say something with phrasing. He was a very laid back guy and not a "legit" player, but his sense of quality or what was "right" in the music was still very strict. So every spring all through high school, I prepared a clarinet solo, and Junior and Senior years, I played a duets with a chick who was taking from the principal oboeist in the Symphony, who had the chop.

I always managed to nail the performances and get blue ribbons, but the last two years, we and I, got Command Performances for some hard pieces. Matt got me to relax in my playing, not be nervous because I knew every note, breath and dynamic marking to exaggeration. Just get up there and mow through it. Late in the afternoon all the Command Performance winners had to get up and perform for the whole competition. When you are a kid an you get a standing ovation, it's cool.

So, I guess I came up rehearsing and performing. Matt got me to "practice performing", so when you get on stage it is no different. The best times in my life have been playing in bands, orchestras, big bands or electric fusion bands, whatever, playing in front audiences. When you know you are going to go out there and kill... and then you do... it's addictive.

I started a thread in the Solo Performer section where I had hoped to talk about playing solo, being a solo performer on a monophonic instrument, and what might be different about soloing over changes with out any other voices. I have been thinking and experimenting for a long time with the concept of playing a capella. It's just been in the last two years of so that I decided to devote my attention to it.

One day I was playing Giant Steps changes. A lady walking a dog says, you sound like John Coltrane and puts bills in the case. I say, probably because I'm playing a Coltrane composition. Do you know this tune? I play Da, da, da, da, daaa... da, daa? Blank stare. Giant Steps? No, not this time.

Ten minutes later, two young black guys dressed in fly hip-hop threads come by. They go, "You play Donna Lee?" I never miss a beat, I modulate out of where I am, and rip the head to Donna Lee. These guys look at each other and start laughing so hard, high fivein' and then they start break dancing through like two choruses! I never stopped playing. They turned out every pocket and wallet dumping every last bill, cent and other unspecified goodies they had, in my case. Too funny.

First rule of busking... never make eye contact... never stop playing. A middle aged guy with an expensive camera, stopped to listen to me, waited until I took a drink to talk to me. He is on vacation here, but lives in the neighborhood in SF where I grew up. He says, you sound really good, where do you play in town? I play right here under the bridge. No, don't you have a gig and CDs out? No, I am a bum... you listen to jazz? I love jazz. I'll tell you what. I will give you fifty bucks if you can tell me the name of this tune, and a hundred bucks if you can tell me who wrote it. I played the first phrases of Four, Lullaby of Birdland, Lush Life... off the top of my head.

No, no recognition. He asks, if he could take some photos. I close my eyes and go back to bebop land, in few choruses, I come back and he is gone. He stuck a hundred dollar bill in my case.

A young guy on a bike stopped to listen for a while. I can kind of tell when people have a burning desire to talk to me, and no matter how hard I try to ignore everybody... it ain't workin' on them.

Turns out he played alto in high school and a little in college, but he had a disease that left him deaf. I'm looking at him, trying to process this. He says, he started playing alto again and is working on Jamey Abersold stuff. He heard me playing a tune he is working on. Wait, hold up... I missed after the deaf part.

He goes, I got this implant and shows me this bionic gear sticking out of the side of his head, under his hair. A chip makes a vibration on his skull and he can transpose the feeling into sound. ARE YOU KIDDIN' ME? He is practicing an hour and a half a day. He said three years ago this chip didn't exist.

I got all kinds of problems. It doesn't take me very long to run into people every day with real problems... that just make me feel so lucky.

There is a lady who plays harp and a guy who plays "Classical' violin downtown for years. They are both great players. I could only guess... pretty sure he is playing Mozart, but I couldn't tell you if it was a Violin Concerto or what movement, you know? Not my bag. But I know he got the chop!! There are some hit and miss players... then the bucket drummers who are in their own little world... and then the assorted guitar whackers, digery doo thigamajob and other street performers.

All I can do is play the stuff I want to play and makes me happy. It's not about them. It's about me.

People project themselves, their personality, persona and personal baggage onto me as some chump blowing on a brass tube on the street... or some savant idiot who plays bebop an blues. I have no idea why people give me money... really... it's more about them, not me.

I'm guilty of the same thing. One of my spots only "works" 4 days a week from 4 to 6. It is an intersection where cars stop, pedestrians, bicyclists cross en masse. I see a nicely dressed middle-aged guy, driving a nice BMW, Rolex, class ring. He stops for the light and has to sit there for a moment. I'm playing some tune and trying to play the turnaround differently every time. One time the line goes up, next time the line resolves down. I see him reach for the radio knob and think, he is turning up the radio so he can't hear me. Happens all the time.

I slip some completely outside/inside turnaround in, pulled it off and I'm thinking, tritone-pairs baby!... take that straight guy! He looks over at me with a big smile, rolls down the window handing me ten bucks and says, That was cooL! I look in the back seat and there is an Alesis keyboard and amp. He actually turned the radio down to listen to me. Crazy.

I could go on and on. So much crazy stuff happens every day. Every day is different crazy. It doesn't matter what you play... or even how well you play. People are ignorant, stupid and off in their own little music worlds anyway. Can't listen, let alone hear. But it is a numbers game too. Maybe two or three in a hundred do know, are listening and appreciate the music, the effort. Maybe it validates their own sense of life. It's not about you or me, but them.

I go out to play because; A. I don't have a choice. B. I think it keep me from being crazy. C. I don't have a better idea. It's not for the money.

Music is a powerful thing. I can't tell you how many times I have seen people stop dead, listen, dig out some cash and leave. But it only happens when I am totally focused on playing the tunes. Sometimes when I really want to be lost in the tunes, the changes, form, and time... I just want to make the tunes work, then just when I get into the "zone"... somebody will stop to give me money, breaking my concentration.

It has happened so constantly, regularly that it is hard to ignore. The trick is to not lose attention and stay in the zone no matter what. Good luck on that.

In fact, I guess my advice for busking is how to focus your attention. Your attention is a pie worth ten bucks... how much of that pie are you going to spend on thinking about what? All the time... every day. Don't waste time. Stay focused on putting that horn in your mouth as much as you can. Every day you get a fresh shot at life. How much do you want to play that horn? How much of your attention is really spent on making that happen?

You don't need backing tracks, other players to get in the way. You can figure out how to play what you hear. Play what you want to hear. Stick the horn in your mouth and sort it out. It's hard and a slow process at first, but you have to start somewhere. Start practicing what you are going to perform. One minute, two minutes at at time. One tune, one solo at a time. After a while it adds up and gets distilled down to what you really want to hear come out.

My composition professor said there are two thing you have to do to play the music... think about it and do it. One with out the other won't cut it.

So waiting tables. It's not busting out concrete sitting on a jackhammer all day. It's not climbing a ladder or scaffolding all day to cut and nail trim, or hanging twelve foot sheets of drywall by yourself. You probably won't end up in the ER having metal splinters removed from your eyes or stitches from saw cuts.


I woke up this morning and a whole chunk of Oklahoma City got wiped off the face of the earth. It's all relative.
 

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Wow Man, that is one of the best posts I have read on SOTW in years It should be a sticky about the connection between human life and playing music. You should write more about this and publish it because it's got some amazing scenery in it. Hell you should write it as a screen play and get some great director who loves jazz and philosophy to make the film. Do it, I have some really good movie connections for independent films. Hell Gus Van Zandt, or Clint or Robert Townsend could film that and make it great. This is what life is all about at it's most simple and most profound.
 
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