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  • 1) Memorise songs:

    I know this is probably the toughest thing to do for most buskers, well for me it certainly was. I realised that the level of my performance is in direct proportion to how well I’ve memorised the song. I can focus on my performance by making eye contact with the audience, add different dynamics, feel, rhythm, techniques and skills to a particular song.  Only once I am well prepared I am able to focus on my uniqueness within the performance or song. 

    Where do you even begin to memorise a song like American Pie-Don McLean? It’s still the longest song ever to top the Billboard Hot 100, at a whopping eight minutes and 36 seconds. If you ask anyone with a driver's licence, ask them about the first experience driving a car. It goes kind of like this; Step on the clutch, push the gear lever into neutral, Start the car, Scan rear and both side mirrors, Put the car back into first gear, assuming you are driving forwards and not backwards, scan rear and both side mirrors, ensure you release the clutch and step on the accelerator evenly, scan all mirrors once again. Through all of this, remember to keep one hand on the steering wheel and off course look on the road to ensure the car does not drive into the car standing in front of you. Almost there no let’s go...Only to find out you’ve let go of the clutch too fast and the car stalls. The whole process starts over!!! Can you see why it is ridiculously stressful?       

    We do the exact same when we approach learning songs. There is just too much information or things’ happening for your brain to really process what is going on. For example, you’ll find new chords, going from one chord to another, strumming pattern, lyrics, time signatures, tempo and dynamics. Take one thing at a time and work on it until you can do it without thinking about it. A good place to start is by learning the chords first. Remember repetition is the MOTHER of all learning. Once you can close your eyes and visualise what the part looks like, it means that the brain has a clear picture of what the part looks like and therefore you’ll memorise it easier. Take my word for it! Know the music in your mind before you even start to play.

    2) Be prepared:

    By being prepared I am referring to getting everything you need ready the night before your day out busking. I’ve made a rule to place everything I need, on the ground, in front of me before I put it into my Vango backpack. Besides getting all my equipment ready here are a few good tips to consider before going out: 

    1. You must be 14 years and older. If you are younger than 14, find as many opportunities possible to perform to all your friends and family members to prepare and get you confident for when the time comes. 
    2. Plan the best cheapest route to get to your desired spot; Remember that sometimes your local town centre is a good place to start. https://citymapper.com/london. In addition to this, you’ll be able to better plan how you’ll get around with transporting your equipment. 
    3. Double check if you require a busking licence: If so take immediate action to obtain a licence. Remember this is NOT illegal! Some boroughs have certain bylaws that permit or restrict buskers. Check out your busking terms here: https://www.gov.uk/busking-licence
    4. Make sure to check the weather, I know UK weather is unpredictable; and showing up to busk in your town centre after you’ve psyched yourself up ready to go only to pack up and leave after 10min is frustrating and very demotivating. 

     

    3) Do NOT eat before performing

    Although this is a very controversial topic it is also the one most people can’t control due to hormonal imbalances towards food and snacking.  I have been performing for the best of 17 years. And my best performances I ever had was when I performed without eating on performance day. Water is enough to kill the hunger. Here is an amazing book I discovered in the process of getting some of my family members the best research and information out there about living life healthier. Jason Fung-The Obesity code, http://a.co/50O5fdN. My experience is that once you do this you’ll reach a state of consciousness that you haven’t experienced before. And because we are programmed to believe that we MUST eat between 3-6 times a day we have accepted the fact and our mind plays hunger games on us. Be strong, try this and experience how your brain works when it focuses on your task at hand instead of being involved with your organs digesting food!

     

    4) Performance:

    Be true to yourself, your uniqueness is more important than any aspect of the performance. How do you see and experience life? Are your generally happy or do you struggle to stand up every morning? If you are generally happy and carry your own weather irrespective of what knock you get in life. If you are congruent with how you see and feel about yourself then that is 50% of the performance done. The previous steps will also contribute significantly to how confident you’ll be performing. Besides looking to improve certain aspects of your performance playing and or singing the most important question you need to ask yourself. How do I see and feel about myself? If you have a good self-esteem, great this will make things much easier for you. However if you struggle and are unsure about the image of yourself you need to ask yourself a few questions like: What are the things you are really good at? What are the things you can improve? Take immediate action to improve the areas. Find artists and bands you really like. What do you like about them? Do the dress well? Is it the vocals? Do you like the drums? Make notes of anything you like and are drawn to. Once you’ve done that combine all the stuff you absolutely love and create a new image of yourself and see if you like it. 

    I am very aware that if you are suffering from anxiety or nervousness, or allow these factors to completely ruin your chances of being a great performer. I’d like you to try some of the following techniques I have used during my years of performing.

    • Reprogramme your mental state

    Take a close look at some performance anxiety symptoms; Racing pulse and rapid breathing, dry mouth and tight throat, trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice and sweaty and cold hands. These are almost the exact same symptoms of excitement. However when we use the word stress/anxiety our brains are directly going into negative mode, everything about it is negative. What if you can reprogramme your brain, yes this will take some time and practise, instead of calling it stress/anxiety but believing it to be excitement or readiness to perform. Your brain will flip that completely and give you a positive experience every time. This is guaranteed to be a live changing mental state changer. Where focus goes energy flows. You need to convince yourself that “I am ready and excited to perform.

     

    • Big; Shoulders; Breathe

    Can you, for a moment, imagine and in your mind’s eye seeing the physical state of someone with depression or suffering from anxiety attacks. They walk or sit bent over, head down, shoulders down, poor body posture, slow movements, out of breath etc. So besides the mental state of a person suffering from stress and anxiety there is the physical appearance. This is a practical method you can have and use to change your physical state. Emotion is created by motion! Before you step on the stage or spot wherever you perform, take 1-2min and do the following steps: 

    BIG-Stand tall, lean forward, pick up your head and open your chest. 

    SHOULDERS-As you pick up and draw back your shoulders you’ll find that your overall posture will open up. This is good; it looks professional as well as massively confident. 

    BREATH-Take deep breaths! 4x short burst of breaths inwards, hold it for 4 seconds then 4x outward puff breaths. Immediately you’ll feel less tensed by breathing from you belly instead of your chest. This is a routine you can do daily and see how it affects your general outlook and framing of live. 

     

    • Chewing

    It is said to believe that Chewing gum significantly increases self-rated levels of alertness, decreases self-rated levels of anxiety and stress, reduces salivary cortisol levels, and enhances overall task performance.... Chewing gum ameliorates the effects of stress on mood, anxiety, and mental status. Ever wondered why people eat more when they are stressed? Before your performance chew gum, this will help with relaxing and relieving stress.

     

    5) Connect with the Audience

     

    As simple as it sounds this is very hard to do if you have a million and one other things to think of. By saying this I refer directly to the above mentioned tips. Once you have memorised songs, prepared yourself for success by arriving on time at your desired spot, knowing that you’ve packed all your gear and accessories with a healthy positive body and mind congruent to how you see and feel about yourself, only now you are able to 100% connect with your audience. “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you are saying/singing”. Your audience will fall in love with you if you are yourself, play the songs and music you like and love. I know sometimes making jokes and having a good sense of humour is desirable but there is nothing more attractive and capturing than an artist completely congruent with his music, meaning that you give meaning to every word you sing. 

     If you’ve enjoyed reading this article and found some of these techniques useful. Please like and share it with others you know might struggle, need some advice or help when they go out busking, performing and doing what they love most. 

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