Tips for Busking and Outdoor Gigs with Stringed Instruments

Playing outdoors can present some specific challenges for string players. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your outdoor gigs and avoid potential pitfalls.

By Strings Staff

Giving a live performance outdoors can present some specific challenges for string players. Whether it’s a small ensemble wedding gig, a festival with a larger group, or just busking on your own, here are some tips on how to make the most of playing outdoors, gigs, busking (and how to avoid some potential pitfalls with a little extra preparation).


How to Prepare for an Outdoor Performance

Armed with the following tips, you will be better equipped to have a wonderful outdoor-performance experience. (You can read more details in this article by Sarah Freiberg.)


  1. Be Specific with your Clients. Examples of a few specifics to consider including in a contract include acceptable temperature for outdoor performances (55 to 85 degrees is pretty generous request) and protection from the elements (wind, direct sun, rain, etc.). This is often enough to start the conversation with a client of being sensitive to your needs as a performing artist.
  2. Watch the Wind. Using clothespins is essential for windy outdoor gigs. These cheap lifesavers can hold your music to a music stand and allow you to stay focused on playing. You may even consider using new clothespins for each performance, as these can hold multiple pages to allow you to simply pull and turn one page while the others stay clipped. In extremely windy situations, make sure to keep weight on the music stand and lay your instrument case flat on the ground, especially when your instrument is in it!
  3. Be Ready for the (Mixed) Joys of Nature. Sun and humidity can be a danger to your instruments, and many players suggest having a “beater”—a second instrument to spare wear and tear on your regular one. After all, it’s hard to appreciate the qualities of a nicer instrument without an acoustic environment to project into. Also, be sure to bring layers like a sweater, gloves, and rain gear in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
  4. Fight to Be Heard. Since you will be out in the elements, most likely without much reverberation, you may want to look into sound amplification. A high-quality microphone and a small amp can be helpful, but sometimes you might just need to play a little louder than normal.
Fiddler Hillary Klug busking in Nashville
Fiddler Hillary Klug busking in Nashville

Tips for First-Time Buskers

Thinking about doing a little street music? Take a few tips from Hillary Klug on how to prepare, endure, and maybe prosper, too. (Get more suggestions and read about Klug’s penchant for clogging and fiddling at the same time in this article.)

  • Bring an amp. A small, battery powered amp works well for most situations.
  • Don’t leave the tip jar full. Find a place to stash your cash if the tips start rolling in.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring a gallon of water to make sure you have eough to drink and keep your energy up.
  • Try out new material. If you’re going to be playing for a few hours, it’s a good bet you can play the same song more than a few times in the session.
  • Choose your spot wisely. Try to find an intersection instead of playing in the middle of the block, so people can hear you while they wait to cross the street.
  • Play by established rules. If someone has been playing for days or weeks in the same spot, they have seniority there. Don’t take someone else’s spot while they are there.
  • Don’t bring your best instrument. Playing on the street can be unpredictable, and so can the people passing by. Accidents happen.

The complete edition of the Care & Repair of Violin or Viola series from Strings magazine gives you a library of video and written instruction that will provide you with extensive knowledge that will help you understand your instrument and, in turn, be a more informed owner and user of stringed instruments and bows.