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Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

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Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Sun Apr 16, 2017 3:25 pm

Thought I'd think about doing some busking in order to promote my act for weddings, functions etc. I'm not a guitarist or a panpipe player though - it's piano and vocal + (dependent on the material) backing tracks. So in view of power requirements does that mean it's a non-starter? Would the piano, together with the amp, draw more than an electro acoustic guitar for example? Apart from some guy I saw a few years ago in the tube playing a Casio keyboard I've never seen someone use a piano .....so I'm guessing there's a reason for that? IF it is a goer then what's involved in terms of powering a piano and a suitable amp? I've seen some people use car batteries and assume some sort of AC/DC conversion takes place but that's it.
Other questions I've got:

Do you have to contact the local council re permissions etc?
Is there a rota/timed system with performances - I've heard that's the case at Covent Garden (not the opera house!) but I'm near a bog-standard city?
Are buskers subject to public liability insurance requirements - would your own existing cover be enough?

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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Apr 16, 2017 3:52 pm

One Horse Town wrote:Thought I'd think about doing some busking in order to promote my act for weddings, functions etc. I'm not a guitarist or a panpipe player though - it's piano and vocal + (dependent on the material) backing tracks. So in view of power requirements does that mean it's a non-starter? Would the piano, together with the amp, draw more than an electro acoustic guitar for example? Apart from some guy I saw a few years ago in the tube playing a Casio keyboard I've never seen someone use a piano .....so I'm guessing there's a reason for that? IF it is a goer then what's involved in terms of powering a piano and a suitable amp? I've seen some people use car batteries and assume some sort of AC/DC conversion takes place but that's it.
No idea on powering the keyboard but there's a bloke in Leeds who does it - plenty of suitable amps from about £100 up depending on what you want.

One Horse Town wrote:Other questions I've got:
Do you have to contact the local council re permissions etc?
This will depend entirely on your local council, some have schemes and licences others don't - check their website.
One Horse Town wrote:Is there a rota/timed system with performances - I've heard that's the case at Covent Garden (not the opera house!) but I'm near a bog-standard city?
See above, some places have time limits but it's pretty rare to have formal rotas I think.

One Horse Town wrote:Are buskers subject to public liability insurance requirements - would your own existing cover be enough?
Not something that I've ever had or known of any other buskers having. Might be a question for the Musicians Union, can't imagine anywhere else offering it.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby MarkPAman » Sun Apr 16, 2017 6:13 pm

Many stage pianos seem to use 12V anyway, so can very easily be run from a car/leisure battery. What sort(s) do you have?

Do you need to amplify your voice? If not it could be a very simple setup indeed, and it may be worth giving it a go that way, before investing in extra gear.

Otherwise, I've got one of these: https://www.thomann.de/gb/samson_expedition_express.htm
which is not bad, and should be loud enough for vocals & piano busking.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Sun Apr 16, 2017 6:48 pm

Thanks for the replies. I've got a Kawai ES8 for my normal gigs but that's too heavy (and valuable) for busking so I'd probably get an old Roland fp or Yamaha p something or other for this. Yes it's vocal as well - ideally with reverb.

Having googled this more it appears it's down to three choices.
1 - battery powered speakers like Roland's or Samsons as suggested above - but will these really cut it in a busy shopping area on a Saturday afternoon? (Of course I'm aware that you can't overdo volume for obvious reasons).
2 - a small 'silent' generator - great if you can hide it behind a bush or some distance away but that's no good for city streets is it?
3 - marine/leisure or car battery coupled with a pure sine wave inverter - advantage is you can use existing gear BUT is expensive and heavy.

Any more details or first hand experience would be very welcome.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:03 pm

Something like a Roland EP7 https://www.rolandus.com/support/knowledge_base/201957799 runs of 12 VDC (1.7A) and has built in speakers so if you can manage to find a quieter location you could probably run with just those. It only weighs 11kg too which is a bonus. Regarding busking licences my home town, Manchester, does not require a licence but has a (probably ignored) buskers code of conduct.

edit :- a 20 AH sealed lead acid battery is not to heavy and would give you a few hours. a Roland Street Cube EX is the loudest busking amp I know of and runs for several hours on 8 AA NiMHs you could make a battery pack for another set of AAs to power the piano/keyboard and you're good to go. You'll be carrying a fair bit of weight though (mic stand, keyboard stand, piano, amp, cables etc) so not having to cart a leisure battery around would be a major plus. A genny is probably a non starter if you're doing this all solo, also for weight reasons.

Also look at this thread http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=56763
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby MarkPAman » Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:12 pm

Something like this:
https://www.roland.com/us/products/juno-di/ with a simple battery powered speaker
may be a good solution. Depends on you liking the sounds/feel of course. No idea how long they go for with AA batteries in.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:15 pm

That looks even better at 5.2 kg, that and a Street Cube and you're of and running......
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:02 pm

Mark - I'd need 6 octaves really so the Juno wouldn't do - but thanks for the suggestion.
Sam - the Cube is self powered so why would I need the sealed battery? Is that for the kbd? If so would I need an invertor? This is more complex than I thought? *!#!#*# keyboard players!
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:55 pm

6 octaves gets heavy, but that Roland EP7 has it, the SLA battery was for the EP7 which doesn't have a battery option.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby awjoe » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:56 pm

One Horse Town wrote:. So in view of power requirements does that mean it's a non-starter?

No problem, if you choose to play the provided public piano at places like the Prague main train station or St Pancras in London. The only power required is the pianist. :smirk:
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby MarkPAman » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:03 pm

Chap who sometimes turns up at an open mic I attend has a 6 octave piano that he runs his own vocal mic through. I know it's quite heavy, but it does have built in speakers, which may be loud enough to allow you not to need anything else, except a way of powering it.

Unfortunately my mind's gone completely blank as to what make or model though :headbang: & I doubt it was particularly cheap.

Looking around, a mic input with dedicated reverb is not that unusual on stage pianos.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:17 pm

MarkPAman wrote:Looking around, a mic input with dedicated reverb is not that unusual on stage pianos.

Was that a mis-type? I'd have thought a mic input on a stage piano pretty unusual (never seen one)?
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby MarkPAman » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:15 am

OK, it is quite unusual, but it's only taken me a few minutes to find 3 on Thomann's website:

https://www.thomann.de/gb/thomann_sp_5600.htm
https://www.thomann.de/gb/roland_fp_80_bk.htm
https://www.thomann.de/gb/casio_wk_240.htm
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:35 am

In terms of weight another option I suppose would be to get a controller kbd and couple it with something like a Kurzweil micro piano or Roland jv1010. Frankly it's not the piano side of things that bothers me guys - it's the techie aspects of powering it all up properly. From previous comments and googling I'm moving towards a sealed battery (£40) invertor (£80) and charger (£40). Those are approximate 'new' prices so apart from the battery I'd probably go secondhand - same for the kbd, piano module and active speaker.
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby awjoe » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:45 am

Slightly more seriously than my previous post, I've seen electric buskers in my town run power cables from shops that are agreeable to having them perform near the shop. 'House band.'
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:04 am

awjoe wrote:Slightly more seriously than my previous post, I've seen electric buskers in my town run power cables from shops that are agreeable to having them perform near the shop. 'House band.'

Hmm hadn't thought of that - depends on the shop I suppose plus the inherent health and safety/public liability implications of that scenario. Vaguely remember someone telling me they did the same getting the permission of a real know-it-all at their local fruit and veg shop......sorry, meant a 'genius' at the Apple Store. :smirk:
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:14 am

I'd avoid an inverter if at all possible, more complexity, less efficiency and my experience of cheap ones is that they aren't very reliable. Much easier to source a keyboard and amp that will run from 12VDC or better still internal power. Remember too that you need to be able to get everything from the car to the pitch in one trip for security reasons. Have you considered approaching your local shopping centre and large stores to see if they would like some free entertainment in return for you being allowed to sell mercy/CDs and promoter the wedding singer business? They would have mains power and security too.

edit:- that sounds a possibility :thumbup:
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:20 am

MarkPAman wrote:OK, it is quite unusual, but it's only taken me a few minutes to find 3 on Thomann's website:

https://www.thomann.de/gb/thomann_sp_5600.htm
https://www.thomann.de/gb/roland_fp_80_bk.htm
https://www.thomann.de/gb/casio_wk_240.htm

Well, I've never seen one before :headbang: (though I do tend not to look at 'home keyboards', a legacy of 10 years selling them back in the '70s).

The Casio looks perfect, cheap, 76 keys and runs off batteries too......
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:49 am

Sam - if I went down the 12v kbd and amp route using a sealed battery, I assume I'd need a distributor block that would take two 3pin wall-warts and connect to the battery. Any suggestions? Or am I missing something obvious?
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Re: Busking with a stage piano - is it possible?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:25 am

No just make a cable with the correct connector for the piano and a pair of croc clips on the other end. But that Casio MarkPAman linked to, if the onboard speakers are loud enough, seems like a perfect answer. Even if you need an extra amp buy something with onboard batteries like the Roland Street Cube and you have a two box solution.
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