Let’s get one thing straight: there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ busking partner. Over the years you’ll want to kill each other, poke the other’s ear with your bow or even strangle them in the back of a taxi. There will be times, (God forbid), when you consider smashing your other half’s instrument on the street in which you play, right in front of their weeping eyes and the unknown throng, as splinters scatter across the cobbles. But your time spent together will be for a reason though, because you’ve got a bond unlike any other. Here are some of the things one should look for in the ultimate busking partner.
1. Someone who plays an instrument in the same key as you
For non-musical folk, that means that if you play the fiddle, don’t look for a busking pal in a clarinettist. They play in B flat which is a big no for a violinist who plays in C. It’s like trying to pair up Britney and Mozart: it doesn’t work. Clarinets also suck.
2. Someone with a sense of humour
Laughter is your defence out on the streets – and you’re going to need it. It comes in handy when it’s pissing it down with rain in London and you’ve been banned from using the toilets in the Royal Festival Hall because ‘you aren’t a real musician’. (Ouch.) You’ll need it again when you fall down the stairs as you run away from the security guard who banned you in the first place.
3. Find an instrument who knows yours
Believe it or not, but instruments are like people. They can speak to each other and know what the other is thinking if they get on well enough. For example, if I play with my sister’s fiddle and not mine, Amy’s violin always knows. The harmonies aren’t quite right and both violins sound like two people on a bad date making awkward conversation: They know they don’t belong together.
4. Find a busking partner who is adventurous
There’s nothing worse than playing with someone who doesn’t take risks. Breaking the law is fun, people! Just kidding, we don’t condone doing anything that’s going to land you in prison. But is it really a bad thing to try to play without a license or in a train station at night? Who cares what that policeman said about ScotRail owning most of Glasgow. He looks very unfit to me. How fast could he really run in a hypothetical cat and mouse situation?
5. Point four leads to point five which is find someone who drives a car or similar motor
A musical buddy with a means of transport comes in handy – especially if that policeman does catch you playing outside Glasgow Queen Street Station in the early hours. All you have to do is run like a flailing ostrich to your partner’s motorbike/car/limo and bingo, you’re in the clear.
6. Find someone who doesn’t ‘do it for the money’
There’s nothing worse than busking with people who are only in it for the cash. (It’s not easy making £100 in a night!) For example, on Boxing Day 2011 we made fifty-two pence, a dollar and a condom in three hours. It’s a tough living, folks.
7. Look for a busking partner who is also your friend
Some of the best musical ensembles in the world played with friends and turned into successful bands (Coldplay, anyone?) Now, we’re not saying we’re going to end up rich and famous like Chris Martin, but playing with a friend is a great thing to do. You know when the other just wants to go home, get stinking drunk or abandon the performance to find food. It’s also nice knowing you can hang out without your violins and just take shameless selfies like everyone else.
Just kidding, we’re far too professional for that.