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flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

What does it take to busk? 

I find playing in front of even my prof, whom I’m paying to listen, quite difficult. How you guys do it in front of a paying audience I’ll never know. I’d be jelly.

Just before I turn up for a lesson, I sit on the station platform and, after checking no one can hear me (not tricky at Valdelagrana station), I run through all the bits we are working on. Then a 13 min train ride and a 15-minute walk through orange-tree lined streets of Jerez, brings me to Moises front door. He is a very friendly welcoming Spaniard. We catch up on last night’s La Liga as we pass through tiled patios full of massive green leaved plants. The setting is perfect. Tranquil. Peaceful. I take my guitar, tune, position foot stool, strum a few chords, a general warm up, and attempt to run through a few bits I just made a dam good go at on a wind-swept platform. Not only do both left and right hands fail to co-operate with each other; they decide to connect with entirely the wrong strings!

Moises, being the nice guy he is, assures me that he is the same when he has lessons from maestros. I try to believe him. It takes a fair while to play anything worthy of the time I’ve put in, but it is never how it sounded on the platform.

But in the future I’d love to be able to turn up in a bar and crack out a compas or two, possibly accompanying others. A friendly session over a few beers. That is my ultimate target if truth be known. But where would the confidence come from?

Some one suggested busking. You could do it in a town where you’re not known. You’ll never see the people again. You only need 2 or 3 things to play as no one is going to hang around long. Most are highly impressed with just a few rolling rasqueos. And what a confidence boost if someone tosses 20 cents in your guitar case

Be interested hearing about anyone’s first busking experiences.

- Can you do it without amplification? Problem is I practise in a house with a family, so I spend too long playing quietly. But I guess I can get noisy with a Tangos as an example.
- Does busking help your playing?

To be honest without a lot more confidence I can’t see myself playing with others (unless I paid them) or doing anything in my local bar. I often see people recommending volunteering for a dance school but that would still be a step too far. Perhaps busking is a way forward. Any thoughts welcome.

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 7:12:14
 
El Burdo

 

Posts: 456
Joined: Sep. 8 2011
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

God, the agony.

There are no real, valuable short cuts in my opinion.

You just need to put the time in but at the same time, allow your skill to develop under its own steam. In other words, enjoy what you are doing, enjoy your progress and your approaching your goals. You don't want to achieve them of course; we're always approaching, so you needn't test yourself, as it's a journey (sorry, clicheé alert but it's appropriate).

Next, chill. There is a young woman in London who is currently a massive alt/nu-jazz alto player - very much the flavour of the month. For a long time, she was not very good at all but it seemed she had no negative self confidence issues at all, that she allowed to surface (i.e. if they were even there). She wasn't embarrassed to 'go wrong' in front of peers at jam sessions, weak gigs etc. which I seem to remember was a lot of the time. Now she is fêted and deserves the respect she gets.

I often refer to kids learning instruments who are not concerned about 'going wrong' and playing badly in front of people. We should be like that, as it is what we are. Just keep on and relax and you will become a better and better version of what you are! If you want to play in public, find a gig where you can be the flamenco equivalent of 4th Spear Carrier and do some breathing.

Hope that doesn't sound patronising, but I'm also 66 and suffer still.

[ I did a lot of busking in the Paris Metro, in the square in Carcassonne and in various towns in the UK. Most were very supportive in Europe, but the UK? Business types would walk past and sneer and old women would stop in their plastic rain hats and open their clasp purses to give me a major % of their pensions as I protested that they shouldn't. But they wanted to. ]
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 9:33:01
 
Goldwinghai

Posts: 130
Joined: Mar. 17 2015
From: Virginia USA

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

I would like to tell you about my nephew’s and my own experience. When this kid was about 10, his father asked me to organize a dinner party and have the boy perform 10 pieces in front of my 20+ friends as a part of the learning experience. I had the program printed and made it sort of formal. The kid did very well in a “home crowd” atmosphere and every person asked him for his autograph on the program. From then on he has played with ease and confidence at wherever the venue is, even in Austria. Several years later we had a similar event for my niece, again the home crowd did help.

Now my own experience: when in college we has an annual program called The World on Parade where we had performances from the various international students. I played my level 1 Farruca with ease, confidence and received loud applause. Fast forward to last year, I played Paco Pena’s Farruca at a party and it was a terrifying experience. It was a more difficult piece and I told myself no problem. Then as my fingers moved up the fingerboard, I misplaced them. Suddenly my mind went blank, I was in a panic mode and could not pick up from where I messed up. A female voice from the home crowd “Don’t worry brother, we do not know anything about Flamenco.” Not sure how many seconds had passed by, finally I was able to play the last two pages of that piece. I plan to play at party again.

If you have the opportunity to play for the dance class, please do it. I really enjoy playing Solea and Farruca for the classes. It forces me to prepare, practice the materials and play in compas. A few times I missed or added a beat, the teacher and students just shrugged and we continued.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 12:19:31
 
flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Goldwinghai

Goldwinghai that's interesting. I'm looking for a stepping stone that gets me nearer my goal. For sure any live performance can be difficult but if it is a small step hopefully not too difficult. But:

quote:

dinner party and have the boy perform 10 pieces in front of my 20+ friends
seems a little harsh

El Burdo I think I didn't explain that too well. It has nothing to do with my Flamenco learning curve. It has everything to do with opportunity to share my enjoyment and skills, and reach my target.

quote:

I did a lot of busking in the Paris Metro, in the square in Carcassonne and in various towns in the UK. Most were very supportive in Europe, but the UK? Business types would walk past and sneer and old women would stop in their plastic rain hats and open their clasp purses to give me a major % of their pensions as I protested that they shouldn't. But they wanted to.


Isn’t that the joy of busking? The audience chooses. But it isn’t personal. I last year in Jerez gave a busker, who tried his best to play bulerias with only five strings on his guitar, 5 Euros. I hope he spent it on strings.

But my questions are:

- Did busking help your playing?
- Did busking help you with stage (in the audience sense) fright? (if you suffered that)
- Could you have spent your time in a better way?
- Did you need to amplify?

Must admit I’m a bit envious of the “square in Carcassonne” but you can keep the Metro and the UK

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 13:34:16

Piwin

Posts: 2194
Joined: Feb. 9 2016
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Next time you're waiting for the train, don't check if there's anyone around before pulling out your guitar. That's one baby step you could take.

- dunno if it helped my playing. I'd imagine it would help you get used to playing in front of people though. The more exposure you get, right?
- I don't really busk anymore, but I do still play outdoors from time to time, especially at this time of year. I usually just go find a bench in the parc. When I do that it's just for my own enjoyment, so could my time have been better spent elsewhere? Probably, but same could be said about reading a book or any other form of leisure. Doing that there's not really an audience. Usually people just walk by, sometimes a few people will stop for a few minutes to listen or a small group will pick a spot to picnic within earshot, but I'm definitely not the centre of attention. So if it's just about getting over the fear of others listening to you, maybe something like that could help you ease into it.
- No you don't need amplification.
- Check the rules on busking in your area. In Madrid proper you have to audition to get authorization. If you don't have it, you can technically get fined, though most of the time it ends up just with police asking you to leave, no harm done. I've never bothered with getting an authorization but I don't think I've ever been fined for busking. If I have I just can't remember it right now. But I do remember plenty of times being asked to leave, usually by policia who were more apologetic than anything.

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Chicken crossing
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 14:19:49
 
flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Piwin

quote:

Check the rules on busking in your area.


Piwin many thanks for that. It really helps and has my mind buzzing.

As for permission to busk I'd never thought of that. To be fair I only have two contacts with police.
In general someone who speaks Spanish with a Brit accent seems to scare them off.
Second, I teach a chief of police and his sister English so I could try name dropping

But yup just playing might be that baby step. Don't need money so if I have no cap/bowl/guitar case am I actually busking?

I think I'll get a mate or family member to test sound out over distance. No idea how much it carries outdoors. And obviously wind can have an impact.

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 14:44:01
 
JasonM

Posts: 935
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Start by playing in front of a video camera
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 15:28:24
 
gerundino63

Posts: 1432
Joined: Jul. 11 2003
From: The Netherlands

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Long time ago I did some researche on stage fright. I came up with a methode that works for a lot of people. Maybe it is some use for you too.

https://youtu.be/YtmvVnEhtbo

If you have questions I am happy to answerthem

Best regards,

Peter

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 17:40:20
 
Paul Magnussen

Posts: 1562
Joined: Nov. 8 2010
From: London (living in the Bay Area)

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Someone in one of Manuel Barrueco’s masterclasses once asked him if he ever suffered from nerves, and if so how he dealt with them (anyone less nervous-looking would be hard to imagine).

He replied that he suffered from nerves all the time, but he thought “Well, I was more nervous in New York [or wherever], but I got through that OK”.

Of course, you have to have managed it at least one time to use that technique…
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 17:59:54
 
flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to gerundino63

Peter that makes a lot of sense. I've tried to separate practising from just playing already, but having a positive routine makes a lot of sense.

Already started with it so in a month or two we will see. A big thanks for that

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 20:07:35
 
Fitz63

 

Posts: 100
Joined: May 16 2016
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Goldwinghai

I used to play at the local vegetarian cafe, background music while people ate. One time I was asked to play at the birthday party of a relative of the owner of the cafe. They also asked if i’d accompany the owners daughter. She was about 8 at the time. We did Moondance. She used to play outside the cafe every occasion she could, every festival etc. A few years she started winning young musicians of the year awards. She has her first CD out now, she has her own national radio show, performs around the world to enormous audiences. Needless to say she’s pretty good, but how she manages in front of those crowds I couldn’t begin to imagine.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 20:10:42
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2689
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

#1 suggestion I would make is to just practice, practice, practice until you know the material so thoroughly that having some nerves won't throw you off too much. If you lose 25% of your playing ability when playing in front of people, starting at 75% isn't doing yourself any favors. You want to start at 100%, and at 75% percent people will still think it's fine. Gradually over time maybe you get up to 90% or better, and at a certain point, having an audience may even bring more out of you and make your playing better.

#2 is general advice for fear and anxiety. Spend some time sitting down and visualizing the worst case scenario. Really walk yourself through the horrible shame and embarrassment of failing in front of everyone, where your brain turns to mush and your fingers flail uselessly at the strings. Then take a deep breath, look around, and notice that life goes on, just as it would if that actually happened. Also start a meditation practice. There is no problem that involves thoughts or thinking that can't be cured by meditation IMO.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 20:17:10
 
Mark2

Posts: 1469
Joined: Jul. 12 2004
From: San Francisco

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Mariano Cordoba told me study the music to 200%. Same reason Andy pointed out, but if you lose 50%, you still play at 150. He said 100% isn't nearly enough. Sounds a bit absurd until you are playing solo in front of an audience. I started doing gigs when I was 16, 44 years ago. I didn't play solo until I started studying flamenco in about 1983. First public gig was an open mike, probably in about '84, and I was so nervous my leg started shaking. I don't know how I managed to finish the tune.

Taking Mariano's advice to heart, five years later I did a solo gig at a sold out hall of about 1,200 people, including record execs and famous musicians. I remember it was nerve wracking but I played close to the level of my ability at that time. It remains one of the highlights of forty years of performing. Nothing rids stage fright like performing. Do it enough, and it becomes relatively easy, unless something goes wrong, which will also happen from time to time. I've never played in the street for tips. I know a great player though, a really top level musician, who had no qualms doing it on occasion. Personally I felt if I couldn't get a paying gig, I'd stay home and practice till I could. Since I rarely gig these days, if I had an opportunity to perform solo in front of a large audience, or a small one with better players in it, it would be difficult. Not sure I'd do it.



quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Culpepper

#1 suggestion I would make is to just practice, practice, practice until you know the material so thoroughly that having some nerves won't throw you off too much. If you lose 25% of your playing ability when playing in front of people, starting at 75% isn't doing yourself any favors. You want to start at 100%, and at 75% percent people will still think it's fine. Gradually over time maybe you get up to 90% or better, and at a certain point, having an audience may even bring more out of you and make your playing better.

#2 is general advice for fear and anxiety. Spend some time sitting down and visualizing the worst case scenario. Really walk yourself through the horrible shame and embarrassment of failing in front of everyone, where your brain turns to mush and your fingers flail uselessly at the strings. Then take a deep breath, look around, and notice that life goes on, just as it would if that actually happened. Also start a meditation practice. There is no problem that involves thoughts or thinking that can't be cured by meditation IMO.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 23:09:31
 
Paul Magnussen

Posts: 1562
Joined: Nov. 8 2010
From: London (living in the Bay Area)

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Mark2

quote:

Mariano Cordoba told me study the music to 200%. Same reason Andy pointed out, but if you lose 50%, you still play at 150. He said 100% isn't nearly enough.


Paco Peña said something pretty much equivalent: you lose 50% of your technique when you’re playing in public.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2019 23:35:31
 
jg7238

 

Posts: 2813
Joined: May 11 2009
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Believe it or not, I have played in public before. Some were good performances and some were not so good.(played for Bill Clinton and his wife back in 2000 at a restaurant i played weekly. I played Asturias, Serenata Espanola and some basic flamenco stuff. It went well and i was really nervous when I was told he was coming to the restaurant) Anyway, the classical guitarist Denis Azabagic has some great pointers dealing with stage fright. He says that the only way to deal with this type of thing is put yourself in this situation as much as you can. Do "tryouts". (play in front of friends) It creates a similar scenario to the ones you'll be dealing with. Even a great player like Denis said he would have memory slips or would mistakes. Those "tryouts" show where the weak spots are and which parts required a bit more attention. Another interesting thing he said is there are some passages that you play with certain fingerings that work at home, but do not necessarily feel right when you get nervous. If that happens, change it up and try to find those that work in any situation. You should check out his book "Dealing with performance stress". Good stuff in there.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2019 0:41:59
 
szvarga

 

Posts: 49
Joined: Mar. 11 2019
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to Paul Magnussen

There was an interesting conversation about the difference of public and home practicing performance in a video I can't find yet on YouTube by Tom Hess.

He advised, try as much as possible to set the problems of a public environment at your practicing place. Make noise. Make darkness. Force yourself to play while you can't hear, or can't see what you are playing. Get an uncomfortable playing position. Try to make a conversation with somebody, while you playing. And so on. Prepare yourself to the worst scenarios at home, not to face them at public. One of my favorite citation: fail to prepare is prepare to fail...:)

Sz
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2019 7:56:58
 
El Burdo

 

Posts: 456
Joined: Sep. 8 2011
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Hi Nigel - That's fine -I just thought I'd make a point about what underlies all of this - the confidence issue. I was saying that you don't need to react to the bad bright red demon on your shoulder, or for that, the good pale gold demon on the other (insert appropriate colours ad lib - I was thinking of the webdesign colour Pale Goldenrod, a better colour name not existing in the English speaking world). Do you know The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green? Some people like it.
But there seems to be another issue related to that forcibly made by the 150%-ers here, of which I am definitely one -
quote:

and attempt to run through a few bits I just made a dam good go at on a wind-swept platform. Not only do both left and right hands fail to co-operate with each other; they decide to connect with entirely the wrong strings!
- I assume that session is just a quick reminder, and not 'the practice'! If not, your problem might be there! (but I don't expect it is :-) )

I don't think busking really added anything tbh beyond an opportunity for anecdote, fun memory etc. You don't have to be at the peak of your game then, but you do in performance. 150%. In Carcassonne everyone was pinned to their tables as we ground out spirited and irrelevant Irish tunes, sitting on the fountain. Weirdly (and financially) they seemed to like it, regretfully the emotional inverse of me when I come across a busker in London sharing their Art wherever there are some passing tourists. St James Park - beautiful day - exotic birds - obviously needs an Ed Sheeran song.

Your life sounds great. Did you move for flamenco reasons, Spain reasons?

[sorry this post has a laughing man icon on its title - I was trying to insert an icon in the text and not judging the topic :-( ]
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2019 9:12:42
 
Filip

 

Posts: 174
Joined: Apr. 23 2006
From: Madrid

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

When I started playing I remember talking with one teacher who said to me that there are two remarkable things about great players (we talked about Paco de Lucia but it was a general thought), the first is that they are incredibly good players, and the second is that they can go in front of thousands of people and still play incredibly good. And I did not fully realise this until I played in front of people (although I did it only a couple of times).

In my case everything makes a difference and my playing when I am alone in my room is not the same as when I play in front of someone (regardless who that someone is, friend or someone I don't know), it even is not the same if I am making audio or video recording (good advice Jason), or my window is open and someone might hear me. I get nervous, my fingers are shaking, they become dry, I miss notes, I have less strength so the volume is lower, I can't keep even rhythm because my fingers act alone...a nightmare. I never tried any strategy, but I think there are some pretty good advices in this thread, thanks.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2019 11:42:31
 
flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to El Burdo

quote:

Your life sounds great. Did you move for flamenco reasons, Spain reasons?


El Burdo as for why I'm here in Flamencoland I'm not sure. My wife is Sevillana so you'd think it was my sacrifice to move to her roots. But she hates the heat and would much prefer to live in the UK or Asturias (where we had a holiday flat for 10 years).

I also knew this part of the world in my windsurfing days. I lived on Tarifa beach for 2 months before many had heard of Tarifa and kite surfing hadn't been invented. So many happy memories.

But one thing is for sure. Being here makes you want to play Flamenco. This morning I discussed this thread with my prof in Jerez. He said any one can learn to play flamenco. It isn't in the blood. Easily said but then it is in his and it isn't in mine But he still gets nervous when playing in front of an audience.

Anyway many thanks folks. There is a lot to digest here. A lot of it scary but better to be honest and prepared.

Peter I tried the formula on the platform and at the lesson. Early days but I think it helped.

And Piwin I didn't look at the people, just played while waiting for the train. I thought (probably wishful thinking ) that a guy was listening. I lost my nerve and slipped back into playing my old dependable "House of the Rising Sun". But he didn't run up the platform


Anyway a foto of my hard earned refreshment after putting a toe in the busking world.



Images are resized automatically to a maximum width of 800px

Attachment (1)

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 2 2019 13:10:17
 
Brendan

Posts: 166
Joined: Oct. 30 2010
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Sit in a park in Andalusia and play your guitar for the sake of all us who rarely get the chance to do that.

Don’t worry what you sound like because unamplified guitar doesn’t carry very far except on a very still day if you’re strumming hard. Anything fingerpicky will be inaudible from 15 yards away.

The Inner Game of Music is an essential read, but it is aimed at conservatoire students who have talent, technique and time to practice repertoire, so nerves are their only problem.

The real enemy I find is shouts of encouragement. Often I’ve managed to create the bubble with just me and the guitar, my attention focussed on my playing at just the right level, not trying to control every muscle but neither relying on muscle memory able to think about the sound rather than the execution, right in the zone, and then some thoughtless swine shouts “Olé!”, the bubble bursts and I make a mistake.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 5 2019 10:47:22
 
Ricardo

Posts: 11082
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Adrenaline kicks in when performing and screws with our concept of time. I know for a fact as I have done objective tests with this on gigs. Most people mess up because they want to go faster than they are supposed to when performing. I for one have learned to be very careful about tempos when performing and use mental hacks to keep the tempo where it needs to be. I learned a valuable lesson long ago that there is no such problem as cold fingers .... I mean there is no real need to literally warm the hands and fingers, they can function normally even in very cold weather. What we need is a mental warm up as performers. Slow or easy pieces to start helps set the mood, both for performer and audience. Always start easy to slip into performance mode. Even Paco de Lucia admits this is necessary.

The hardest thing to do is deliver a single difficult piece after waiting a long time back stage or whatever, preparation is essential.

_____________________________

CD's and transcriptions available here:
www.ricardomarlow.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 6 2019 12:44:19
 
flyeogh

Posts: 459
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: What does it take to busk? (in reply to flyeogh

Just my update on progress.

I’m now 200 days into my 500 day plan. Based on scoring of 12 techniques, 5 palos and use of metronome I started at 15/180, after 100 days 30/180, and after 200 days (yesterday) 48/180. Appreciate the numbers are only relevant to me but it shows progress.

I know some advised just enjoying the ride but maybe because I’m an IT guy I need those numbers to maintain my enthusiasm and determination. It must help if my levels of frustration when taking 3+ weeks out with tennis elbow was anything to go by.

I’m practicing average 1.5 hours a day and just playing to an imaginary audience (or our dog – he’s a good listener) 1 hour a day.

I’m using Peter’s suggested method to overcome nerves, and taking Jason’s advice to record myself more. Both I think are helping. But I know I’m not using the metronome enough. I need to step that up.

As a warm up each time I use an easy "The House of the rising sun". (I doubt Ricardo that you warm up with that one?? )

My goal is still to do a session for friends in the bar after 500 days. Still on course – I think. Maybe the busking can wait till then - beyond the poor people who overhear me on the station platform on my way to a lesson

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nigel (el raton de Watford - now Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jul. 20 2019 5:26:31
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