I went extra early to my audition. Needed to make sure there was plenty of time in case something came up. My audition was at 4 pm yesterday and I took the 12:07 from Grantham to London Kings Cross. Crazy right? I got to Yamaha with a couple of hours to spare so I sat contemplating life in a bar across the street for an hour. I then went to Yamaha about 3. They said the audition would be downstairs. They also gave me a practice room to tune and warm up which was nice of them.
At about 3:30, I went downstairs to wait for the audition to start. I saw people start to gather and guessed who was auditioning to pass the time. At one stage I noticed a guy with a clipboard and figured he was the guy to give my name to. The guitarist ahead of me didn't bring an ID and that was a requirement. He was panicking that they wouldn't let him play but he did in the end.
After checking in I spoke to a guy who worked with Yamaha. He asked me to play one of their instruments for the audition and I said no, I'm playing mine. I think the self assured way I said it made the London Underground guy chuckle. The Yamaha guy said, ok I guess we can't make you. But even though I brought my own amp I had to use their PA system. I would also be given a sound check. However, the guy who was doing the sound was at the till helping a customer. I needed to speak to him to tell him my requirements.
I waited for him patiently for what seemed like forever. Then another guy asked me if I needed help and I explained that I was told that this guy was meant to be doing the sound and I was the first one up. He interrupted him because I was supposed to start then and he helped the customer instead.
So then this PA guy proceeds to tell me I must use a Yamaha violin because I'm going through their PA system. I said no, I'm using my violin and have my own amp if need be. He was very insistent and I just kept saying no. - They have a competition on to win free equipment but if you participate you have to use their equipment. I didn't want to because I like a very particular sound and feel from my violins. Under no circumstances would I use some foreign instrument for something as important as that. - In the end he had to give in. I knew he was talking nonsense anyway! They probably couldn't get that many people to participate because I don't think I saw anyone with a Yamaha instrument except for the keyboard player. Actually when they first told us about it I thought people would be jumping at the chance for free stuff. The Yamaha people seemed desperate. The guitarist after me said he used a particular tuning with his guitar so that's why he wanted to use his own. I didn't give a reason. Just no which should have been enough. I'm assuming Yamaha are participating in the auditions in hopes that the musicians will buy their stuff.
Anyway I told him what adjustments I wanted for my sound once I plugged in. I took extra long because I was the first one up so he had to do more to get it to the right place for everyone. It was a bit awkward doing a sound check playing the song I was going to play for the judges. I just did bits and pieces as the backing track ran. Also managed to sneak in a few Irish tunes BWAHAHAHA! Don't think sound was perfect but it was good enough. I didn't decide until that last half hour what I was going to play. (I get to pick one then the judges get to pick one out of a list of 10). For me it was a toss up between Quizás, Quizás, Quizás, Moondance, and Ain't Nobody. In the end I chose Quizás, Quizás, Quizás.
The judges greeted me and asked what I was going to play. I said the name then played. Was a bit shaky but tried to hide it best I could. All I was thinking was just keep going! Don't stop! Don't know why it was so uncomfortable, I play this stuff all the time! So anyway I got through that, then they asked if I do lots of busking. I said I'm out busking every sunny day. And I've been to Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, also Cornwall and Kent. They said (sounding surprised) that I go all over the country then. I should've mentioned this busking blog too! Darn it!
So then I was asked to play Ain’t Nobody because it was one of the judges favourite. Was nervous playing that too but sounded alright I think. (Ironically the two songs I played were the same ones I did for Siren radio). When I finished lots of people, including the underground guy with the clipboard, said I sounded really good. I was glad to see people smiling and tapping their feet as I played. Especially the judges.
So I stayed until about 5 to listen to some of the other musicians. They were all solo acts. The guy after me was the one that forgot his ID. He played sort of blues guitar with backing tracks. He was good but I have no clue exactly what he played. Was just improv. The first one was slow so the judges asked for a fast one. Was all a bit samey samey to me. I imagine he's good enough to get a license tho.
Then there was a violinist. He was an old man accompanied by a translator who was his friend. He was sweating buckets and played acoustically. Was a very advanced musician but bowing seemed a bit scratchy. Probably nerves. The judges said he'd have to be accompanied all the time if he got a license because he doesn't speak English. He'd need to be able to understand safety instructions. Also the violinist said he hasn't busked much, so not sure how that feeds into whether they'll give him a license.
I heard a guy on piano who played a couple of popular songs really well, again one slow and one fast. And a female singer/guitarist was after him. She had a very nice voice. There were definitely more men than women there overall as far as I could tell. As I was leaving another guy was next up playing guitar and singing.
What do you think of my experience? Are any of you auditioning for a busking license? What has been your experience? Write in the comments below!
Serena Smith is an American British violinist and fiddle player. I play full time as a street musician in addition to the live gigs I perform with several bands.