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Tips on Starting a Clown Band?

Discussion in 'The Clown Forum' started by TorontoBoy, Jun 21, 2017.

  1. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    Has anyone started a clown band before? I'm looking for some hints and tips, what works, what failed.

    Two of us will anchor the band, both in dressed in clown. Singer, enthusiastic and animated but average voice and guitar/ukelele player, does not sing. Starting with easy songs, and making it up as we go. I have a baritone ukelele (tuned to same top 4 strings as a guitar), but also have a classical guitar. The ukelele is much smaller and easier to carry around. The classical guitar is pretty large.

    We have a couple of other members that could join in for a song or two, but unwilling to practice. We have other members can bang pots and pans, hopefully to the proper beat.

    Thanks in advance.
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  2. V

    V Well-Known Member

    Interesting enough I suppose, but I don't know that there is a genuine venue for it. Certainly not a paying market, but that is only a factor if you want this as your 'job.' I think the first natural fit for the concept likely is an association with Blue Grass or Olde Time Music; however, most musicians that fall into those camps are some of the most talented players on our rock. It sounds as if, your group would be casual at best, in the playing and rehearsals and such and as in most industry, poor practice makes poor performance. In all earnest, I would wager your most likely stage would be paradability - in that your group could play on the back of a flat-bed, or pic-up, or float in a mobile performance. This takes away some of the need for a polished performance while still allowing you to 'get out there,' on occasion. Possibly some room for you as roaming entertainment, but again, you'd need to ask yourself what the value is in a group where only half the members are interested in practicing and the like..
  3. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    This certainly won't be for making a living. We're a volunteer group, so casual. During our walkabout events, the singer envisions more of a round-the-campfire, but no camp fire, with kids, and have a free for all singalong. While I want a more polished act, which necessitates regular practice, I believe she wants more "spontaneity", or as we say "winging it". Just sing and play at a minimum level to get by with the kids.

    No stage act, just in your face, at ground level, spontaneously breaking into song whenever and wherever we go. Sort of like a clown singing version of close-up magic. Have you seen this anywhere? Sing a bit, walk a bit, stop and sing some more. Is this desirable? New location for every song, new audience at every turn.
  4. V

    V Well-Known Member

    At a performers showcase a few years back - for library summer reading programs - the best act there was a music act. The creator was a musician but his act wasn't necessarily "high level" music. It was a stage(ish) show, with a lot of involvement from audience, so it translates well enough to your concept I think. He used instruments like bongos or boomsticks, etc - stuff anyone could pick up and make noise that resembles music. His act was basically a comedy routine, with some fun songs he could play while directing audience members to be a part of easily enough...

    That being said, I don't know that I'm sold on spontaneity equating to an absence of practice. I use to do a lot of close-up magic, and while the basic gist of that sort of set is to make it feel like you're doing magic out of thin air - everything is very much practiced and rehearsed. To be honest, even a lot of patter that seems off the cuff, is actually just a library of rehearsed lines collected over the years - get enough of it, and it feels like you have a response for any situation.

    Finally, I think music acts can be very fun and successful - but, I'd advocate for practicing. I know much of it is out of your hands, with other members being resistant to rehearsal and such, but there's not much that beats a polished routine; even if you polish it to look like it's an ad lib act..
  5. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    Tomorrow we have an event. Maybe a successful day might encourage others to practice. We've done 2 practices with the two of us, 17 easy kids songs.

    I do agree that practice makes the act seem effortless and spontaneous. It is that way with close up magic as with many things in life. Thanks for the advice.
  6. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    How did it go?

    I'm not quite following if you're trying to do comedy with this or just plain old sing-a-long. In either case, your best bet might be to look at traditional comedy music acts. Especially stuff like Smothers Brothers. I think you can draw inspiration from such things to apply to your work in strolling entertainment. Of course, the most important thing is to make a connection with your audience. If someone is not that good of a singer, play it up for laughs (think Bobby Brady's voice cracking.) Or get words wrong and let the kids correct you.
  7. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    The event was outdoor and really loud. There were two locations with a full stage and amplification of performers. There was also high wind. It was so loud that my electronic tuner could not hear my ukelele. I never really realized just how loud an event can be.

    We practiced our 18 songs, and could hardly hear her singing and my ukelele. I decided the environment was not good for our performance, so we stopped.

    The singer decided that if we could not play in an outdoor setting where it was loud, our usual event environment, that she would rather not practice further. So we've stopped the idea of a clown band. Unfortunate, I believe, because these endeavours take more time and further practice to even have a little success. To kill an idea after only 2 practice sessions is premature.
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  8. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    Thought about it some more and continued practicing. Some issues came up at the other event, such as the loudness and high wind. I fabricated a clip to the headstock of my uke and put cheat sheet cards of the music. This would help me remember the music and be stable in higher wind. We have a list of 18 songs. The most important change was a shift of attitude, that being there and doing is better than not being perfect and therefore not trying.

    Had another event today and brought the uke, in a case, which I wore as a backpack. The event was loud but not as windy. Further away from and to the side of the stage was much quieter, providing pockets of semi-quiet. The general idea was the two of us to approach a kid and his parent and ask if s/he would help us sing a song. The <7yo kids were pretty shy, but <13yo kids were all game. We'd sing a song or two, thank them and then move on to someone else. Often the parents would join in. It turns out that many people do enjoy singing, regardless of singing quality, but seem to have no opportunity. Our musical walkarounds provided them with this opportunity. Overall we thought that it was a lot of fun, when there was not enough kids for balloon twisting or for a break, and added a new dimension to our usual ballons, magic and kidding around. We'll need to try it again at future events and gain more experience.

    Some technical notes: singing in front of the main speaker system, I often could not even hear my uke, which means any mistakes I make were all ok. While it would be better to practice our songs, it may be that to just be there and sing anything, with mistakes and all, is better than not singing at all. As a logical perfectionist, this is difficult for me to get used to.
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  9. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Especially, as a clown, to be able to lead the song (but get things wrong, and allow people to correct you) can be both funny and entertaining.

    In.any case, this sounds similar to what I do, successfully, with walk around juggling and audience participation. I like where you are going with it in engagement.
  10. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    There is certainly a lot of opportunity for comedy when you lead the song. making a mistake with the lyrics and having the kids correct you, stopping and have the kids add something to the song, making up lyrics to songs that kids already know. "Old McDonald...and on his farm he had a...cucumber, EIEIO...with a crunch crunch here..."

    With a duet there is also the banter between singers that you often hear during a song. Emphasis in the right places or not, harmonies or not.

    As I relax into the role I am sure I will see more possibilities. I am pretty used to walk around closeup magic and comedy, so this is an extension of the same forum, with a musical twist.
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  11. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    Not a band but I do use an autoharp in walk around as a clown. It is just another side to my character and works as part of my solo performances. Not that I'm that great of a singer but I can pass and the autoharp while bigger is just strange enough to pass off with an old time character type clown. It works especially great at some venues but I carry it with me always. Just this last weekend I was hired to do 3 hours of bubbling. It was so hot no one wanted to do anything but sit. So I sat on my bubble case monitored my buckets of big bubble solution and played and sang. I had couples with their little kids and grandparents smiling at my hokey songs. It was kind of like reverse walk around. I couldn't move but the people came to me to see the bubbles and then maybe a funny song or two.
  12. TorontoBoy

    TorontoBoy Active Member

    I had to look up autoharp, as I had never heard of such an instrument. How do you carry such a device around with you when you do a walkaround? It is much more rectangular than a guitar. Currently when not in use I carry the uke in a backpack case, on my back. This allows me to have 2 free hands and continue to do ballons and magic.

    I think I'm going to try this singing/uke duo combo as you do with your autoharp!
  13. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    Autoharps do have a case for them and the little golden one I have has pegs for a strap just like a guitar strap. When I do walk arounds like at a county fair I insist on parking onsite. Cause I have a lot of props and need to be able to change out stuff in my car. They just know that. It isn't as bad as you think. This one I have is a 3/4 size little golden and actually not that heavy. I also have a stumpf fiddle and play that to recorded music that plays from my phone into a honey-tone amp. I carry some small rhythm bells or shaker instruments in my pockets and we have an impromptu band with kids I meet in walk arounds. The stumpf fiddle is actually heavier than the autoharp to carry and play. https://www.facebook.com/specialkzt...64511887265/10153853154957266/?type=3&theater That takes you to my Facebook page where you can see it in action. There are stumpf fiddle pics there also. I do the music part alone then put it away to do other things. I don't know if you have run into this but once you start balloons you better have a case, balloon bag or balloon belt with you full of balloons and be ready to stand in one spot for at least a couple of hours or more cause a line will form no matter what you try to do to stop it. Unless you are just blowing up balloons and handing them to kids you have to figure as the bare minimum one balloon sculpture ever 3 min minimum and that is if you are super fast. That is 5 sculptures in 15 min. By the time you get 5 kids a sculpture you will have another five behind them. It is a never ending line. There are ways to manage that but I have never seen a roving balloon artist. Unless the crowd is mostly adults and then you do different stuff for adults and not usually balloons unless you want to do elaborate stuff. Then you have to again carry a lot of balloons. This is why you need close parking and be able to go back and forth. I usually carry some small pocket gags that I can pull on the way back to my car. With the music it works both to and from the car on the route I travel.
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  14. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    For music in walk arounds I like to play common children's songs, folk songs, old time sing along type songs, and story songs. I've found some pretty good stuff on songdrops.com for a website that has new comedy children's songs that are just corny enough to work for a clown. I hope it's O.K. to list a link here to my Facebook page that has a partial song list of some of what I use in Walk arounds. https://www.facebook.com/specialkztheclown/posts/10154371150097266

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