Keeping up with Piano Practice While Traveling

Anne Beck
June 23, 2023
Female music teacher playing acoustic guitar with her young teenage girl student also playing acoustic guitar during holiday recitals

Keeping up with Piano Practice While Traveling

Traveling is a fantastic opportunity to explore new places, cultures and experiences, visit family and friends, and relax and create fun memories during the summer months. However, for piano students who do not have access to their instrument when they are traveling, keeping their musical skills sharp and continuing their progress at piano can be a challenge. 

Fear not! There are ways to practice piano without a piano! In this article we will suggest some creative ways for piano students to review their musical knowledge and skills even without access to a piano. By utilizing portable tools and focusing your music practice on aspects of piano learning that don’t require access to a keyboard, you can continue your musical journey wherever your wandering takes you. Here are a few tips for practicing music while traveling:

1. Listen to Music

  • If you can find recordings of the songs you are learning, try to listen to them a few times a day while you are traveling. Close your eyes and imagine playing along while you tap the rhythm with your fingers. This will continually refresh your memory of the piece, so it will be easier to pick up again when you return.
  • Listen to songs you want to learn in the future and add them to a list as you discover ones you like. This provides inspiration and new musical goals so you can come back strong and ready to learn when you return to lessons. 
  • For even more inspiration, listen to performances and recordings by great pianists. Think about how they put expression into their performances and what makes their playing come alive. This can inspire you with ways to become a better pianist too!

2. Bring Portable Resources

  • Carry a music theory book, flashcards, or use mobile apps to review notes, rhythms, key signatures, intervals, scales, chord progressions, and more. Ask your teacher for theory resources or worksheets that you can use to keep learning on the go. 
  • Bring sheet music for songs you are learning and study the score to identify and remember the important theory concepts they use. 
  • Leverage technology to your advantage. There are many music learning apps for ios and Android devices that can be used to review theory concepts. Plenty of these, such as Staff Wars and Melody Cats apps, are designed to be fun and are geared towards child learners too. 
  • If you have enough space, consider getting a portable roll-up table or floor piano to bring with you. You might not do a lot of serious technical practice with this, but you can still review melodies and rhythms and try sight reading or improvisation. 

3. Practice Rhythm and Finger Technique

  • Sharpen your rhythmic skills. Use clapping exercises, a metronome, or rhythm apps or flash cards to practice different rhythmic patterns and subdivisions. Study sheet music and practice counting the rhythms you see. 
  • Maintain dexterity and strengthen your fingers with exercises that don't require a piano. Use finger strengthening tools such as stress balls, hand exercisers, or even a simple rubber band to work on finger independence and flexibility.
  • Practice fingering for scales, arpeggios, chords, and other technical patterns using a portable piano or by tapping your fingers on a tabletop or another flat surface.

4. Improvise and Compose 

  • Unleash your creativity and try making your own music. If you chance upon a piano during your travels but don’t have sheet music or are not in a space conducive to practice, try improvising. Experiment with rhythms and tones and harmonies to create songs of your own!
  • If you don’t have access to a piano but still want to get creative, try songwriting or composition activities. Take a notebook or blank sheet music with you or download a music composition app such as Maestro, Noteflight or Musescore. Jot down musical ideas, lyrics, or melodies. You may even be able to use the app playback feature or a piano app to see what your melodies sound like. 

5. Share Music with Others

  • Listen to music with friends or family and talk about it with them. If you are a parent with a child who is taking music lessons, spend some time on this type of music appreciation with them. Children benefit immensely from parental investment in their musical journey, and even taking the time to share active music listening with them can inspire them in their own playing. 
  • If you can find access to a piano or portable keyboard, play songs you know for friends or relatives. Grandparents especially love seeing children perform what they have learned and it’s a great way to increase performance confidence too! 
  • If you are visiting a foreign country, tune into their radio or find another way to explore the music of that culture. This is a great way to broaden your musical appreciation and experience another culture at an even deeper level. 

While traveling, being away from the piano doesn't mean your musical journey has to pause. Listen to music, embrace alternative study methods and seize the opportunity to strengthen your music skills in other directions. Leverage technology and online resources to help you, and don't forget to nurture your creativity through songwriting and composition. 

Your experiences while traveling can inspire you, broaden your mind, and let you connect with others whom you may not normally see often. You may not think these things also translate into playing the piano, but technical skill and accurate notation are only one aspect of piano performance. Pianists must also be able to connect with and engage their audience, enter into the mood of a piece, and understand theoretical concepts that underlie the composition they are playing. These are skills and habits of mind that can be strengthened even if you temporarily don’t have access to a piano. 

Remember, the joy of music can accompany you wherever you go, allowing your musical wanderlust to flourish anywhere. Safe travels and happy practicing!

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Anne Beck
June 23, 2023