It’s important to practice while traveling. Whether it’s for a gig, an audition, a cross-country drive, or even vacation, musicians need to stay in shape and keep their skills sharp. There are some strategies that we can employ to stay on top of our game.
1. What to Pack
- Foldable music stand – it’s not worth craning your neck to practice in unusual spaces
- Instrument stand – standing my bassoon up in corners worries me
- Tools and backup supplies – reed tools, extra rosin, strings, reeds, etc.
2. Score Study and/or Listen Intently
Due to the risk of bocal impalement through my throat because of turbulence and for the comfort of other passengers, I can’t practice my bassoon while flying. I do take this time to listen to upcoming music and follow along with my part. IMSLP also has thousands of great, free scores that you can download on your laptop or tablet. Download the score and a recording of a new symphony and immerse yourself in the music at 38,000 feet. Download different recordings of your concerto and make comparisons. Don’t be idle. Same goes for car rides (minus the score studying if you’re driving).
3. Hotel Practicing
Hotel practicing: it’s awkward, but we have to do it. Here are my tips:
- When checking into a hotel try to see if you can get a corner room or if the hotel isn’t full, be kind and ask for one that doesn’t have anyone staying on either side.
- Try to play between the hours of 10am and 9pm if possible. If you receive a noise complaint, stop immediately. For whatever reason, loud TVs don’t seem to bother hotel guests as much as musical instruments. Sometimes I’ll practice with the TV on to mask the sound. I sometimes take a break from sightseeing and practice in the afternoon. This is also a great way to take a break midday in hot climates.
- I always try to find a good chair and if the room I’m staying in doesn’t have an armless chair, I’ll call the front desk and ask to have one sent up.
- If I want a bigger space or need to play after 9pm, I’ll ask if I can use a conference room. Be kind to the hotel workers and they’ll do everything in their power to help you out.
- Many hotels have pianos in their lobbies. Pianists can ask the hotel staff if they can practice on them. Another idea is to contact a nearby music store and ask if you can practice on one of their instruments; I don’t think many piano stores would pass up from advertisement.
Although it’s nice to take a break from playing from time to time–I recently took three weeks off for the first time ever in August–usually I don’t want to spend the time getting back into shape.
What are some of your strategies for practicing on the road?