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In a few weeks, I will be on a holiday that will last just over a month. Most of my hobbies can be bought with me, however I fear that this will not be the case with piano.

This answer outlines some useful ways to keep practicing however relies heavily on the face that there are pianos in the area. For me this will certainly not be the case.

I have considered some options that I might be able to do however I am not sure about the long (month)-term benefits or consequences.

The main option I am considering is getting a roll up piano. I personally am not to fond of keyboards (as I am an organist/pianist) however even after the warnings about wrist strain and loss of touch I still feel that this is a better option than not having a piano/keyboard at all.

So the questions I would like answered are:

  • Is it worth getting a roll up piano or a similar small portable keyboard for practice during around a month of no piano?
  • Is a month even enough to seriously impair or damage skill?
  • Are there any other alternatives?

Edit: When I mean portable, I mean it has to be able to fit in an average sized suitcase.

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Nothing is enough to seriously impair or damage skill (except actual physical damage). Of course you'll always need to refamiliarise with a proper keyboard after a change, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. — Other alternatives: if this is not so much to keep you in training with piano as with being able to play music, then why not bring a completely different instrument? Might be a good opportunity to learn one. –  leftaroundabout Jul 9 at 19:24
    
How long have you been playing for? –  Lee Kowalkowski Jul 11 at 8:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I had no idea roll-up pianos existed! Checking out their reviews, even for the expensive ones that come with foot pedals, I would suggest they're fun unless you're used to the real thing, in which case you'll find they're unplayable, that's how it seems.

As they're not played in the same way, I would say they're not sufficient to practice with. There are reviewer comments about poor latency, insufficient polyphony, requiring a perfectly flat surface, etc. These are toys, by the looks of it, they are certainly not pianos. Unless your skills are single-fingered melodies, then I don't think this is worth it. I just saw a guy on YouTube really struggling with his.


A month without practice is nothing to worry about, although I can understand the apprehension, I worked abroad for a year and thought my English would suffer!

I have also been on holidays which have meant I was away from keyboards for a month, and don't read sheet music when I play, everything is memorised, a month without playing is not long enough for me to forget how to play something that I could play off-by-heart before. In fact, sometimes I think a break does some good, any loss of skill would be effortlessly recovered, and certainly nothing serious.


When on holiday I just don't think about it. I don't do anything to practice away from a keyboard, so I cannot suggest any alternatives. If you're a writer/composer, you can still write lyrics, record local sounds for inspiration, experiment with melody on a smartphone/tablet keyboard app, listen to new music to find new things to learn to play, anything like that.

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One option is mental practice, in which you basically are imagining, in as much detail as you can, what you would be practicing. You do this in terms of feel, movement, and the sound your movement would produce. I play violin, and find that when I’m spending half an hour in the evening or morning doing this, my playing improves more than when I only play. Sometimes I’m playing air fiddle, sometimes it really is all in my head. Solid mental practice should at least help you not lose any skills while you cannot play. It does take practice to be able to use the technique well, of course.

The classic read on this is The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey.

I've taken several breaks in my playing, where I'm playing either very little, or not at all, for a few months at a time. It's never taken me more than two weeks at most to catch up to where I was before when I get back to playing regularly. If I've been doing any practice at all, it only takes a few days to get back where I was. You won't lose much if you take a complete break, and you may find yourself reinvigoriated when you come back to your instrument. Whatever you choose, enjoy your holiday!

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Mental practice and/or playing a table edge is what is realistic. I think that there may be software for turning tablets into keyboards that might work better than the rollups. But in either case, the touch will be nothing at all like that of an organ or piano and you'll probably be fighting most of the time to get the sound properly to register.

If you need a visual aid, it would likely be much less distracting to take a piece of cloth with piano print on it: I think they are available as keyboard covers. Of course, you need to pin it to the table, but tablecloth clamps left and right should do the trick.

If you want something useful as an instrument, take a small accordion, possibly a reedless one. Reedless accordions (like from Roland) are probably the smallest portable keyboards that are musically useful. However, if you indeed use a piano keyboard, the range is very limited. The same size factor with a chromatic button accordion is much more useful, but that gives you an instrument that has not even the right hand controls in common with piano/organ. To be fair, the instrument itself is rather different anyway, more comparable to a harmonium.

A full-size acoustic concert instrument useful for most keyboard music will easily weigh in at 15kg. You don't want that for travel. If you don't have a "converter accordion", the left hand side will be limited to particular keyboard music using a bass/chord accompaniment scheme with reasonably simple chords. Stuff like Scott Joplin and most popular music works quite well, Grieg doesn't. There are small acoustic converter accordions, but used instruments are rare and not at "tryout" financial levels.

At any rate: accordions make for a few portable acoustic and electronic keyboard options but are a separate instrument class. And when you are aiming for "portable", a piano keyboard rather than a chromatic button keyboard for the right hand is a liability regarding the size/range tradeoff.

If you are game for learning what amounts to an instrument of its own even though related, you get more options to carry music with you. Certainly beats a roll-up piano.

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