let's say you wanted to take a 3 month vacation

How would you 'keep practicing?'

I mean you don't just forget everything but won't you feel like 'ugh' once you get back on your instrument?


It's going to depend a lot on the destination. A violinist or guitarist wouldn't want to take their instrument into the jungle for even a few days. And the pianist...

If possible they would find somewhere to play. I used to go to the Canaries a lot, and found some nice schools of music - with instruments, of course. Went to Russia years ago, ended up buying a guitar to keep practising.

A lot of musos have at least one other instrument to play. Often, I'll put a clarinet or flute into the suitcase, small enough, and quiet enough to use almost anywhere.

Depending on the destination, (and genre!) there may well be a band, orchestra or open mic venue that could be explored even before the sojourn takes place.

You're right - an edge is usually lost with that sort of time away - trumpeter's lip, fluidity, reading, chords not so frequently played on guitar, but it soon (hopefully) comes back. But most musos would want to have their dose of music at a frequent level.

And let's not forget, he'll have his music to listen to, and maybe some dots to follow on the Ipad.

  • 1
    Second this, if I went on a long vacation I'd have harmonicas and a flute in my luggage, and my budget would certainly include a cheap nylon string in local currency which I'd sell or give away before leaving. Not just to stay sharp, but because 3 months without instruments doesn't sound like much of a holiday to me!
    – Some_Guy
    Dec 28 '16 at 14:15
  • also I know a fiddler who has a decent enough Chinese "travel fiddle" which she takes with her to gigs in more precarious locations. I have a nice second hand student flute I use for jazz gigs where I know I'm likely to have a couple of drinks and probably leave it on a table somewhere at some point. Obviously I wouldn't be pleased if something happened to it, but it would be a lot less of a night ruiner than if something happened to my main instrument.
    – Some_Guy
    Dec 28 '16 at 14:18

Most musicians take a small instrument with them when on holiday, but even if you don't, you still have your voice. As long as you have a way to record or transcribe then you can still practice and learn.

I often find that a few days away from my main instrument really helps me change my improvisation structure, so I like to listen to a lot of different music on holiday. That stuff I don't usually hear makes its way into my head and when I return it comes out in my playing.


If you're a serious professional musician you just DON'T take a day off practicing, let alone a month. If your standards (or those of your employer) are lower, you just cope. Yes, your playing will drop. Yes, it will come back.

  • 2
    It sounds just hard to make music for living.... sounds as hard as an athlete. Dec 25 '16 at 14:28
  • 3
    @Aminopterin you're starting to get the idea... Dec 25 '16 at 16:25
  • 2
    Actually, there are plenty of niches for a professional musician that don't involve virtuoso-level performance. Just be at a level where what is required isn't hard FOR YOU. Dec 26 '16 at 13:46
  • not all musicians are strictly musicians by career. Some do it next to their main career.
    – Lenny
    Dec 27 '16 at 8:07

The answer to this also depends on how bad you want it. If you simply play as a hobby, it may be good to take a hiatus to return with fresh creative inspiration and yearning to play.

For the die-hard, there's so many options with modern technology. For the pianist:

portable keys

Funny story: my mentor, in the days before the technology pictured above, made this little board with a 2 octave run of piano keys. He had ingeniously carved the board and attached the keys in a way that perfectly mimicked a piano's action. Of course, it didn't produce sound... But, he constructed it for the explicit purpose of being able to practice fingering while on vacation/holiday. He'd continue to use it after that - even driving down the road. :P

Yo-Yo Ma buys an extra plane ticket for his cello when he flies.

A professional will sometimes ship their instruments to the destination, when they can't be carried. One can almost certainly line up a gig or two in order to cover any transit costs (playing music is never 'work' for some of us.)

I have basses in the homes of select friends and family for when I visit, so I don't have to carry around my main squeeze...

Or purchase something inexpensive at the destination, as Tim says.

  • 1
    oh, I didn't know this even existed, that's so cool
    – Lenny
    Dec 27 '16 at 8:04

I'm not a pro but I have a cheap guitar and mini practice amp and headphones that I take with me, as well as a portable digital piano with a decent feel. I do spend two weeks away from my main gear every year but again, I'm not a pro. Also those two weeks I spend at the beach but at a rental cottage that has air conditioning so it's ok for wood and electronics.

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