How To Practice While Traveling: Keeping Your Chops Up On The Road

Traveling can be one of the biggest obstacles to maintain consistent practice. Unless you’re on tour, playing shows every night, you’ll likely want to find ways to keep your chops up during your trip. The good news is that once you note and solve the major obstacles to practicing from anywhere, you’ll be able to apply these strategies whenever you need to and will be free to travel without worrying about maintaining your artistry.

Work on your listening.
Don your headphones, pick some music in a genre you’re interested in dissecting, whether it’s your favorite classical or electronic dance artists, and start picking it apart. What are the chord progressions? What is the instrumentation? If you’re producing, how is it mixed? Bring some blank sheet music and transcribe the melodies, or the entire piece if you’re at that level. Reverse engineer the music you love.

Try an online music course.
Sometimes it can be nice not to have to structure your own learning. Try taking on online course, whether it’s for your instrument or some other aspect of music, like music history, theory, or musicology. Make sure it’s something you can adhere to during your trip.

Explore the local scene.
No matter where you are, there’s probably some music going on. Make a playlist of tunes from your locale and check out some live music while you’re there. What is the traditional music of the region? What music is popular now? Make the local musical culture a part of your exploration.

Get inspired.
Carry around a notebook and listen to the soundscapes of your new location. Is there something inspiring about the buzz of an outdoor market or the way the old ladies gossip to each other. What about the local language? Listen intently to the ambient noise and make note of anything that strikes you.

Practice sight-reading.
Bring some sheet music with you and try singing the different lines. You can record yourself and then use a piano or a midi app on your phone to check your work.

Process your sheet music.
Take a bunch of new sheet music with you and do all of your processing. Write in and practice the rhythms, learn and/or translate the text if there is any, familiarize yourself with the dynamics. Do everything you need to do to become intimate with the music before you even sit down to start playing.

Practice rhythms.
Why not take this opportunity to practice stomping, clapping, or tapping out complicated poly-rhythms? Even if you don’t use these in your music, it never hurts to have a wide range of rhythmic understanding, flexibility, and skill.

Practice singing.
If you’re an instrumentalist, find a private place and practice your singing. Singing is an important skill for any musician. If you already have a teacher, you can practice your usual exercises. If you don’t, try looking for simple lessons on youtube. You can use your phone’s piano app to assist you with pitches during the exercises.

Do technical exercises.
Practice your air instrument. Tap on a desk or play air strings. Work on your digital flexibility and strength. Practice breathing exercises. Condition the parts of your body that you need to play your instrument well.

Bring a small instrument.
If you’re a vocalist or you play a very large instrument, try bringing a small one along, like a ukelele or a recorder, and start or continue learning it. You’ll be practicing music and hopefully you pick an instrument you actually want to learn how to play anyway.

Find a jam session.
If you’ve got an instrument with you, check Meetup or Facebook to find a jam session or an open mic so you can practice your skills and make some friends. If you’re a pianist, you might be able to find hotel lobbies or restaurants with pianos that are open to talented strangers playing. Just practice something you know well so that it’s enjoyable to listen to.

Practice song-writing.
Bring some blank sheet music and/or a voice recorder app on your phone and practice writing melodies daily. Write lyrics and poetry about your travels. Make up little songs and record them. Simply compile a bunch of material and get a ton of practice creatively inventing song content.

Try a dampener.
If you’re worried about bothering neighboring hotel guests or your Airbnb hosts, experiment with dampeners that work for your instrument. At least you’ll be able to practice technically. And make sure to practice between reasonable hours.

Pack smart.
Bring a folding music stand, a protective case or gig bag for your instrument if you’re bringing one, good headphones, whatever sheet music you’re interested in working on, any tools you need to maintain your instrument, and charging adaptors for your phone.

Enjoy yourself.
Taking a break can be great for your music too. Make sure you actually get the chance to enjoy your trip!

Take in all kinds of art.
Artistic inspiration doesn’t only come from music. Make sure to take in as much art as possible. Read books, go to museums, see performances, watch street artists. Absorb creativity!


Guest Post by Allie Mazon