Going on a trip? Have an instrument that is too big to pack?
As a pianist, I always had a hard time keeping up with my music-practicing when I went on vacation. Through the years, however, I found that it is possible to continue engaging with music and having fun with music while I was away from home.
"Here are the top 5 things you can do to keep up with your music skills while traveling."
1) Listen to Your Music
Listening to the music that you are playing can greatly enhance your musical abilities. In fact, I have my students listen to their repertoire regularly and those who do so regularly actually play better. Rhythmic issues can easily be resolved, and so can note accuracy and tempo. Download your repertoire and play the music in the car or while waiting at the airport.
2) Read Music
Bring your sheet music and try to “hear” the music internally as you look at it. If that is too hard, put on a recording and follow along. This exercise can also enhance your sight-reading skills. Even doing this 5 minutes a day can be beneficial.
3) Explore Different Worlds
Even if your destination is a car ride away, you can still experience exotic cultures. Search on YouTube for the instrument you are playing but add to the search a foreign country or genre. For instance, if you play the violin, you can search “violin” and “India” to reveal a kind of music very different from Mozart. What does cello sound like when combined with an Indonesian gamelan orchestra? Ever heard the Russian Saxophone Quartet play Cuban music?
Some musicians such as 6-time Grammy winner Daniel Ho are known for creatively exploring and honoring music from different cultures. The video above features him playing ‘ukulele music in collaboration with musicians playing traditional Mongolian instruments. The result is a refreshing synergy of sounds and a feeling of having traveled to the Mongolian countryside.
If you find something interesting, let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for fresh and intriguing music.
4) Fun With Music Apps
There are many apps that can help you learn music theory or strengthen your sight-reading skills. Many of them make it fun to learn, so my students actually love doing them regularly. Here are some of my favorites:
- Music Tutor (Sight-Reading)
- Rhythm Cat
If you have tried any of these or if you other favorite music apps, let me know. I am always looking for fun ways to learn music.
5) Air Guitar Anyone?
Believe it or not, mimicking the motions of playing an instrument can actually strengthen your musical skills. If your hands and fingers are going through the motions of playing the actual notes on an imaginary piano–or whatever your instrument–then your brain is receiving input similar to that of actually playing your instrument. I once heard that when Mozart was a boy and traveling through Europe, he would practice on a makeshift keyboard to keep up with his piano skills. Whether or not this is true, it is an effective way to practice. Because your brain has to work extra hard to move your fingers while imagining the music, you can end up deepening your ability to play music. Here are two ways you can do this:
- Basic Level: Listen to a recording of your song and “air play” by moving your fingers, hands and body as if actually playing your instrument.
- Maestro Level: Without a recording, “air play” your instrument while hearing the music in your head. See how long you can do this. If you can do this for the entire song, then you really know your song. Being able to “play” a song without your instrument helps develop the ability to hear music internally, an important skill for being able to play musically.
When you travel and want to keep up with your musical skills, try one or more of these activities. Even if you don’t have much time, remember that if you devote even 10 minutes a day to making music, that ends up being over an hour of music-making in a week. Make it a goal to engage with music every day and you won’t lose too much while you are away. In fact, you may even deepen your musical abilities while having fun.
Let me know how it goes and if you have ideas to share in the comments below.