Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Keep up Piano Practicing While On the Road

An interesting question was recently posted to a piano forum to which I am subscribed. The question was "How do I keep up with my piano practicing while on the road?" I have a little bit of experience with this only because I lived in Japan for two years and didn't bring a piano with me :) So here is some general advice that I would give to piano enthusiasts who can't find a piano!
  • Find the local music stores
    Music and instrument stores are great places to locate pianos. I would not advise that you just walk in and start practicing though! Talk to the manager(s) of the store and explain to them your situation. Most music stores have a recital room and/or a practice room. I have been to several music stores that have been happy to let me borrow their piano for a couple of hours once a week or so. Some might ask for a small fee, but many of them will be happy to let you use it - assuming it isn't being used for a recital or for a paid lesson.
  • Find the local churches
    Many churches have a piano and some even have several. Churches are unique in that they have a lot of "down" time where their pianos are not being used. Speak to one of the representatives for the church and ask them if you could use their piano to practice on once in a while. If they agree, be sure to let them know in advance when you would like to use it so that it doesn't disrupt any meetings that they may have planned. I happen to be a Mormon (no - we are not polygamists - that group is a "break off" from the mainstream church :) ) and I know for a fact that many Mormon church buildings in the US house more than one piano. So if you aren't having luck with your nearest church building, try looking up the nearest Mormon (LDS) building and see if you can get in touch with somebody there.
  • Ask locals
    If you are travelling for work or are living in the area and just don't have access to a piano try asking your colleagues or neighbors. They may know of a location with a piano. While I was in Japan I volunteered to teach an English class once a week. I asked some of the class members if they knew of anywhere that I could practice the piano and one of the ladies in the class said that her daughter was a pianist and that she'd moved out and left her piano behind. She offered to let me practice for a few hours once a week. I became great friends with her and her family through the process.
  • Try the Schools
    I would suggest this more as a last resort, but you can also try the local universities and colleges. If they have a music program then they will also likely have practice rooms equipped with pianos. If you go during off-peak times you can frequently find a piano to practice on for a while.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open
    Lastly, just keep your eyes (and ears!) open for pianos around town. I once saw a piano in the lobby of a hair salon and I asked if I could play for a while. They ended up loving the live music and asked me to come back again. You never know where you might find a piano!