Piano Practice While Travelling

Published by Bill Glover on

Our eldest has been playing the piano for a year now. He enjoys it enough that when we decided to spend summer in Beijing he asked if he could bring his piano with him. We don’t have a real piano at home, but we’ve really enjoyed the Roland FP30-X. I’d highly recommend it. Whilst it detaches from the stand and is portable, it isn’t something that I fancy trying to check in at the airport.

Playing the Carry-On Folding Piano

The longest we’ve been away from home is just over a month. Part of me thinks this would be a great time to give him a break. But it was him who asked.

“How do I play the piano in China? Can we bring it?”

His piano has been his happy place, somewhere to go when he’s upset or just needs a break from everything. So how can you practise the piano while traveling.

Option 1 - Rent a Piano / Piano Room

The longest stretches we’ve had away from home have been in Beijing. When we are there, we are lucky that our local shopping offers piano rooms for rent by the hour. They aren’t expensive but no one complained when we turned up and started to play one of the display pianos. But, the middle of a shopping mall isn’t the ideal practice environment. It was great for performances, but not the best for repetitively going over tricky bars.

Option 2 - Portable Keyboard

I discovered the Carry-On Folding Piano by BlackStar (product, Amazon). It sounds terrible. Even if you lower your expectations for what a folding piano my sound like, it’s worse. But it has four stand out features that make it ideal for practice whilst traveling.

  • Full size keyboard - great to minimise adjusting playing position
  • Weighted keys - allow a limited sense of dynamics while playing
  • Bluetooth MIDI - great if you are taking lessons on an iPad
  • Folds small enough to fit in carry-on lugguage

The piano folded down. iPhone for comparison.

There are some downsides.

  • The keys feel very different and mistakes easier to make
  • The sound is terrible, even with an external speaker
  • It feels delicate so you wouldn’t want to drop it
  • Finding a place to set it up at the right hight is a challenge

I felt that the search for the perfect solution would leave us without a solution. The Bluetooth MIDI allowed me to use Garage Band running on the laptop to improve the sound quality. The laptop doubled as a music stand.

Despite the significant downsides, we’ve been happy with the Carry-On Folding Piano. Having a piano around has given us something to do on days when the weather has been miserable. It has also been nice to see our eldest continue to make progress with his playing whilst we are away. If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.