Practicing while away from home
Posted by: MikeMcf31
Practicing while away from home - 01/10/02 03:50 PM
Hi - I am new here, have been browsing for a few days and I must say this sight is absolutely fascinating. Seems like anything you'd ever want to know about the world of pianos, someone has the answer.
Just a brief intro: I had been away from the piano for ages. Took lessons as a kid, hated it. Stopped in the 7th or 8th grade and did not play at all in high school. In college, there were pianos in every dorm, lounge, etc. So I tried to play again, but was very rusty. I could not afford to buy a piano, so I bought a guitar and taught myself how to play. After college I got a small electronic keyboard (a clunker, not even touch sensitive) and got into it somewhat via what I remembered and my guitar knowledge. But just sightreading, by ear, chords, etc. Nothing serious, but in retrospect I did learn alot on my own. This past summer my wife bought me a grand piano for my birthday (nice gift you may say, but I am the one who is paying it off as she is a stay at home mom...). Anyhow, I told her I had to take lessons again if she expected to have this huge instrument in the living room. So I found a great teacher this past August. My reading, obviously, needed a lot of work. I started at almost the most basic. He has me doing classical, but also developing my ear and using jazz voicings. A little of everything. I have practiced my tail off, since I believe I really needed to "catch up". My teacher is very impressed with how far I have come, but sometimes I think he forgets I did not start at "square one". Presently I am working on Mozart's Turkish March (Sonata in A?).
I am traveling on business to Europe for over 2 weeks. While I am looking forward to the trip etc, the inner pianovoice in me is asking how the hell am I going to practice and how far am I going to regress. I know this sounds anal. But I have even considered buying some sort of portable just to bring with me and keep up. Sooo... my question is... what do you guys do when you are on the road and away from your piano? Any thoughts are appreciated as my wife thinks I am crazy.
Posted by: Matt G.
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/10/02 04:42 PM
I too have to travel frequently in my job. Depending on the type and size of hotel you may (or maybe not!) be staying at, there may be a piano that's kept available for conferences, receptions, etc. somewhere in the hotel. I have always found that politely explaining my wishes to practice on one of their pianos (just NOT the one in the lobby, LOL!) is usually met with gracious accomodation. If there's no concierge, ask to speak to whoever schedules the meeting rooms or the manager on duty. As you might guess, the pianos available are going to vary tremendously, but they'll do in a pinch.
Another possibility, although I wouldn't do it myself, is to beg for a little time at a nearby piano shop or school. But that would only be a last resort if the hotel didn't have one.
Falling behind is something I worry about if I'm going to be gone for more than a week. If you're concerned, you should contact your hotel beforehand. Maybe you can even reserve the piano!
Posted by: jazzyd
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/10/02 04:57 PM
I've been wondering about this as well.
Someone told me that many piano houses have practice rooms that, for a fee, you can go and use even if you have no intention of actually buying one of their pianos. I suppose the argument against this would be that you could play for free by 'pretending' that you're interested in buying one, although after the 7th visit they'd probably start to get it a bit fed up.
Bosendorfer of London apparently charge £10 per hour ($15). Not exactly cheap, but perhaps worth it just for the chance to play a Bosie!
[ January 10, 2002: Message edited by: jazzyd ]
Posted by: PianoMuse
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/10/02 09:14 PM
Ahh, I've had this problem too! And, even though it is not as good as playing on a real piano, this method is an excellent way to use your mind and sharpen your sight reading skills.
In my spare time (say, if I had 6 hours on the plane), I would take out the score of the piece that I was learning ( this spast instance, on the way to California, it was the Rach 2) and look over the score. Starting with only the right hand, I would read the notes and see myself playing them in my head ( visually picturing a keyboard and your hands). Then I would switch to the left hand and do this. then SLOWLY peice the two together. Even though you wouldn't think so, when I got back and sat down at a piano, I felt that I was playing it a hundred times better, because not only my fingers knew it, but also my brain.
Again, this isn't as good as playing on a real piano, but in times where one is not availible, what else can you do?
Posted by: Penny
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/11/02 02:04 AM
Reminds me of a story: On a trip last May to San Francisco, I couldn't sleep, or rather I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep. So I snuck downstairs and found a piano pushed to one side on the mezzanine. It was an old Baldwin, and the lid had been replaced with a Plexi-glass lid. It was dinged up everywhere, but I didn't care. I didn't have my S-P yet (in fact, was shopping on this trip), but went through my tiny repetoire with abandon! Until the security guards came and asked me if I was a guest at the hotel. As if I roam the streets of San Francisco looking for hotel pianos to play -- in my long johns!
I went back upstairs to my room after that!
Posted by: kenny
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/11/02 12:11 PM
Actually when I'm not posting, I DO roam the streets of San Francisco in my pajamas looking for hotel pianos to play.
What's wrong with that?
I was recently at a hotel that had a 7 ft Baldwin, in excellent condition with a dampp chaser that the owner said I could play all I wanted. But he said that I had to stop at 10 PM.
He had a lot of nerve.
Posted by: T2
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/11/02 01:23 PM
If you roam the streets of San Francisco in pajamas you would not raise many eyebrows. They're used to far stranger stuff. :p
I spend a lot of time on planes and international travel. The visualization trick works great. I have also put some effort into doing writing and/or arranging during travel. I also use the time to edit rough drafts and or clean up notational issues on earlier work.
I have run into some interesting situations playing in hotel lobbies though. One memory in particular is burned into my memory. In Beijing in 1991 as a guest at the Sheraton I tried playing a Yamaha concert grand (in playable shape). There was a intense, serious looking but short young woman that strided up to me and said, "Jazz is a decadent opiate of a corrupt, bourgeois society. We do not approve of this music."
Shocked, I was too taken aback to do more than stammer out, "Oh." A few seconds later I managed to collect my wits and retort, "Um, I thought it was the language of freedom." Her face darkened and her pony tail flew out as she turned away and walked over to complain to the rumpled looking police officer in the lobby. The poor guy must have slept in that uniform.
I thought, "Uh oh." I had heard about Chinese jails. (This wasn't long after Tian An Men Square either.) I froze while the police officer walked in my direction. He stopped for a moment, hesitated, nodded and eventually strolled past the piano on his way across the lobby.
I stood up to get out of there, but I hadn't noticed the old man who had walked up behind me during all this. As I got up from the bench he gently grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back into the chair. "Play Stardust," he whispered. I glanced at the police officer, glanced at the old man and got two nods. And continued.
Posted by: jgoo
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/13/02 04:46 AM
A long time ago, I asked here if it was a good idea to practice on a hard surface when no piano was avalible. Some said no, others yes. I found it to be difficult practicing like that.
Posted by: BruceD
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/13/02 06:35 AM
Another take on this question:
If you, as you say, have "been practicing your tail off," then perhaps a break from your practicing - as much as you might miss playing the piano for a couple of weeks - would not do you much harm. The little you may regress in the short period of two weeks will be easily regained with the added impetus of your eagerness to get back to your piano once you return.
Enjoy your trip, play a piano or two if you can, but don't fret about it if you can't.
Posted by: piquÃ©
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/15/02 09:56 PM
i had a teacher many years ago, a soviet emigre, who claimed she had an uncle who was imprisoned in siberia by stalin. this uncle was an accomplished pianist, and while he was in jail, he practiced on a keyboard drawn in pencil on a table. then, when he got out, he won the tchaikovsky competition.
Posted by: BruceD
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 07:40 AM
And who was this Tchaikovsky winner? When? How long was he imprisoned? How long after his release did he win the competition? Who knows, he may have practiced for five or ten years after Siberia before entering the competition.
Anecdotes such as this one need more details and more facts to be accepted, although they make for good reading. I suppose if one wanted to, it wouldn't be too hard to verify the story.
Posted by: Samejame
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 08:11 AM
All anecdotes aside, what may be best would be to find a music store where you are travelling who will rent you a keyboard or digital piano on a short term basis. I did this a few years back when I had to travel on business, was gone for three weeks, and was taking lessons at the time. My teacher gave me a program of pieces to practice, and I went to a music store and rented a digital synth for three weeks. It didn't cost much, and I kept my chops up. Also, it was fun playing with all the synth patches on the Yamaha DX-1 I rented.
Posted by: Dan
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 01:06 PM
Don't forget to checkout local universities while travelling. On a trip to Las Vegas, I called up the music department at UNLV and asked if I could book a practice room. They were a bit reserved at first (probably thought I was some inebriated high roller), but when I explained that I was in town on business and simply wanted to get in an hour or two of practice, they agreed. They didn't even charge for the room. I got a "well used" Yamaha C6, but it worked out well and also made for a nice excursion while in town.
Posted by: PianoMuse
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 06:28 PM
Pique's story is true...
It's actually in one of my Psychology textbooks, talking about a chapter on retaining memory. It says that this guy was imprisoned for 2 years ( he had been an accomplished pianist before) and for those 2 years went through the music in his head over and over again. when he got out he won the Tchaikovsky competition.
Posted by: BruceD
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 08:31 PM
Originally posted by PianoMuse:
Pique's story is true...
It's actually in one of my Psychology textbooks, talking about a chapter on retaining memory. It says that this guy was imprisoned for 2 years ( he had been an accomplished pianist before) and for those 2 years went through the music in his head over and over again. when he got out he won the Tchaikovsky competition.[/b]
Do you believe everything you read?
So, he re-played his music in his memory and in two years lost none of his technique? Of course, your version still doesn't say how long after he was released from imprisonment he entered the Tchaikovsky competition; two days, two weeks, three years? It is relevant. Retaining memory is one thing; retaining piano technique without practicing is, I think, quite another.
If that story is true, then I guess we should tell those people going away on a 2-week business trip and not being able to practice that they have nothing to worry about.
[ January 16, 2002: Message edited by: BruceD ]
Posted by: ryan
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/16/02 09:01 PM
Well, Stalin died in 1953 and the first Tchaikovsky competition was in 1958, and every 4 years after that. Van Cliburn won the first one in '58, Vladimir Ashkenasy and John Ogdon tied for the next one in '62. I do not believe that any of these people spent time in a siberian jail. If this person's name happens to be Grigory Sokolov, he had a minimum of 11 years to make up for lost time: imprisoned in '53, out in '55, and wining in '66.
Here are the rest of the winners in order. Are any of these people the mysterious prisoner?
1970 Vladimir Krainev
1974 Andrei Gavrilov
1978 Mikhail Pletnev
1982 No 1st Prize awarded
1986 Barry Douglas
1990 Boris Berezovsky
1994 Nikolai Lugansky
1998 Denis Matsuyev
Posted by: piquÃ©
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 11:55 AM
geez, you guys, i thought my wink made it clear that i didn't believe this story myself. if any of you know any russian artists you know that they are congenitally predisposed to exaggeration, to say the least.
ryan, thanks for the list. and pianomuse, i am amazed to learn that you read this in a book somewhere. now i have to wonder if my teacher was really the niece of this guy!
of course, she made it sound like he walked out of prison and won the competition the next day! LOL.
Posted by: ryan
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 12:22 PM
Pique, I saw your wink, but thought i better post some numbers before the debate got too out of hand
Seems like I heard the same story and had the same impression you did, that the guy walked out of prison and won the competition. But when I looked up the results I realized that could not have been the case
Posted by: PianoMuse
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 01:18 PM
The guy wasn't russian, he was asian. perhaps It was some sort of other big competition. it was last year that i read it when i had general psych. it said that he was out of jail for about 2 months or something before he entered into the competition, so i guess he had time to practice, but i guess he still retained his technique. So it probably could have been during vietnam or something.
[ January 17, 2002: Message edited by: PianoMuse ]
Posted by: Dan
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 01:21 PM
Ahh, what all of you appear not to know is that Van Cliburn is actually a stage name.
Sergy Stepanovich Vanclyburski escaped from the former Soviet Union gulags in March of 1956 with the help of Anastasia Romanov and a roving band of pianists. Using their sharp wits and multiple safe flats scattered throughout Siberia and the Urals, Sergy was smuggled into Mongolia hidden in a shipment of Yak scales.
Sergy spent the next 2 years in the Pearl River factory where he was often heard to say “The action of my drawing in the gulag was better than this!” At the advice of his agent, Sergy dyed his hair, changed his name, and returned to the Soviet Union to rub their noses in it.
Posted by: ryan
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 01:55 PM
I thought that was an early Val Kilmer movie. (sorry...)
Posted by: ChemicalGrl
Re: Practicing while away from home - 01/17/02 04:45 PM
Originally posted by Dan:
Don't forget to checkout local universities while travelling. [...]
Not a bad idea. I remember as an undergrad, there were practice rooms galore which were readily available during certain hours of the day (and night, as long as you knew the combination). This was at UCSD. Of course, with all the changes there since I've graduated, I'm not sure if the practice rooms are still around the Mandeville Theatre area or not (or if that part of campus is still the same or not).
When I was in grad school at Clark University (Worcester, MA), I had a couple of students who were music minors and had access to the music building after hours. So they gave me the combination to get into the building, and I was able to get my piano fixes that way. Too bad they didn't maintain the pianos in the practice rooms (there were three of them that I recalled) but the piano majors and minors had a key which let them into the rooms with the (in tune and properly maintained) grand pianos. Of course, a little bit of creative exchange (I help you study for your organic chem final, you let me play the grand piano for about an hour or two after hours) helped me to avoid the poor neglected practice room pianos.