What To Do When You Can’t Practice Piano

What To Do When You Can't Practice PianoFor my next stage of life, I decided that I want to travel spontaneously. There will be a gym bag in my closet packed with clothes and a toothbrush for last-second trips. I will drive to remote islands to lay underneath the stars on my SUV’s roof and grab my surfboard when I feel like it.

I will be away from my piano so often that my fingers will not be as light for Liszt anymore, but I will befriend someone who plays a ukulele so I can enjoy live music during my travels. I will still tune my piano every year so I can play whenever I can.

We often tell ourselves that we don’t have the time to practice music as rigorously as a full-time student or performer would, and all we really want is the option to play at our peak. We want to sweep our hands over the keys and study the intricate notes to forget for a few moments that we live complicated lives in a complex world.

I think that’s what travel does for me, but on a grander scale with higher stakes. I get to focus on exploring the world, and not the real-life problems that I face.

It’s not that easy. We want the bang without the buck. We want to be good without consistent practice. The reality is that it takes years to build enough muscle memory to be able to return to the instrument with a certain amount of expertise after a break.

The good news is that it gets easier each time.

 

Even though my fingers will not be as fast for piano in the future, the good news is that I still have muscle memory from years of piano practice. I couldn’t forget it even if I wanted. In fact, studies suggest that anyone who has done anything for 66 days has likely formed a habit or some kind of muscle memory, meaning that it’ll be easier to regain skill rather than learn it for the first time.

When you are dedicated enough to learn an instrument properly, it will stay with you wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Like glue. I am tempted to assume that I’m a faster typer than non pianists, but that’s probably not true. I’ve heard the keyboard taps when I write–it’s like constipation.

If you can’t quite practice piano or your instrument but your fingers are craving practice, you can still practice on a tabletop or closed keyboard. It’s a great way to practice muscle memory, and performers use this as a memorization technique because it puts your skills to the test. If you can play without keys, then your music is pretty much memorized.

 

My time in Vancouver is ending. There is too much pressure here, too much expectation, too much everything. The next time I choose to move, I’d like to live in an english-speaking city where people have no expectation for me. Sometime in my life, I’d also like to live in a house right beside the ocean in a tiny town.

Wherever I am in the world, I would like to be able to play piano. If there’s something you’ve done for a long enough portion of your life, do you start to think of this as part of yourself?

I am already looking at electric pianos online that I could carry by myself. Do you have a skill or hobby that will be a part of you wherever you go?

It’s selfish to expect that things will remain the same each time I return to Vancouver from an adventure, but this time, I think I’m ready for the city and its people to move on without me.

Cover Image Photo by Caleb George

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2 Comments

  • Reply Lisa K Rambo June 22, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Good luck with your travels. Hope you find your island home and peace. I have.

    • Reply Grace Lam June 26, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Thanks, Lisa. Travel is such a curious thing! Sometimes you can find what you haven’t been looking for.

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