Recently, a curious reader emailed us about getting a piano that fit in a carry on bag. Being a travelling musician myself, I thought this was genius. It’s so easy to get inspired in a new setting, almost as easy as it is to neglect practicing- even when you want to! So, I did a little research.
a) How light is it?
(Airlines restrict carry ons to around 12kg. I can carry up to 15kg comfortably if I’ve been to the gym, but do my noodle arms WANT to?)
b) Does it sound nice?
c) Weighted keys or non-weighted keys, that is the question…
Well. I figure that a decent sounding mid-ranged piano = A composed travel buddy = An ideal vacation situation, pianist edition!
Sound too good to be true? Not by the end of this article!
Travel Practice Keyboard under $200
Throughout the past year, I’ve had a lot of students look for a portable piano to practice while on vacation. I’ve rounded up the following keyboards that are good options. They are small, light, and low-cost. They don’t have weighted keys, but they have really good touch sensitivity, which could be just as beneficial on vacation.
They don’t have the full 88 keys, but I’d argue that’s not necessary for a vacation keyboard.
Yamaha Piaggero is a light, touch-sensitive keyboard. Yamaha is known for making touch-sensitive keyboards that are enjoyable to play. This is a great option for anyone looking for a simple, no-nonsense travel keyboard. It also runs on batteries!
Casio Casiotone is also a simple, straightforward keyboard. It can also run on batteries and comes in 3 colours, and has a carrying handle. I haven’t tried this piano yet but it looks like a good option.
A Portable Piano for Composing
In Amsterdam I let my nails grow out, but miss playing without them too soon after. I’ll bet most most pianists prefer it when they feel the keys, too.
If you don’t think you can groom your nails when you’re on the go, consider getting a keyboard with narrower keys. You can utilize your hand-space better, keep up with where the notes are on the board, and be able to hear them too. There’s no point in doing Hanon if your fingers are going to be splayed flat.
The Yamaha Reface CP is a portable keyboard geared towards people who want to compose and hear the notes rather than keep up their technique. It may also be useful if you teach music online, because students are concerned with seeing the sequence and range of the notes and the mini keys might fit their computer screens better.
The Yamaha Reface CP weighs 6 pounds. Seriously. The portability is so amazing that if I bought it, this would be a serious contender with my laptop for desk space.
Casio CTK2400 PPK features a stand and headphones in case you can’t play loudly. It doesn’t have weighted keys, though, which is my major concern for such a large keyboard. If it’s taking up so much space, it might as well have proper keys. I’ve played acoustic piano for almost all my life, and non-weighted keys doesn’t cut it for me in terms of getting satisfaction in playing and maintaining technique.
However, if you want a lighter keyboard to carry and non-weighted keys aren’t a huge issue for you, look into this model as it is more portable than some of the other standing keyboards. With playback and recording, it’s a solid option if you compose music. It’s 23.7 pounds, so if you really want to compose or teach remotely, check this one out.
A Portable Piano for Practicing Technique
Most people aren’t on month-long trips with flights every few days, so a keyboard with normal-sized keys will do just fine if you’re looking to maintain technique.
If you care about having fast fingers and decent technique, look into weighted keyboards. They may be heavier keyboards for the same size as a nonweighted keyboard, but it may be worth it to maintain the strength of your fingers, especially if you won’t have access to a real piano for a while.
Weighted keys, which mimic the action of an acoustic piano, becomes important for keeping your fingers nimble, but they do make the overall keyboard heavier. Take a look at the following travel-sized keyboards with weighted keys. They are smaller and lighter- not your play-me-everyday Steinway, of course- but great for travel.
Roland GO is a light, no-nonsense portable keyboard, great for keeping your fingers nimble while on the road. The touch gives you sensitive weighted keys, which is all I’d need. It also comes with functions like transposing and reverb- always good fun. This one’s 8 pounds, definitely something you can take on most planes.
The GO comes in a few models, each with their own quirks. The GO:Keys is red and comes with more than 500 sounds. GO:Piano has more of a realistic acoustic piano sound and comes with a music stand. As a Classical musician, I would take the GO:Piano because of the music stand and audio quality. When I’m on the road, I don’t have a need for any sounds other than piano.
Roland RD 64 is a larger, more robust, grand piano sounding instrument. The keys are weighted properly, but it doesn’t have a built-in sound system, so you’d connect it to an audio output like an amp or headphones to hear what you’re playing.
It also gives you other instrument options like the organ, but if you’re a classical pianist like me, those aren’t exciting. What’s exciting is that it seems to be the your favourite sounding keyboard that you can carry around. It’s 28.2 pounds–less portable than the last option, plus the amp–but worth looking into if you’re on-the-go and still care about quality of the sound you’re hearing from the instrument.
Yamaha P45 is a bit large for a carryon, but it’s more of your solid keyboard sidekick with pedals, ideal for keeping fingers strong on-the-go and perhaps playing some fancy licks. It gives you features like combining voices and lets you play sounds from your PC, which (for those new to digital composing) is pretty sweet. It’s 36.4 pounds, so definitely less portable than the previous options.
Just kidding. I lift, dang it!
The other one I really like is the Yamaha Reface CP, if I wanted to compose or teach music on-the-go.
After my move to Seattle, I’ll be looking for a solid piano for my home and likely one of the above travel keyboards. If this is going to be you soon, do you have any favourite keyboards? If you’ve ever brought your piano travelling, which one did you bring?
If you’re a busy musician, take a look at the 4 staple pieces of music that everyone should play!
Note: This article was updated in Feb 2020.
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