How to Practice Piano WITHOUT A Piano

Lisa Witt  /  Practice  /  Jan 10, 2024

promo banner

Here’s something we piano players have to deal with that many musicians don’t: our instrument isn’t portable! This makes traveling and going on vacation somewhat difficult. You may have come back from a vacation only to see your piano skills regress. Whoops!

But all is not lost. There are ways to keep your skills as sharp as possible while you’re away from the piano. Here are some ideas on how to practice piano without a piano.

🎹 Your Go-To Place for All Things Piano

Get exclusive interviews, fascinating articles, and inspiring lessons delivered straight to your inbox. Unsubscribe at any time

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission from the product seller if you make a purchase. For more info, check out our privacy page.

How to Practice Piano Without a Piano

Finger Independence Exercises

You can practice finger independence and dexterity on the go. All you need is a flat surface like a desk or airplane tray table.

First, create some patterns. Write down the finger numbers 1 to 5 in random order. Then, play that pattern on your desk with each hand. Try it with your dominant hand first, then the other, and then try playing with both hands at the same time. 

Mix up the order of numbers. You can also use a metronome and slowly ramp up the speed. Don’t want to bring a metronome? Use a metronome phone app; even Google has a metronome if you Google “metronome”!

Try to lift and press each finger individually without moving the others. Personally, I always find the 4 finger (the ring finger) to be a struggle. That little guy hates doing anything on his own.

When you’re back home, take the Finger Independence Challenge to see how your desk work has helped your playing.

Forearm Scales

Try playing scales on your forearm. ​​Why your forearm? Because you can feel exactly how hard each finger is pressing. When we play scales we want even pressure from all fingers, so this exercise will show you which fingers are pushing harder than others.

Again, try doing this with a metronome. And don’t just practice C major—this exercise is especially useful for scales with unusual fingerings like B-flat major and F-sharp major.

Rhythm Exercises

One thing you can absolutely practice on the go? Rhythm!

Rhythm exercises are a great way to practice hand independence, one of the trickiest piano techniques for beginners to master. Try tapping one note value with one hand and another note value on the other. For example, try tapping quarter notes with your left hand and tapping eighth notes with your right hand.

Then, try tapping some trickier rhythms, like polyrhythms. Tap triplets in one hand and eighth notes grouped in four in the other—it’s challenging!

Sheet Music Study

You can’t bring your piano on the plane with you, but you can definitely bring sheet music!

While it may sound boring, studying your sheet music “offline” (away from the piano), can be very helpful even when you’re not traveling. In a different context, you may notice things in your sheet music that you didn’t notice when you were busy playing. This can include subtle dynamic markings or even notes you thought you were reading correctly but were not!


Did you know that mental practice—visualizing yourself playing a piece in your head—can help you progress faster? A study on guitar players found that those who used both mental and physical practice performed better and had superior memory than those who used physical practice alone.

Of course, mental practice isn’t a substitution for actually sitting down at the piano. But it’s a way to keep your mind and body sharp while you’re away from the keys. So try closing your eyes and visualizing yourself playing a piece from start to finish.

More Travel Tips

Consider investing in a travel-sized keyboard. Thanks to new technology, there are tons of portable keyboard instruments you can bring on your travels. Consider a melodica (the Hohner Performer 37 is a solid model to start with), the Yamaha Reface synthesizers, the Roland GO:KEYS, and the Korg Liano. The collapsible new Piano de Voyage is also something to think about! 

Do note that these instruments are not substitutes for a real piano—they don’t have weighted keys and should only be used to scratch your traveling piano itch, not to practice on regularly!

Find a public piano. Public pianos have become very popular in cities around the world. They’re not just great places to practice songs. You can also practice performing in front of an audience, play with other people, socialize, and jam! Here’s a map of public pianos around the world.

Listen to music on a portable device. Finally, it’s easier than ever to listen to music on the go. So listen to your repertoire, do some visualization exercises, or follow along with the score.

🎹 Learn With Real Piano Teachers

Get real feedback from real experts…all from the comfort of your own home. Explore our Method and community for yourself with a free trial.

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

Start learning piano the easy and fun way.
Sign up for 4 FREE play-along lessons

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.