musical house- and life-rules
Aural training is the most important thing. Make efforts from the start to recognize keys and notes. The bell, the window-pane, the cuckoo - investigate the sounds they make.
You should play scales and other finger exercises diligently. There are, however, many who think they can achieve everything by spending many hours a day practicing mechanically right into old age. That is just like trying to say the ABC as quickly as possible, getting quicker and quicker, every day. Make better use of your time.
The so-called ‚silent keyboard' has been invented. Try it for a while and you will see that it is of no use. The silent cannot teach you how to speak.
Play in time! Some virtuosos' playing sounds like a drunk walking. Do not use this as your example.
Learn the basic rules of harmony early on.
Do not be afraid of words like: theory, thoroughbass, counterpoint etc. They will treat you kindly if you do likewise.
Never just plunk away. Always play as if afresh and never stop halfway through a piece.
Dragging and hurrying are equally bad mistakes.
Try to learn to play easy pieces well and beautifully; it is better than a mediocre performance of a difficult piece.
You should always play on a tuned instrument.
You must not know your pieces only via your fingers; you must also be able to hum them away from the piano. Teach your imagination so that you can recall not just the melody of a composition but also the harmony that goes along with it.
Even if you have a weak voice, try to sing at sight without the help of the instrument; by doing this, the sharpness of your hearing will improve continually. If you have a melodious voice, waste no opportunity to have it trained, and treat it as the finest gift heaven can bestow on you!
You must reach the stage when you can understand music by just seeing it on the page.
When you are playing, do not concern yourself with whoever may be listening.
Always play as though a great master were listening to you.
If someone places a composition in front of you for you to play, and you have never seen it before, read it through first.
If you have done your daily musical work and feel tired, then do not force yourself to go on working. It is better to rest than to work without freshness and pleasure.
When you are older, do not play fashionable pieces. Time is precious. You would need a hundred lifetimes just to get to know all the good pieces there are.
Children are not raised healthily by being fed sweets, cakes and sweetmeats. As with food for the body, spiritual food must be plain and wholesome. The latter has been amply provided by the great masters; stick to it.
Fancy passage work fades over time. Technical accomplishment is only of value where it serves a higher purpose.
You must not promote bad compositions; on the contrary, you should expend every effort to help suppress them.
You should not play bad compositions; neither should you listen to them, unless you are forced to.
Do not search just for technique and so-called bravura. In a composition seek to bring out the expression that the composer had in mind, and no more. Anything beyond that is a caricature.
Changing anything, leaving anything out or adding new-fangled embellishments in pieces by good composers must be considered an abomination. It is the greatest outrage you can inflict upon Art.
Ask your elders which pieces you should choose to study. This way you will save a lot of time.
Gradually, you must acquire a thorough knowledge of all the important works by all the great masters.
Do not be led astray by the applause which is often accorded the so-called virtuosos. The approval of artists is of greater value to you than that of the masses.
Anything in fashion will one day be out of fashion. If you pursue it into your old age you will make a fop of yourself, and nobody will respect you.
Playing a lot in society does more harm than good. Look at people, but do not play anything of which you would feel inwardly ashamed.
Waste no opportunity to make music with other musicians, in duos, trios etc. This makes you play fluently and with animation. Also, accompany singers often.
If everyone wanted to play first violin, then there would be no orchestras. Each musician should therefore appreciate his proper place.
Love your instrument, but do not be so vain as to think it is the most important or the only one. Remember that there are others which are equally beautiful. Remember also that there are singers, and that both choirs and orchestras give expression to the highest things in music.
When you get older, occupy yourself more with scores than with virtuosos.
Work at playing fugues by good Masters, above all by J. S. Bach. The 'Well-Tempered Clavier' should be your daily bread. Then you are sure to become an able musician.
Among your friends, seek out those who know more than you.
As a respite from your musical studies, read a lot of poetry. Take lots of walks in the fresh air.
A lot can be learned from singers, but do not believe everything they tell you.
There are many people in the world. Be modest; you have yet to invent or think of something that has not already been invented or thought of by someone else. If you do think of something original, regard it as a gift from above to be shared with others.
The study of the history of music, together with listening to live performances of masterpieces from different periods, is the quickest cure for complacency and vanity.
A good book on music is: 'On the Purity of Musical Composition' by Thibaut. Read it often when you are older.
If you pass a church and hear the organ being played, go inside and listen. If you are fortunate enough to be allowed to sit on the organist's bench, then put your little fingers on the keys and be astonished at the omnipotence of Music.
Miss no opportunity to practice on the organ. No other instrument takes such an immediate revenge on sloppiness in composition and playing as the organ.
Sing regularly in a choir, especially the middle parts. This makes you musical.
What, then, does being musical mean? You are not musical if you gaze anxiously at the notes and laboriously play your way through to the end of the piece. Neither are you musical if somebody who is turning for you turns two pages instead of one and you stop and cannot continue. You are musical, however, when you can feel what might be coming in a new piece of music, or in a familiar one; in other words, when you have music not just in your fingers, but in your mind and in your heart.
And how does one become musical? Dear child, the most important things - a good ear and quick perception - like all such things, are sent from above. But your given abilities can be developed and enhanced. You will not do this by shutting yourself up like a hermit and working for days on end on mechanical studies; rather you will do so by taking part in a variety of live musical activities, especially those involving choirs and orchestras.
Acquaint yourself early on with the range of the four main types of human voice; listen to them especially in choirs, find out which intervals have the greatest strength and which others are suitable for soft and gentle treatment.
Make sure you listen often to all the folksongs; they are a treasure chest of beautiful melodies and open your eyes to the characters of different nations.
Learn early on to read the old clefs. If you do not, many treasures from the past will be withheld from you.
Notice early on the tone and character of the different instruments; try to impress their characteristic tone colours upon your ear.
Never miss an opportunity to hear good opera!
Hold the old in high esteem, yet also warmly embrace the new. Hold no prejudice against names unknown to you.
Do not judge a composition on a single hearing; the things that first catch your attention are not always the best. The great masters must be studied. Many things will only become clear to you in later life.
When judging compositions, distinguish between those which are true works of art and those written to please dabblers. Stand up for the former, but do not be angered by the latter!
'Melody' is the battlecry of dilettantes, and certainly music without a melody is no music at all. But be clear about this: What they mean by melody is but something simple and pleasantly rhythmic. However, there are other melodies of quite a different kind, and if you look at Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, they will greet you in a thousand different forms. Then, hopefully, you will soon become weary of the meagre monotony of the latest Italian opera melodies.
It is certainly very pleasant for you to make up little melodies at the piano, but if they come to you on their own, not at the piano, then you can be even happier since an inner feeling for music is stirring within you. -The fingers must do what the head wants, not the other way round.
If you begin to compose, then do it all in your head. Only when you have completely finished it should you try a piece out on the instrument. If your music has come from deep within you, if you really felt it, then it will affect others in the same way.
If you have been given a vivid imagination from above, then you will often find yourself spending solitary hours sitting at the piano as if in a trance searching for harmonies to express your inner feelings. The more mysteriously you feel yourself drawn as if into a magic circle, the more elusive seems the world of harmony. These are the happiest hours of youth. But beware of surrendering to a talent that may lead you to waste time and energy on phantoms. The mastery of form, the power of clear arrangement, can be acquired only through the fixed symbols of notation. Therefore write more, and dream less.
Learn early on about conducting, and watch good conductors often; even try to conduct pieces alone in your head, where you are your own master. This will bring you clarity.
Take a good look at life, including other art forms and sciences.
The laws of morality are also those of Art.
The road to improve is always through hard work and perseverance.
A few pennies can be made from one pound of iron, yet many thousands of watch-springs too, which are worth hundreds of thousands. Use the pound that God has given you faithfully.
Without enthusiasm, nothing worthwhile can be accomplished in Art.
The purpose of Art is not to acquire wealth. Just strive always to be a better and better artist; everything else will follow of its own accord.
Only when the form becomes clear to you will the spirit then reveal itself.
Perhaps only a genius truly understands genius.
Somebody once opined that a consummate musician is one who, on first hearing a complex orchestral work, can visualise it as if it were before him. This is the highest level imaginable.
There is no end to learning.