February 20, 2013
Maxims and House Rules for Young Musicians:
– A lot can be learned from singers, but do not believe everything they tell you.
– 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.
– Play in time! Some virtuosos’ playing sounds like a drunk walking. Do not use this as your example.
– Do not be afraid of words like: theory, thoroughbass, counterpoint etc. They will treat you kindly if you do likewise.
– 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.
– 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!
– When you are playing, do not concern yourself with whoever may be listening.
– 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.
– You must not promote bad compositions; on the contrary, you should expend every effort to help suppress them.
– 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.
– 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 everybody insisted on playing first violin, there would be no orchestras. Respect every musician in his own field.
– When you get older, occupy yourself more with scores than with virtuosos.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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!
– The road to improve is always through hard work and perseverance.
– 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.
– There is no end to learning.
For a more complete version of this list, see here.