BY R. G. GOLDSTEIN.
All children are fond of music and most of them look forward with pleasure to their first piano lesson. There is much for reflection in the question, “How keep up the anticipated interest shown before the beginning and after the first few lessons?”
If the pupil could begin playing without the trying accessories of technic, note-value, time, etc., the study of the piano would, from every point of view, be more agreeable, but as there is neither a short nor a smooth path to musical knowledge, it is all the more imperative that some of the existing obstructions be cleared away. The teacher can help much in the clearing. Finger- exercise, which plays so important a part throughout this study, should of course be taken up from the very beginning. It is the foundation upon which execution depends and it is in this that the pupil needs the entire cooperation of the teacher. She must really do much of the work with him, since great patience and perseverance are required, characteristics rare in the average pupil.
While the fingers are steadily gaining in strength, the notes should be taught, and it is well to call the child’s attention to the association of those on the staff with those correspondingly named on the keyboard. These at command he is soon able to comprehend a simple melody for the execution of which the fingers have been preparing themselves. In the choice of the first so-called “piece” lies much the secret of the young performer’s future enthusiasm and success. It should be short, simple, pleasing.
Duett-playing can be introduced after the first few lessons. An excellent promoter of time, it is also most recreative. Later on, when the bass notes are learned, the secondo helps most materially in impressing them better upon the mind; it also furnishes a splendid introduction to the triads, which should follow. Teach the principle upon which triads are founded, and have the pupil apply it to any chord formation of the common triad order. This gives a practical view of the subject, and when your pupil has that he has music from an intellectual standpoint. That should be the aim in teaching.
The cause of such poor time in beginners, is not so much alack of comprehension of the value of notes, as a lack of patience to overcome the “hard places.” This decidedly up-hill work does not recommend itself to youthful restlessness. Here is where the teacher must come to the rescue, with a most willing hand. Practice with the pupil that one particular measure until some degree of certainty has been acquired, and then let him work a little for himself; you will notice a decided improvement in the next lesson. There is nothing more trying to the listener than a stuttering performer, and much of the blame in the case of the beginner, rests upon the teacher.
Expression can also be taught in the early stage of progress, really with the first piece. Call the attention of the child to the fact that all sounds have a meaning and that they are sweet or harsh only because a careless finger-touch makes them so.
Encourage playing for others, this will give confidence and will be an incentive for better practice. I have found it not only profitable but also pleasant to gather my pupils about me once a month, having them at those times play for each other. These Musical Gatherings bring about a happy social feeling between pupils and teacher, as well as among the pupils, which strengthens confidence and respect on both sides. Teach the children sweet sounds at the instrument, and through the loyalty of the instructor, they will learn art for art’s sake.