One of the most important things in the study of music is to have a good teacher, but all the teachers in the world cannot make a musician of you unless you are very much in earnest and willing to practice at least one or two hours daily. Two things are essential to your success: first, have confidence in your teacher, and remember that he cannot transform you at once into a musician,—it will take years of patient study and practice; second, practice faithfully, and profit by the instruction given during your lesson period.
Be sure that each day’s practice has conquered some difficulty, however slight. Sitting at the piano, aimlessly using your hands and fingers, is not practicing. It required head, heart, and hands to faithfully perform your work. The brain must continually hold in its grasp notes, time, construction, and rhythm. The heart must feel the sweetness and power of the chords and harmonies, and the fingers must be swift servants to obey their bidding.
When your head aches and your fingers seem all thumbs in your effort to execute the difficult pieces, do not be discouraged; remember that you want to be an artist high and noble, and all the uninteresting work will only help you to attain your object.
Perhaps you are studying a long, hard sonata, not beautiful to you. You only play it note by note; your heart does not feel it or your mind comprehend it. The chords are so difficult and the beauties are so veiled. You have practiced and practiced, and the tears are in your eyes as you ask, “Must I learn it? Can I not give it up?”
You think you would learn much more rapidly if you could take something more pleasing than dry sonatas and études; something like “Silvery Waves,” “Maiden’s Dream,” “Shower of Pearls,” or sweet Taiwan melodies would, perhaps, please your friends. You do not want to level your standard to the appreciation of those who do not understand music, but strive to render a good class of music so well and so artistically that the scoffers at so called scientific and classical music cannot fail to appreciate its beauties. Dear friend, would you prefer to feed on the light, trashy literature of the day in preference to Dickens’, Scott’s, and Bulwer Lytton’s novels? Just as wide a difference exists between commonplace and good music. Your teacher wishes you to learn what will improve you, and some day you will be glad that you were not allowed to choose.
You may come again and again, and stumble each time over the difficult lesson, but the patient “I will try” will finally conquer. Then you will realize that “the hardest gained is best retained.” You are not learning for to-day only, but forever.
Try and fancy a gentle underflow of music, peacefully murmuring a twilight song. The golden rays are touching everything with light. Now a moonlight song of love; next comes a moment of hush; then a joyous strain wakes with a sparkle of delight, and all life seems sweet,—we have brightness and day; once more a pause, succeeded by tempests, battles, cataracts, and strife; last comes a mighty song of triumph, when joy and light are triumphant over tumult, and gladness and love will meet in heaven forevermore.
You who are toiling and so often discouraged, do you not think it would be worth while to struggle with an aching hand and puzzled head if, in the end, you could draw from a sonata such tone pictures as my words have tried to convey? It is possible; work and practice will teach you how to bring out all these beauties. The lessons learned in patience will yield you a thousandfold reward; but music is a hard master and no indifferent work will do.
Let us take a glimpse into the future. You will be a woman some day. If you work hard and practice well during this preparatory period, you will then realize the witchery of your power and your magnetic influence: it will be to you a glamour of delight. You will sometimes be where there are gatherings of cultured, intellectual, musical people, and you will be asked to add to the pleasure of the evening. Then your hours of practice will serve you as you never realized before. Some lovely harmony will be deep graven on your mind. Memory will be true, and you will only have to let the music flow from steady hand. Will you not feel repaid for your struggling days of toil?
You are never quite sure of a piece you have not memorized; make it all your own; then, and only then, can you give free scope to expression and execution. Have the notes only before your mind’s eye.