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Editorial Notes

There is much experimenting going on to devise a practical system of ear training for piano pupils. The present tendency is for bringing the teacher’s class together once a week and training them in vocal music, especially in ear testing exercises for the tones of the scale melodically considered; and also for recognizing harmonies, either from an instrument or when sung. Doubtless, in these two lines there is great need of thorough work, for the piano pupil is too prone to see a note and put down its corresponding key and accept the result without question. But there is also great need of careful drill in teaching the pupil to recognize note and rest values by ear. As The Etude has recently pointed out, rhythm is coming more and more to the front as the “vehicle of expression.” Careful experiment, extensively conducted has demonstrated that those players who fail to interest the hearer are invariably unsteady and uncertain in the time values and rhythm of what they play. While touch or tone quality is a great factor in enjoyable playing, time values and rhythm are fully as indispensable. A good teacher can revise the touch of his pupils so that it is at least no longer harsh; but when this is done, and the pupil plays in unsteady time, with uncertain and erratic accent and with a disregard of time and rhythmic accuracy in general details, there is “no music” in what such a pupil plays. Pupils greatly need thorough drill of the ear in time values, accenting, and rhythms. This work can be easily done in classes.

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But there is a more difficult ear training that is indispensable to fine and really expressive playing. “No two adjacent notes should be given out with the same power,” the books tell us, and this is certainly true. But how to regulate the variations of power is the question for the teacher to ever keep before all of his medium and advanced pupils. A knowledge of harmony is a great help in this. Leading notes, the dominant seventh, and many chromatics, all discords and transition chords and notes, receive accent. In a run there are, of course, the rhythmic accents, and if it is a chromatic or variable run, there are more or less of tones that need a fuller or more melodic tone quality. Here is where careful ear training is demanded, and this is a fruitful subject for the teacher to investigate; one wherein he can prove his taste and musicianship.

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” A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life,” says Milton. Every one knows that some teachers become eminent as teachers, while others who may be equally learned are never known as good teachers. There are gifted teachers who can take a pupil as far as they have been themselves, and even guide them on from their own high standpoint as an outlook, pointing out the distant way accurately and helpfully to their pupils. On the other hand, there are thousands of teachers that cannot teach all that they themselves know. While this all is more or less an inherent gift, or its lack, still modern pedagogy and psychology teaches how to teach. The Etude is trying to lend a hand here to the thousands of teachers who are on its subscription lists. It is often that through one’s own teaching experience there comes a thought that hardly crystallizes into a real thought; but the reading of one of the best modern books on the science of teaching will enable him to bring his unformed thoughts into a teachable form. “A pump may be connected with a very deep well of good water, and yet need a pitcher of water to be brought from another source to be poured in at the top before it can work.” So with the mind sometimes. The reading of a good book helps it into running order. Two things have been especially in mind while making the choice of these books: “Do not let a good thing crowd out the best,” and “Take the best when it is offered.” Any teacher who will live up to all that is implied in these two short quotations will become all that his ambition desires, and more than his friends expect. Doubtless, these works will bring to mind questions that the reader will want answered; if so, write them out plainly and they will receive attention in the regular Question and Answer Department of The Etude.

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“If our foresight were only as good as is our hindsight, we would all be prophets,” said a wit. The musical world has been fairly filled with the concerts given in honor of Schubert’s genius, by way of the hundredth anniversary of his birth. About every orchestra has given a Schubert programme, and so have the vocal societies, music schools, and conservatories to a large extent. This is well, for who has written more truly from the heart to the heart than the great melodist, Schubert? But a hundredth part of the interest now shown in his music would have made him a happy man if it had been bestowed upon him while he was struggling for money enough to get but a crust and more music paper. This suggests that we may be doing as badly in not recognizing more fully the American composers of our own times. The writer is one who puts himself to any necessary trouble to get all that is best by our own composers, and uses it largely in his teaching. The Etude lends a hand in making known the American composer whenever it can. It hereby asks for lists of the best music by American composers of the higher order that teachers are using with success, that it may be given a wider acquaintance and use.

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A half truth is often as misleading as is a falsehood. We are so made that we can only teach that which we personally know and have actually experienced. But when a poorly prepared person is trying to teach music he is in danger of making as sweeping statements about music as did the little hero of a popular story when he said: “Nuthin is better as bread with ‘lasses atop of it.” If this boy had been a regular table-boarder at Delmonico’s, he would not have given it as his opinion that bread and molasses was the most delicious eatable. About how many so-called teachers are now giving unmitigated trash as “the best music?” And how many of them are leading unsuspecting pupils into no end of falsities? Hence, we urge our teachers and readers to make the most of the grand opportunity that The Etude is now furnishing them in the course of reading under the efficient direction of Mr. Tapper. The books are each the best of their kind in the whole musical world for the purposes under consideration, the making of a fully informed and broad-minded musician.

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It is a pleasure to observe what an increasing amount of attention periodical literature is giving to music. The popular and standard magazines are competing with one another in their articles about our art. The daily and weekly papers are giving more and more space to musical affairs, and even some college professors brag about not “knowing one tune from another” less than formerly. Business men now have to acknowledge that musicians are proving themselves to be sufficiently business-like in their affairs to keep even with the world, and at least tolerate the musician where but a few years ago they openly showed contempt. Some of the theological seminaries now have vocal music taught to the students who are preparing to “regulate” the music of our churches. But why so many ministers should know theology and not music, and still think themselves fitted for their profession is past finding out. School trustees are seeing the value of vocal music as a study for the preparation of boys and girls for the duties of useful and happy citizenship. In some communities it has even come to pass that a musician who behaves himself as well as other men is considered a “fellow-citizen.”

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From constantly seeing musical articles in their home papers and magazines the people are led to think more and learn more about music. Like any good thing, to know music is to love it. When an interest in music is aroused, it will be easy for teachers to induce their patrons to subscribe for a music magazine, and especially so when the magazine has a large amount of useable music each issue. They can see a saving of sheet music bills in the idea, and as all teachers know, nothing is harder to manage in their work than is the getting of sufficient good music for their pupils. Our correspondence makes it distinctly clear to us that those teachers who induce their pupils and patrons to take The Etude have the most interesting classes, and classes of pupils who study music the most seriously, pupils who study music for art’s sake, and not as an accomplishment merely. It is the advanced and finished players of the teacher that builds up his classes and musical influence, and this is only possible in a community where music is appreciated as a fine art. Good musical literature and recitals by artists are the “royal road” to this desired haven.

 

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