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Power Through Repose.

The Roman soldiers used to exercise and drill in san­dals to which heavy iron soles were attached. When a forced march or any great exertion was required, these soles were removed. The consequent relief and lightness of foot enabled them to accomplish great things with but little sense of effort.

On the same principle, various gymnastic exercises have been devised for the use of piano-students. They consist largely of extensions and certain move­ments of the fingers involving awkward positions which seldom or never occur in practical playing. Such exercises are undeniably valuable in furthering strength and independence in a comparatively short space of time. Herein lies a danger for the ambitious student. He is apt to think that what does so much good in five minutes will do him twice as much good in ten minutes—that ten minutes, doubled or trebled, will advance him correspondingly. The value of repetition is great; it is the basis of all acquired power and endurance, but it must be used with judgment. Carried to an extreme, the muscles be­come strained, and often a total lack of power re­sults. Schumann’s lame hand is the best-known warning as to inconsiderate mechanical practice; but every teacher knows of similar instances. Unfortu­nately, too, it is generally those of the brightest promise who seek such short cuts to artistic perfec­tion.

The error is one which arises from a misunder­standing of the actual physical effects of practice. As a fact, any physical exertion depletes the nerve-cells of the part employed. The beneficial influence of an exercise is gained, not at the actual moment of exertion, but in the interval of repose which should follow it. To repair the waste of tissue which it causes, the blood is attracted in larger quantities to the working muscle. It removes effete matter and new cells of an increased energy are formed. This is only possible during an interval of repose, minute though it be.

Exercises which do not tax the player’s powers un­duly and in which the natural position of the hand is not interfered with, for example, scales of moderate power and movement, can be practiced a comparatively long time without danger of injurious consequences. This is because the fingers have time to recover from their temporary fatigue during the passage from one to the other. Where there is a fixed position, or where there is any perceptible muscular strain on hand, wrist, or arm, care must be taken to relieve the strain at more frequent inter­vals. Let the impatient student adopt as a maxim: Power through repose. He will find that this holds good physically, mentally, and psychologically.—F. S. Law.

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You are reading Power Through Repose. from the May, 1902 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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