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Questions and Answers

V. W. M.—1. The Virgil Practice Clavier is recognized by many teachers, both private and those connected with conservatories, as a valuable adjunct in laying a solid foundation in piano-technic, and is used for that purpose, even if a number of teachers do not find it desirable to use the Virgil system of. exercises in their work.
 
2. "Gradus ad Parnassum" means "The Way to Parnassus," which was a mountain in Greece sacred to Apollo and the Muses, and famous for a temple to Apollo. Hence it came to be used as a synonym for art-mastery, and one who had traveled the "Way to Parnassus" had reached the higher ranks.
 
3. In the Turner Octave Study in which the time signature is C2, play it first with four counts to the measure, afterward with two. In the latter case the movement will likely be a little faster, only one accent on the first beat (half note).
 
A. H. G.—1. Prior to the pianoforte were the harpsichord and the clavichord. In these instruments the tone was produced by a sort of plucking motion, the idea being based on the use of a plectrum. The modern piano, formerly called Hammerklavier, differs from the harpsichord and the clavichord by producing the sound by means of a blow upon the string.
 
2. If Bach were not the first to use the thumb in playing a keyed instrument, he was the first to use it systematically and to base his teaching and playing upon its use.
 
P. M.—1. We shall not undertake to recommend a work on "the principles of the Old Italian School of Singing." At the present day there is no one work recognized as the best. The term "Old Italian School" is variously interpreted, and has become the subject of much controversy. The practice of many successful teachers is to use the works of different writers for different purposes, certain ones for the first studies, certain others for second grade, and still others as the pupil advances. A selection of vocalises from the works of the best writers has been made by Max Spicker, that will possibly be useful to you. Sieber's Eight-Measure Vocalises are much used with beginners. We call to your attention a note in the Publisher's Column regarding Mr. F. W. Root's Vocal Course.
 
2. We know of no one work on the interpretation of Mozart's sonatas. Instead of trying to get books devoted to the works of one composer, why not make a study of the principles of interpretation so as to be ready for any composer's works? Goodrich's "Theory of Interpretation" is a very complete work on the subject. The price of this book is $2.00 retail.
 
3. We have referred your inquiry as to scores of "L'Africaine," "Le Prophète," and "Les Huguenots," by Meyerbeer, to the publisher of The Etude, but do not find copies with French and German text in stock. A large German catalogue that we consulted does not mention such an edition.
 
J. F. C.—There are two ways of reading vocal music, the "Movable Do" or the "Fixed Do" systems. The former principle is at the basis of most of the systems in use in this country. It is available for the reading of nearly all songs and part-music, but in a piece that modulates freely the singer will have trouble unless he has sufficient knowledge of music to be able to tell the new key. A great trouble with the published works on sight-singing is insufficient drill in modulations, not simply in making them, but in telling the new key. We have no work on the "Fixed Do" system at hand. A letter addressed to the Editor of the Vocal Department, in care of The Etude, Philadelphia, Pa., will be forwarded to a teacher whose work is along "Fixed Do" lines. In the letter it will be well for you to explain your difficulties.
 
P. B.—Possibly the pupil of whom you complain, holding the wrist below the level of the keyboard, has an improper position at the piano. One sitting too low is apt to acquire this habit, especially if the wrist, as it should be, is held loosely. Try practicing the position of the hand and arm and management of the wrist at a table.
 
C.—In practicing sight-reading it is best to begin with something very easy, so easy that it may be played in fairly rapid time at sight. Then proceed by easy and gradual stages through more difficult music. You will find Landon's "Sight Reading" valuable for your purposes. Duet-playing is splendid practice either at the piano or with other instruments.
 
J. C. W.—1. In playing three- and four- voiced chords of all kinds, both wrist- and arm- touches are employed in practice.
 
2. The use of the first and fifth fingers on black keys in the grand arpeggio is advocated by many teachers for all pupils and is excellent practice. If the thumb-crossings and the carrying of the hand are properly managed, the grand arpeggios may be played with perfect legato.
 
3. In legato octaves the fourth finger is often used on black keys.
 
L. C.—We would recommend you to read the article by Perlee V. Jervis in the January Etude, "The Private Teacher versus the Conservatory" as a partial answer to your query. There are teachers of the highest prominence who have never taught in conservatories, there are others who have done so almost exclusively, and there are some who pursue both methods.
 
C.—If you could use some of the devices employed in musical kindergartens to interest pupils, you might find them advantageous with the pupil of whom you complain. Everything must be done to make music attractive to young pupils, especially those to whom practice is a drudgery.
 
E. A. H.—1. The proper way to memorize is by an analysis of the composition to be studied. That is to say, the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic structure should be carefully considered in detail, and in addition all passages analyzed from the technical standpoint. In memorizing a number of faculties are called into play: the visual, which seeks to carry in mind the printed page; the analytic, which seeks to remember the construction; the technical, or mechanical, which causes the fingers to carry out certain passages previously practiced many times; the aural, in which the ear is brought into play to assist and correct all the others.
 
2. A certain amount of elementary theoretical knowledge is nowadays considered indispensable on the part of all piano students. At least a few minutes of every lesson should be devoted to this side of the work.
 
H. F. D.—Bowling is a healthful exercise, and should not, if properly pursued, be of any disadvantage to a pianist. Care should be taken, however, to avoid accidents, such as falls and straining of the finger-joints. A most beneficial all-round exercise for a pianist is to take fifty deep breaths daily.
 
W. E.—1. The "Pedals of the Pianoforte," by Schmitt, contains all necessary information as to the use of the pedals set forth in a practical and interesting manner.
 
2. The "Octave Studies," by Döring, and those by Kullak contain passages and exercises exemplifying all touches and all methods of fingering used in octave-work.
 
3. The pupil you mention as reading less well than formerly has probably been covering too much ground. Insist on slow and accurate playing and do not proceed to the next step until having thoroughly mastered the preceding.
 

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