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On the Virtues of India-Rubber.


How I wish I knew some clever writer or eminent teacher I could induce to write about the virtues of a little bit of india rubber! Such a number of people have written praising up the use of the lead pencil, some saying teachers ought not only to use it lavishly, but blue and red ones as well. However, it’s no good waiting any longer, as I don’t know anybody of importance; so I am just going to put down myself what I mean, though I am only a schoolgirl.

What I want to say is this: It’s all right enough teachers using pencils and putting marks all over pieces while we’re learning them, but they ought to carry about a piece of india-rubber as well, and rub out all the marks as soon as we’ve learned them perfectly.

I don’t know what other pupils feel like, but I know I hate, when made to play before people, to have to stick up in front of me a piece scribbled all over. I do feel so ashamed that they should see what a lot of mistakes I made when I was learning it. Mother says, “Now, Fanny, play Mrs. So-and-So that pretty piece Miss Smithers taught you last term,” and when I get to the end the visitor is sure to come and look over my shoulder: “Very nicely played, my dear. What’s it called?”—puts up her eyeglass, and peers into the music, while I just turn hot all over and feel like sinking through the ground. Because, don’t you see, this is the sort of thing sure to be staring her in the face: “This passage to be played 20 times,” “Not staccato!” ” Do n’t hurry here,” “F-natural, not F-sharp!!!” and so on.

Now, a bit of india-rubber used by my teacher at the proper time would save all that, and really, after toiling and moiling as I do, plodding through a piece for weeks and weeks and practicing my hardest, I do n’t like to be made to feel small.

Of course, people will say I ought to play by heart, then nobody’d be any the wiser. And teachers pretend sometimes that they train all their pupils to play without book as a matter of course. That’s all nonsense. Just as if we pupils were all made alike! Why, there’s hundreds of schoolgirls like me who do n’t care a cent for music, and just learn it like geography or arithmetic, or any other horrid old lesson at school—because we’ve got to. Perhaps we can manage to get one piece once in a way off by heart, but it takes such an age, and we’ve got so little time for practicing we can’t possibly try to memorize all, and should n’t succeed if we did,—I, for one, always forget things so quickly, and I can’t even get poetry to stick in my head, as our elocution mistress can tell you.

Then, some of us are everlastingly moving about from one town to another, or changing schools, and so are perpetually having new music teachers. I know I do. And some of them, let me tell you, do n’t trouble to make their pupils learn anything by heart, and others give just as many new pieces as they possibly can in one term, so that one has as much as one can do to learn to play them tolerably decently, even with the book.

And that reminds me of another reason why I dislike pencil marks so, disfiguring my pieces all over. When I go for my first lesson with a new teacher, I don’t want him or her to know all my little weaknesses at once (let them have the trouble of finding them out for themselves!), and I don’t like them to see how I used to make the same mistake every time. I do n’t like to be thought stupid, and I like to start fair. But how can you, if “Don’t thump,” underlined three times, is over one bar, “Mind the rests!!” over another, and “Don’t forget the sharps,” in huge letters, above a third?

What I think is, when one gets a passage right at last, it would be so much nicer if the teacher would have a bit of india-rubber handy and rub out the obnoxious marks or remarks. Perhaps only one at a time, so that by the time the whole piece was learned perfectly they would be all gone. Even the fingering, or some of it, might be rubbed out, too, for one gets to play it right quite mechanically after a while—but I do n’t so much mind about that, it isn’t so disfiguring.

Anyway, I do wish I could persuade teachers to carry about a bit of india-rubber, as well as a pencil, with them.


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