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"Anybody Can Teach a Beginner."


What can be done to get the insane notion out of the heads of thousands of our respected fellow-citizens that “anybody can start a beginner in music,” and that “later on will be time enough to engage a first-class teacher?” I suppose this idea springs from the fact that people of limited education in general branches are able to teach children to say their A-B-C’s and to do simple problems. Reasoning from analogy, many persons consequently suppose that persons of the most limited musical education are competent for the first year or two of instruction. This might be true if musical instruction consisted of simply teaching the names and values of the notes, rests, characters used in music, etc. The first teacher in music, however, has something far more important and difficult to do. He has to lay the groundwork of the future technic. He has to see that the proper position at the instrument, the position of the hands, fingers, etc., is maintained at all times, of itself a difficult undertaking in the case of the average pupil. He has to lay the foundation for acquiring the various “touches” on the piano, initiate the young pupil into the mysteries of phrasing, see that the distinction between the various shades of staccato and legato are at all times maintained, and, above everything, exercise on the mind of the pupil that nameless musical magnetism which flows from a deeply musical nature. If money has to be saved in the employment of an inferior teacher, let it not be at the start, for the first year is the supremely important one for a student of the piano. Many a pupil gets bad habits during the first year that are never eradicated. The “formation of the hand” is far advanced in two years’ lessons, consequently it should be done under the direction of the best and most successful teacher available. The statement that “anybody is good enough for a beginner” is simply idiotic. One might as well say that anybody can cut out an elaborate costume, that it is the sewing which is difficult, or that any one can make the clay model for a statue, that it is chiseling the marble which is difficult. As a general thing it will be found pretty hard to spoil a pupil who has been thoroughly grounded by a first-class teacher; on the other hand, it is often very difficult or impossible to correct the ruined technic of a pupil who has been started all wrong.


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You are reading "Anybody Can Teach a Beginner." from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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