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"What Method Do You Teach?" An Answer.


It sounds very plausible to say that one teaches by the “Common-Sense Method.” but, unfortunately, it is not “common,” but uncommon, sense that is demanded, to be a first-class teacher. One must have reasoning power and inventive faculty to think out new ways of doing things, and these are vouchsafed to but few. There is the same difference in having talent for teaching that talent makes in anything else.

Most teachers are routinists, and cannot strike out for themselves, for the simple reason that they have not the brains to do it. I freely place myself among these, and willingly admit that I have never invented a single new technical principle. All I can do is to teach those I have learned from my great master, Deppe. I consider that I have some “common sense,” however, in being able to appreciate the value of his ideas, and impart them to others.

Method is nothing but a sharper and clearer artistic perception which some people possess over the rank and file. The happy few who have it see farther and dig deeper than the ordinary mind does. Voilà tout!

The teachers of world-wide reputation will always be found to have a method of arriving at the results they produce. Thus, abroad, one hears of the old Italian method as being the only correct school of singing. The elder Lamperti and the Garcia methods are modeled on this. Violinists go to the Hoch-Schule in Berlin in order to learn Joachim’s method of bowing. In piano-playing Leschetitski is the most-sought-for teacher of the day, and, as everybody knows, he demands that pupils shall study with one of his preparatory teachers or “Vorbereiters” for a year, before he will accept them, in order that they may first master his method.

When I was studying in Germany, I would have liked to take some lessons of old Wieck, in Dresden, but was deterred from doing so because I was told I would first have to study his method with his daughter, Marie Wieck, for some months, before I received any pieces. I regarded this as a pure waste of time, because I had a horror of “methods” then. I did not know enough to appreciate the value of a good method.

Technic is strength. Granted that you have musical talent, if you don’t play well, it is because your muscles are weak somewhere. Now, how are you going to get strength where you need it? That is the question which method, alone, can answer. Shakespeare knew the value of it when he wrote in Hamlet:

“There is a method in his madness.”


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