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A Thought on Habit.


Teachers seldom fully comprehend the great power of habit. We notice its strength when we have learned some mechanical movement wrong, but often forget that its power is as great to lead the player into careful playing as it is to lead him into ways of wrong playing. The teacher can put his efforts to no better use than in carefully seeing that his pupils waste no time in the matter of forming bad habits. Slow and accurate practice is the rem­edy. If no mistakes are made, the piece will be played each time exactly alike. This soon forms habit, and continued practice will fix habit.

The following quotation illustrates the force of habit admirably: “When you have folded a piece of stiff paper into certain folds, it will ever after tend to resume the same lines. It is so with the brain when it has become too active in a certain mode. There is a residual force after each action which predisposes the ganglia as before. This grows and strengthens until it becomes a fixed habit—fixed in the brain-cells themselves. If you want to destroy a habit wholly, you must kill the man. Grace can overcome, but not without struggle after struggle. This is why formation is better than reformation.”



Mozart’s extraordinary ease of invention prevented his ever finding a prescribed form to be a burdensome restriction. Mozart’s mission was not to overstep the bounds of custom, but quietly and gradually to bring to perfection all that was genuine and true in the diverse elements of his time.

I have always accounted myself one of Mozart’s greatest admirers, and shall continue to be so to my last breath.—Beethoven.

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You are reading A Thought on Habit. from the December, 1901 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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