"Without enthusiasm nothing can be arrived at in art."--schumann
In my first article I gave as my opinion that every child should be encouraged to play the piano first entirely "by ear," and as soon as possible from the ordinary musical notation. Let her thoroughly be taught her lines and spaces and the value of her notes and rests.
After six months of careful, patient teaching, the well-taught child should be able to play simple little solos and duets on the piano and finger exercises for separate hands. If the teacher plays chords in the bass for these finger exercises, they will sound so interesting and musical that there will be no toil or weariness felt, and the musical taste of the pupil will be incited.
By the time she is five, should she show a wish to learn the violin, she is old enough to be allowed to do so. I cannot speak too seriously about the importance of the first lessons and the choice of a teacher. The teacher must have many qualifications if the lessons are to be a success. He or she must have been the pupil of a great master or mistress; she must have, above all, a talent for teaching and an enthusiasm for the work. There must also be such a sensitive conscience that no slight fault or even carelessness can be let to pass as unimportant. Later on the pupil will develop a conscience, enthusiasm, fastidiousness, and self-criticism, and the professor will then have a staunch ally to aid her. But at first the child naturally prefers the easiest way, which is, unfortunately, invariably the wrong way; she has no self-criticism or ambition, and only longs to be done with practising, and be free for more congenial occupation.
It is a fallacy to think that any child starts by enjoying practising. Holding the violin the right way is very tiring, and it is only after the muscles of the arm and back have become gradually accustomed to the position that it ceases to be an uncomfortable one. It is supposed by many people and some doctors that learning the violin and standing to play is bad for a child, and sometimes causes curvature of the spine. It is a precaution to observe the child's back, or, better still, get a doctor or physical expert just to look at it before beginning to learn. I venture to think, after a very long experience of teaching the violin, that, where a child develops curvature after studying the violin, it may have been already curved before she began, or that she was allowed to stand badly by a careless, thoughtless teacher.
Two things I would advise - see that the child stands properly, and insist on five minutes' rest flat on the floor after working, with the feet against the wall. A girl student should stand firmly on both feet, with the weight equally shared, and the shoulders square and the head up. If a pad is worn on the left shoulder there is much less risk of falling into an unhealthy or ungraceful attitude. Personally, I always insist on the five minutes' rest being taken as part of the routine of the lesson if there is the least delicacy to combat. A boy can stand on the left foot only if he prefers, using his right foot merely to balance himself. The lessons should begin by being short, and made as interesting as possible. The violin and bow must be considerably smaller than the full-sized instruments used by grown-up players. Incalculable harm may be done to the pupil's chances of success by using too large an instrument and too long a bow. As the child grows, the violin and bow can be exchanged or replaced by one of more suitable size.
It is an acknowledged fact that to "learn to play the violin "is one of the hardest tasks a human being can set himself, but it is a task also full of fascination and reward. The angel with the flaming sword guarding the gates of Violin Land clothes his sword in many guises - discouragement, weariness, hopelessness, and sometimes despair - but the patient, enthusiastic student meets these sword-thrusts blithely, and works on.
In Violin Land walk giants of the past, whose music is the language of the violinist. No toil surely is too great to reach the world of Corelli, Tartini, Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and many others. They have left us a literature so rich in beauty, and only fully attainable to those who are not discouraged by the hardness of the preliminary way.
But all depends on the atmosphere surrounding the child in the first years of her musical life. Let there be no hurry over the first lessons, no greedy haste to play a scale or a piece, no trying to make an impression on a worshipping relation ! Encourage self-criticism and fastidiousness in the child, and soon she will be as annoyed at her own faults as the teacher is. Let her distinguish between good and bad sounds at her very first lesson, and at her later lessons encourage her to find out for herself what is causing the roughness or whatever it may be. If the pupil "scrapes," it is the fault of the teacher for not insisting enough on all the little details which should prevent it. In fact, at first it all depends on the teacher and how' much conscience, patience, and tolerance she possesses. The child must try, but the teacher must try harder still.