The Lesson of Economy-cultivation of a "Good Ear" - The Training of the Fingers-technical


At the end of a week the pupil should be able to draw the bow over the open notes firmly and pleasantly, and if the piano is played and beautiful chords given, the effect is quite musical and encouraging. These open notes must be played in different times -slow four in a bar and bow, quick two in a bar and bow, and also in three-time and even slow twelve. The lesson of " economy " must be early learnt. By that I mean that if the bow measures but sixteen inches, and you are counting a slow four in a bar, the bow" must be mentally divided into four divisions, and one-fourth given to each beat. If this lesson is not early learnt, the bow will pass over the string too quickly, and the player will find herself tremblingly trying to make two inches of bow last for two long beats.

The child should, from the beginning, realise that between the mind and the hands runs a "telegraphic message," call it "will" or "telegraphy," or anything you wish. But in every action the brain must work first, and then the fingers. Until we have trained our fingers and hands to be our servants, the most beautiful message from the mind cannot be conveyed.

It is especially so with the violin. Most people, if they play "out of tune," think there is something wrong with their musical faculty, and that they have no "ear," whereas their ear is probably merely uncultivated, and their brain not being used at all.

The Use Of Thel Efth Andt2

Each note a child plays must be first imagined in the mind and analysed by the mind. To put that quite simply, a child must be able to sing the note it wishes to play, and must know whether it is a tone or a semi-tone from the last note played. This soon becomes such a habit that we are unconscious of doing it, any more than being conscious of the mind settling whether we go upstairs two steps at a time or only one. But at first a little child seems to think a great deal how to go up and down stairs, or do any of the actions which soon become unconscious habits. The habit of singing the notes to be played is an excellent one, and, I believe, advocated by the greatest of all masters, Joachim.

The next step is to begin to use the left hand. After having succeeded in getting the hand and arm into the right position, two or three practices may be given to making a note by pressing down the first finger on the string.

Having mastered the right use of the first finger-and there are many wrong ways, be it said-the second and third fingers can be taken next, and the fourth finger last. This is by far the hardest servant to train. If the left arm is not in the right position, the fourth finger will never do its Work properly. The fingers must go down on the string firmly, and like little hammers.

Methods Of Instruction

I Will now say something about the books and methods mostly used, and how long should be devoted daily by a young child to the violin.

I have used many "Methods," and Primers, but after long experience I think Sevcik's "Method" is the finest and most intelligent. There is in that no getting away from certain immutable rules and facts, and if they are honestly followed there 'will be no ignorant or careless years of fruitless toil to regret. His semi-tone system is invaluable, as the student from the first realises the distance each note should be from the last.

Interspersed among these exercises are quite simple but beautiful little melodies with a second violin part underneath, and the child soon learns to look forward to earning the right to play these little tunes. I must urge again what I suggested in my article on page 680, that it is never too soon to teach interpretation and criticism.

In these early little melodies in the first part of Sevcik's "Method" the pupil can be encouraged to decide for herself the characteristic of each fresh tune and to try to give it a suitable expression. Hand in hand with the gradual knowledge of intervals, and the delight of making a simple melody sound beautiful, must be a rigid and never-failing watchfulness that the technique of both hands is being carefully improved and strengthened. No method in a school can be used without discretion, and I have often had to discard a certain method and try and get equally good results by entirely different means. Even in the smallest specimen of childhood there is that strange and tyrannical force called "personality," and no one method will suit a great number of dispositions.

Developing Enthusiasm

The first year or two of study will show very small results to the ordinary listener, but a musician will soon discover if a small "Violin Pupil" is only that, or if she is that much more precious product, a genuine music student patiently learning the violin. I should like to suggest that the child should be taken to hear the finest violinists of the day, and be allowed to stay for a short time only. If she is taken away from a concert before she is tired or bored you have begun to train the enthusiast of the future.

In short articles it is impossible to deal with this subject in detail, but I can only say from long experience what I have found to be the best way, and leave the details to be filled in by the individual teacher. Perhaps I have said enough now to warrant my original remarks on the importance of care in choosing the professor, even from the very first. I intend to deal with the more advanced technique in a subsequent article, which will include suggestions as to teaching the positions, bowing exercises, and more advanced technical exercises for the left hand.

I will end this article with a wise and golden saying of Schumann, "Always play as if a master were listening to you. I will add a piece of advice from my own experience (especially with very young students): Never give them the chance of practising alone at first. If a daily lesson cannot be given there should be always someone to supervise the practice who will also be present at the lesson.