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After all, if mistakes keep occurring, it is very unlikely that the rhythm will remain unbroken in any case.

A thing that must be impressed most firmly on all pupils is that they must never correct an error by merely playing the right effect after the wrong one and then going on. It is essential always to go back at least to the beginning of the bar in which the trouble arose, so as to get the correct approach to the offending part ; it must be connected with its context, both preceding and following, but especially preceding. Numberless wrong notes in performance are due to the player not getting the right approach to them, and this must be fully realised. Further, it is necessary always to find out the cause of a mistake ; if the cause is not known, the solution will generally be hard to find. For example, if a pianist finds that in attempting to play an interval of, say, a ninth, he is persistently playing an octave, he must realise that he is not extending his hand far enough, and the solution is obvious. All difficulties and mistakes must be analysed, and if the pupil is unable to do this, the teacher must do it for him. It should be explained to pupils that an action cannot be performed correctly unless it is previously thought correctly ; hence again the necessity for extreme concentration.

During practice the positions of the various troublesome passages in a piece must be fixed in the mind, so that the player is prepared for them as they occur. If this is not done the same mistakes and breakdowns will recur time after time.

Slow practice is always desirable, and in the early stages absolutely essential. The player must give himself time to grasp everything, and this cannot at first be done at any speed. A good rule is that the speed at which a piece (or study, &c.) is played should not be faster than that at which the most troublesome passage in it can be performed with ease and accuracy. The application of this to the practice of studies should be specially noted. The benefit of any par- ticular study is not properly obtained unless it can be played straight through without a break, since it is the long-continued repetition of the one action with which it deals which brings about the increased technical ability. For example, if practising on the piano a study concerned with runs in the five-finger position, unbroken working through perhaps four pages of this will give the fingers a great amount of continuous exercise, apart from other matters.

As regards the continuous repetition of short passages in practice (e.g., difficult bars in pieces or studies), or simple mechanical exercises, the number of repetitions desirable is, of course, variable ; but it should be remembered that too many are better than too few. Some pupils seem to think that if they repeat a passage or exercise three or four times consecutively they have done all that is necessary. This is simply shirking work. The repetitions should be continued until some degree of facility and mastery is obtained. If fatigue is felt the passage should be left for a while and a return to it made later. A good rule is not to be satisfied with a passage until it can be played thoroughly well three or four times consecutively, and, if possible, up to speed. Undoubtedly this involves much hard work, but the results quickly justify the labour.

To be continued

 

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