|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