Rules of Conduct for the Musician
– Robert Schumann
You must practice scales and other finger exercises conscientiously, but that is not enough. There are plenty of people who think they may achieve everything by devoting several hours a day to mechanical exercises. That is as reasonable as trying to recite the alphabet faster and faster every day.
The ma who has not read the most notable books published recently counts as an illiterate. We ought to be as advanced when it comes to music.
Don’t be afraid if the words ‘ theory’, ‘thorough-bass’, ‘counterpoint’, etc. They will give you a friendly welcome, if you do the same for them.
Never strum, always play carefully and never try a piece half through.
Try to play easy pieces gracefully and well; it is better than to play difficult ones badly.
It is not enough to be able to play your pieces with your fingers; you should be able to hum them without a piano. Sharpen your imagination so that you may be able to remember not only the melody of a piece, but also its proper harmonies.
You must acquire the power of being able to read every piece of music and understand it simply by reading it.
Always play as though a master were listening to you.
Never lose an opportunity of making music with others, in duos, trios, etc. These exercises will make your playing more fluent and spirited. Accompany singers often.
Work hard at the fugues of good masters; above all those of J. S. Bach. Let the ‘Well-tempered Clavier’ be your daily bread. You will then certainly become a good musician.
But what does it mean to be called a ‘musician’? You are not one when, with eyes anxiously fixed on the music, you have trouble getting to the end of your piece; you are not one when you stop short and cannot carry on because someone has turned over two pages at once. But you are one when, in playing a new piece, you can foresee, near enough, what is going to follow, and when you play and old one, you know it by heart, – in short, when you have music not only in your fingers but also in your head and heart.
‘Melody’ is the amateur’s war-cry, and certainly music without melody is not music. But understand well what they mean by that: for them it takes the place of anything that is easy to remember which has a pleasant rhythm. But it is, nevertheless, of a very different nature. And when you go through Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, they will appear to you in a thousand different forms; you will be, I hope, surfeited very soon with the monotony of what is called ‘melody’, and occurs principally in modern Italian operas, once you know these.
The laws of morality are also the laws of art.