Teachers are sometimes heard to speak with regret of the high spirits of their classes, which lead to restlessness. But we should never regret force in a child, and we must realize that all pent-up force needs a safety-valve. It must be our business to direct such force into safe channels. Keep the children really busy, give them plenty to do, and there will be no cause to regret their vitality.
THE TEACHING OF THE PIANO
It is impossible, within the limits of a chapter, to do more than dwell on a few practical points connected with the teaching and organization of this work in a school. As was said in the preceding chapter, the ideal for all young children who are about to learn the piano is that they should first go through a short course of ear-training. If this be done, the progress in the first year’s work will be about three times what it would otherwise be. If the ear-training be done along the lines suggested in earlier chapters, the child will have been taught to sing easy melodies at sight, she will have approached the question of time by means of the French time names, she will have learned to beat time with the proper conductor’s beat, to find notes on the piano, and, what is more important, to know these notes by sound, in relation to fixed notes.
In this way some of the processes which a child goes through in beginning to learn the piano are taken one at a time, in company with other children, and are therefore not hurried.
When the time has come to begin the piano, the child should join a class for this for one year. Such a class should not exceed six in number. During this time she will add to her knowledge the first principles of fingering, will play easy exercises for fingers, wrist, &c., and will learn a few easy pieces and duets.
From the very first she will be taught to analyse a piece before she begins to play it—she will find out the key, time, cadences, sequences, passages of imitation, modulations, &c. If the melody be within the range of the child’s voice she will then sing it, beating time as she does so. After these preliminaries it is only a question of technique to learn to play it. The last stage will consist in learning the piece by heart. The day has long gone by when it was considered a sign of exceptional musical gift to be able to do this. All experienced teachers know that, provided a child is having its ear trained by some such method as that suggested above, it can learn a piece of music by heart almost entirely away from the piano. That is to say, instead of the wearisome repetitions which were formerly necessary before a piece could be played by heart, it is possible, directly the technique is mastered, and in many cases before this is done, to learn the piece away from the piano. The benefit of this is obvious, and the nerves, both of the player and of the unwilling listeners, are the gainers.