If you want to dedicate yourself or you are passionate about music, you have to know the wise advice that Robert Schumann reveals to young musicians to develop their full musical potential.
70 Tips for Young Musicians by Robert Schumann
“If your music comes from the heart and soul and you yourself are moved by it, then it can move others as well”.
Tip number 58
Portrait Robert and Clara Schumann
Robert Schumann is considered one of the greatest composers of the Romantic period. In 1850, he wrote a small book in his (Album für die jugend, Op. 68) which contains much wisdom.
– Golden Rules for musicians Musikalische Haus- und Lebens-Regeln
- The education of the ear is of the utmost importance; it is therefore advisable that you take care of it at once, making an effort to recognize any sound you hear and the tonality of each piece of music. Try also to know what sounds the bells produce, the cuckoo… (Note: with this last one Schumann was referring to the untempered percussive instruments).
- To play with attention the scales and the mechanical exercises is an excellent thing; but do not imitate those pianists who, believing that this is the way to reach the maximum result, always dedicate several hours a day to mechanical exercises of the fingers, even at an advanced age. This is equivalent to repeating the letters of the alphabet daily, with increasing rapidity. Better use of time (Note: this advice applies to all instruments not just piano)
- So-called mute keyboards have been built; but after a short time of use you will be convinced of their uselessness: how can the mute teach you to speak?
- Get the compass right! The performance of some concert performers resembles the gait of a drunkard; beware of taking them as a model.
- He delves early into the fundamental laws of harmony.
- Don’t be frightened by the names, Theory, Harmony, Counterpoint, etc; with a little good will, they will soon be familiar to you.
- Don’t touch carelessly! Always execute each piece very carefully, without omitting anything.
- Playing too fast is as big a flaw as playing too slow.
- It is not enough to play the music with one’s fingers; one must also know how to sing it, in a low voice, without resorting to the instrument.
- Exercise your memory to be able to retain not only the melody of a composition, but also its harmony.
- Always keep your instrument in tune.
- Even if you have little voice, get used to sing without the help of any instrument; in this way you will always perfect your ear more and more. But if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful voice, don’t hesitate to educate it. Consider it one of the most precious gifts God has given you!
- When you play, don’t worry about who is listening; but always play as if you were being listened to by a master.
- Try to get to understand the written music, without performing it just by reading it.
- Try to perform as well as possible easy works, you will get more benefits than performing mediocrely difficult compositions.
- The first quality of interpretation is precision, that is, the exact observation of the text, which brings out the author’s innermost intention.
- If you are tired after the daily technique, don’t continue playing: it is better to rest than to work without pleasure and energy.
- If you are given to play a piece you don’t know, read it before you play it.
- Don’t execute the compositions that are in fashion. Time is precious, and it would be necessary to live a hundred times longer than we do to get to know only the good music that exists.
- Nourishing children with sweets does not form healthy men. The nourishment of the spirit, like that of the body, must be simple and substantial. The great masters have abundantly provided for you: feed on their works.
- That music whose purpose is to highlight technical difficulties in performance soon goes out of fashion: technical difficulties have value only when they pursue higher ends, that is, when they achieve a perfect performance of music of real merit.
- Do not spread bad compositions, but try with all your might to prevent their dissemination.
- Don’t play bad music and, unless circumstances force you to, don’t listen to it either.
- Don’t think that true mastery consists only of agility. In the execution of a good piece, he tries rather to produce the impression that the composer had in mind and nothing more. Anything else would be a caricature.
- Don’t forget that it is a detestable and monstrous thing to make changes and mutilations in the music of the great composers, as well as to add ornaments of exclusively modern use. It is the greatest insult that can be done to art.
- When selecting music to study, always consult people with more experience than you; it saves time.
- Try to gradually get to know the masterpieces of the great composers.
- Don’t be fooled by the applause that the so-called virtuosos often get. The approval of those in authority is of greater value to you than that of the public.
- Music that is fashionable has little life; if you persist in cultivating it, you will be considered a fool.
- Playing a lot at social gatherings is more harmful than helpful. Adapt yourself to the taste and intelligence of the audience; but do not play any music of which you may be intimately ashamed.
- Take the opportunity to play music in ensembles, duets, trios, quartets, etc.; you will always acquire confidence and boldness in the execution. It is also beneficial to accompany the singers.
- If everyone wanted to be first violin, how would it be possible to form an orchestra? Therefore it values each performer in the part he/she plays.
- Love the instrument you play, but do not be so vain as to think that it is the best of all, for others are not inferior to it. He also reflects that the human voice exists, and that in music the sublime is reached by uniting the choir to the orchestra.
- As you progress in the art, try to become more familiar with the scores than with the virtuosos.
- Play very often the fugues of the great masters, especially those of Johann Sebastian Bach. The well-tempered harpsichord is your daily bread: you will undoubtedly become a prestigious pianist.
- Among your companions, you should always prefer those who know more than you.
- Mitigate the severity of your musical studies with the reading of good poets, and also take frequent walks in the fields and forests.
- You can learn a lot from the singers; but it is not wise to believe everything they say.
- Reflect that you are not unique in the world; therefore be modest. Thou hast not devised or found things which others have not devised or found before thee; and in case this should happen, consider it as a Gift which thou must divide with others.
- The study of the history of music and listening to the works of the great masters of different epochs are the true remedies against vanity and presumption.
- A beautiful book is that of Thibaut, entitled Purity of musical art. Read it often when you reach middle age.
- If you pass in front of a church and hear the organ playing, stop and listen. If you can ever play such an instrument you will be amazed at the sheer power of the music produced by your little fingers.
- Take advantage of every opportunity to exercise yourself on the organ; no instrument like this one makes the deficiencies of the playing and the poor style of the composition clearly audible.
- Sing very often in the choirs, especially in the middle parts; this will help to form your musical sensitivity.
- What does it mean to have musical sensitivity? You do not possess it if you play a piece with fatigue, looking anxiously at the written sounds, or if, while performing, you suddenly stop and are unable to continue, because you have been turned over two pages at the same time. On the contrary, you possess it if, by playing a piece new to you, you come to guess, in a certain way, what follows; or if the piece is known, you remember it. In conclusion, you have musical sensitivity if you have music not only in your fingers, but also in your head and heart.
- How can musical sensitivity be acquired? My dear friends, musical sensitivity is a gift and consists, mainly, in having a delicate ear and a quick faculty of perception. These dispositions can be cultivated and perfected, not by shutting oneself up in a room and playing only mechanical exercises, but by being in contact with other musicians and especially by becoming familiar with the choir and the orchestra.
- Try to know well and in time the extension of the human voice in its four modifications. Study it particularly in choirs, investigating which are the sounds with which the voice manifests greater power, and which are those with which it expresses tender passions and delicate feelings.
- Listen carefully to the popular songs; they constitute a rich source of beautiful melodies that will facilitate your study of the character of the music of the different nations.
- Exercise yourself very often in reading the ancient keys, otherwise you will ignore many treasures of the past.
- Pay attention to the different timbre and character of the different instruments, trying to retain in your ear the particular qualities of their sounds.
- Respect old music, but be interested in modern music as well.
- Don’t be in a bad mood because of music whose author is unknown to you.
- Do not judge a composition after the first hearing, for what pleases immediately is not always the best. The works of the great masters should be studied, and many things will become clear to you when you are older.
- In passing judgment on compositions, you must distinguish those that belong to true art from those that serve to delight amateurs. Appreciate the first; but do not despise the others.
- Melody! – Here is the battle cry of the fans. And to tell the truth, there would be no music without melody. But it is necessary to know well what they mean by melody: a chorus that is easy to understand and has a pleasant rhythm. But there are melodies of different genre; if you take a look at the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, you will see how they are presented in a thousand forms. Hopefully you’ll soon be annoyed by the uniform tunes.
- It is good to compose little melodies on the piano: but if the musical ideas come to you, without looking for them on the piano, you will have to rejoice much more, because your musical sensibility will be awakened. The fingers should execute what the brain wants, and not the opposite.
- When you begin to compose, imagine first with thought, and only when your work is fully devised in your brain, execute it on the piano.
- If your music comes from the heart and soul, and you yourself are moved by it, then it can move others as well.
- If God has given you the gift of a lively imagination, when you find yourself alone, seated before the piano, you will very often try to express with harmonies the intimate feeling of your soul; and the more obscure the harmonic science is for you, the more you will seem to be mysteriously dragged to enchanted regions. These are the most beautiful hours of youth. But don’t often get carried away by the fantasy that could waste your time and strength, running after ghosts. One can never master the forms of composition and express one’s ideas clearly if one does not put one’s own concepts in writing. So write more than you improvise.
- Try to acquire in time the art of conducting the orchestra. Observe good directors and try to direct yourself mentally: in this way you will acquire lucidity of perception.
- Study life attentively and acquire knowledge in other arts and sciences as well.
- The laws of morality are also the laws of art.
- Diligence and perseverance are the most important factors of progress.
- From a pound of iron, which costs only a few cents, a thousand watch hands can be obtained, the value of which, compared with that of the first material, is prodigious. Employ, therefore, conscientiously the “Pound” which you have received from God.
- In art, without enthusiasm, nothing great is produced.
- The object of art should not be material gain. Try to become as expert as possible: the rest will come on its own. The spirit of a composition will only become clear to you when you have understood its form.
- The spirit of a composition will only become clear to you when you have understood its form.
- Perhaps only a genius can come to understand another genius.
- It is said that a perfect musician, on hearing an orchestral piece for the first time, however complicated it may be, should see it in his mind as if he had the written score in front of him. This would truly be the height of musical intellect.
- There is no end to the study.
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