Extracts from Schumann’s Rules and Maxims for Young Musicians

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Extracts from Schumann’s Rules and Maxims for Young Musicians

  1. The cultivation of the ear is of the greatest importance. Endeavour early to distinguish each several tone and key. Find out the exact notes sounded by the bell, the glass, the cuckoo, etc.
  2. Learn betimes the fundamental principles of Harmony. Do not be afraid of the words Theory, Thorough-bass, Counterpoint, etc. They will meet you friendly if you meet them so.
  3. Endeavour to play easy pieces well and beautifully, that is better than to play difficult pieces indifferently well.
  4. When you play, never mind who is listening to you.
  5. Play always as if in the presence of a master.
  6. When you have done your musical day’s work, and feel tired, do not exert yourself further. It is better to rest than to work without pleasure and vigour.
  7. Do not think velocity, or passage-playing, your highest aim. Try to produce such an impression with a piece of music as was intended by the composer; all further exertions are caricatures.
  8. You must become acquainted by degrees with all the principal works of the more celebrated masters.
  9. Do not be elated by the applause of the multitude,that of artists is of greater value.
  10. Do not miss an opportunity of practising music in company with others; as, for example, in duets, trios, etc. This gives you a flowing and elevated style of playing, and self-possession. Frequently accompany singers.
  11.  If all would play 1st violin, we could not obtain an orchestra. Then esteem every musician in his place.
  12. Love your peculiar instrument, but be not vain enough to consider it the greatest and only one. Remember that there are others as fine as yours. Remember also that there are singers, and that the highest manifestations in music are through chorus and orchestra combined.
  13. Frequently play the fugues of good masters, above all, those by J. Seb Bach. Let his “Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues” be your daily bread. By these means you will certainly become a proficient.
  14. If you pass a church, and hear an organ, go in and listen. If allowed to sit on the organ bench, try your inexperienced fingers, and marvel at the supreme power of music.
  15. Do not miss an opportunity of practising on the organ, for there is no instrument that can so effectually correct errors or impurity of style and touch as that.
  16. Attend early to the tone and character of the various instruments; try to impress their peculiar sound on your ear.
  17. Highly esteem the old, but take also a warm interest in the new; be not prejudiced against names unknown to you.
  18. Do not judge a composition from the first time of hearing; that which pleases you at the first moment is not always best. Masters need to be studied, many things will not become clear to you till you have reached a more advanced age.
  19. It has been thought that a perfect musician must be able to see, in his mind’s eye, any new, and even complicated, piece of orchestral music as if in full score laying before him. This is, indeed, the greatest triumph of musical intellect that can be imagined.
  20. By means of industry and perseverance you will rise higher and higher.
  21. Without enthusiasm nothing great can be affected in art.
  22. There is no end to learning.



H. J. Taylor. (Ed) ‘Musical Booklets’ No 14. The Life of Schumann.  A Weekes   & Co, Ltd. London (P 18 – 20)



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