To arrive at any real result in the study of the piano, it is essential to start very young, and to train both the ear and the hand from childhood. In the case of the beginner, the purely mechanical side of how to hold the hand and produce a supple articulation, is, of course, the main object, but together with this, I am of the opinion that elementary instruction should be given in harmony and the rudiments of music, that the pupil may begin to understand a little about the progressions of sounds and the sense of rhythm which is so necessary to musical development. Nowadays, there are many and various systems of teaching children these elements of music, in forms that will interest and entertain them while they learn almost unconsciously.
And such teaching greatly facilitates the technical study, as it makes the child interested in what he is learning, and able to appreciate to a certain extent the difference and gradations of the tones he produces. Now, as regards the mechanical beginning, without which no one can really play the piano properly, the most important thing is to start with a good method of playing. For there is no doubt that all reliable technique is the outcome of a good common-sense system to begin with. Of course there exists many crankisms about this; the student may go to one teacher who will tell him the only way to play the piano is to sit practicing at it from fourteen to fifteen hours a day, just doing finger exercises.
He will go to another who will assure him he will only arrive at success if he persists for years, never lifting his fingers more than exactly one-half an inch from the keys! Again, another will pretend that the only way to learn is by always playing pianissimo, another that it is necessary to do exercises only on a table, and never use the keyboard for practicing at all, while still another believes in the purely mechanical development of the fingers, by playing hours and hours of scales! Then there are many also who declare that all technique is “Anathema,” and that every one should play as nature tells them to !