When Robert Schumann published his Album for the Young he intended to include his “Musical Rules for Life and the Home” in the publication. It was not included in the first edition, but did appear in the second edition. There are 68 “rules” and, like Mrs. Curwen’s “Maxims” in her 1886 method book, they are surprisingly current and up to date. If you wish to read all 68, they can be found as an appendix in the Wiener Urtext (Schott Universal) edition. For obvious reasons, space will allow only a selection of this great composer’s thoughts on music, life and home and my apologies for a bit of judicious editing.

    • Ear training is the most important thing of all. From the very start, try hard to recognize notes and keys. Bells, the window-pane, the cuckoo: listen to the sounds they make.
    • Play in strict time! The way many virtuosi play sounds like a drunkard trying to walk. Don’t take people like that as a model.
    • Learn the basic rules of harmony from the very start.
    • Make the effort to play easy pieces cleanly and beautifully; that’s better than giving a second-rate performance of a difficult piece.
    • When you play, don’t worry about who can hear you.
    • Don’t ever strum carelessly! Always play eagerly, and never stop half way through a piece!
    • Don’t ever use your technique to show off. When playing a composition, try to create the effects the composer had in mind; that’s all you need to do. Anything else is distortion.
    • The world is a big place. Be modest: there’s nothing that you have discovered or thought of that others haven’t already thought of or invented. And if you should happen to think of something new, regard it as a gift from above to be shared with others.
    • Sing willingly in choirs, especially the middle parts. This will make you musical.
    • Respect what is old, but approach the new with a warm heart. Don’t be prejudiced against names you don’t know.
    • Without enthusiasm, nothing worthwhile is accomplished in art.
    • There are plenty of things to be learnt from singers, but don’t believe everything they say. (Apologies to voice teachers: I am quoting RS.)
    • Amongst your comrades, seek out the ones who know more that you do.
    • Ask your elders to help you choose pieces to study; this will save you a lot of time

There are many more extended rules that are useful and also interesting in that it gives us insight into a great composer’s thinking as to what is relevant and valuable. However, the closing rule is probably the most important one: *There is never an end to learning.*