17 More Pieces of Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Pianists 

Robert Schumann (1810–1856) was a prominent German composer and pianist of the Romantic era. Renowned for his expressive melodies and innovative harmonic language, he wrote prolifically across various genres, including piano music, chamber music, and lieder. Despite personal struggles with mental health, his compositions continue to be celebrated worldwide. In this blog, we explore Schumann’s advice for young pianists, drawing from his experiences as a performer and music critic to offer invaluable guidance for aspiring musicians.

Excerpt from The Project Gutenberg EBook of “Advice to Young Musicians” Translated by Henry Hugo Pierson

1. Think it a vile habit to alter works of good composers, to omit parts of them, or to insert new-fashioned ornaments. This is the greatest insult you can offer to Art.

2. As to choice in the study of your pieces, ask the advice of more experienced persons than yourself; by so doing, you will save much time.

3. You must become acquainted by degrees with all the principal works of the more celebrated masters.

4. Do not be elated by the applause of the multitude; that of artists is of greater value.

5. All that is merely modish will soon go out of fashion, and if you practise it in age, you will appear a fop whom nobody esteems.

6. Much playing in society is more injurious than useful. Suit the taste and capacity of your audience; but never play anything which you know is trashy and worthless.

7. 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.

8. If all would play first violin, we could not obtain an orchestra. Therefore esteem every musician in his place.

9. 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 singers exist, and that numbers, both in Chorus and Orchestra, produce the most sublime music; therefore do not overrate any Solo.

10. As you grow up, become more intimate with scores (or partitions) than with virtuoso.

11. Frequently play the fugues of good masters, above all, those by J. Seb. Bach. Let his “Well-tempered Harpsichord” be your daily bread. By these means you will certainly become a proficient.

12. Let your intimate friends be chosen from such as are better informed than yourself.

13. Relieve the severity of your musical studies by reading poetry. Take many a walk in the fields and woods!

14. From vocalists you may learn much, but do not believe all that they say.

15. Remember, there are more people in the world than yourself. Be modest! You have not yet invented nor thought anything which others have not thought or invented before. And should you really have done so, consider it a gift of heaven which you are to share with others.

16. You will be most readily cured of vanity or presumption by studying the history of music, and by hearing the masterpieces which have been produced at different periods.

17. A very valuable book you will find that: On Purity in Music, by Thibaut, a German Professor. Read it often, when you have come to years of greater maturity.


Katrin Arefy, Head Teacher
1809 University Ave., Berkeley, CA

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