This little book on the tactile sense in piano-playing, written by Mr. Mason at the suggestion of Mr. Edward J. de Coppet, bids fair to be a valuable contribution to the literature of piano study. It is written in Mr. Mason's usual clear and agreeable style, and, besides, an exposition of the desirability of tactile guidance to the player, gives a variety of practical exercises for the development of the tactile sense.
—The New Music Review, Volume 11
* * * * * From the beginning of the first chapter: “Painful Uncertainty of Amateur Playing”
IF we compare the piano-playing of the average amateur, whatever his degree of skill, with that of even slightly advanced professionals, we shall usually find his most serious shortcoming to lie in the uncertainty of his results. He can never tell how he is going to play. When "in the mood," as he calls it, he may give a satisfactory performance; but at other times, for little or no reason, confused by the presence of strangers, by an unfamiliar piano or chair, or even by a change of furniture or light arrangement, he will go quite astray, stumble helplessly over the keyboard, and end with the mournful or bitter apology, “I can't do anything to-day,” or, “I played it perfectly only this morning.” On the other hand the professional, though by no means insensible to upsetting conditions of all sorts, maintains a certain fairly high standard of efficiency. Even when he is nervously tired out or physically ill, he does not, as we say, “go all to pieces,” but at least gives us the notes with some accuracy, if unable to infuse much life into their expression. He may be only mediocre at his best, but he will be tolerable at his worst. But the amateur, victim of this trying uncertainty, cannot be relied upon even to play badly.
Doubtless this uncertainty, which many fairly good players would agree to be the most discouraging defect in their playing, is in large measure simply the result of a lack of routine. They either do not practice enough, or they practice fitfully and impatiently. But mere amount of time spent on work of any kind is never an index of the degree of success to be expected; too much practice may dull rather than sharpen the faculties; and far more fundamental than the routine itself are the mental habits it induces. The more we investigate the question, the more irresistibly we shall be led to the conclusion that the superior reliability of some players depends on their employment, sometimes consciously, but far oftener unconsciously and instinctively, of a sense which others neglect. The foundation of accurate piano-playing, we shall come more and more to feel, is a sense of touch naturally so delicate and through training so highly discriminating that it is capable of guiding the hands and fingers through the labyrinths of the keyboard with only slight and casual aid from ears and eyes. On this tactile sense, rather than on vision or even on hearing, should the player chiefly depend. The degree of his dependence on it will be the measure not only of his accuracy, but of other fine qualities of performance to which we shall later return.