The 40 Piece Challenge

It’s the start of a new year, and you’ve got some students who need some focus and motivation. Or you’ve got a student who thrives on achievements, but tanks every time they go near an exam room. Or both you and the student are going stir crazy going over the same 5 pieces. Again. What to do?

Enter the 40 piece challenge. Or the 30 piece. Or the 20 piece or even the 100 piece challenge. This fabulous concept was first articulated by pianist and teacher Elissa Milne (and you can read more about that here.)

The basic thrust is that the student agrees to learn a certain number of pieces in a year, whatever the number. “Ye gads”, I hear you say, “Little Johnny can barely get through 1 piece a term. There is NO chance he’ll make it even to 10.”

And herein lies the beauty of the scheme. Yes, little Johnny may only achieve success with 1 piece a term at his current standard. But what about easier pieces? Pieces that don’t challenge note reading, or rhythm or fingering, but rather reinforce these things.

Teachers such as Elissa Milne have reported consistently that those students who actually spend time working on easier pieces for a short period of time (i.e. one week or lesson to lesson) actually progress faster on their more difficult pieces. Note reading improves, sight reading improves and motivation and confidence picks up as students regularly feel a sense of accomplishment.

Throw in a certificate (you can find samples here or even a medal), and you have a potential for greater engagement, an opportunity to explore a range of repertoire, and something just a little bit different to kick off the year!


P.S. I’m going to be doing the 40 Piece Challenge with some of my students this year. Sign up for email updates, or check in with the Facebook page to see how it goes.

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