50-Pieces in a Year: Update and Repertoire Suggestions

For all those of you who have embraced even the idea of offering the 50-piece challenge to your students, I’m here to tell you that it’s the best thing I have ever done with my students.

Each week they come along to lessons eager to get more ticks on the chart, or at least more dots, showing that pieces have been started.

But what is the reason they are so eager? Yes, they are enjoying playing more repertoire and not getting stuck playing the same three pieces all year. Yes, they are finding out how rewarding it is to experience that sense of achievement of finishing a piece in just one or two weeks. Yes, their sight reading is improving and their parents are delighted. But the most important reason they are so eager is…

COMPETITION!

The chart on my wall, next to the piano, lists every student and they can see at a glance who has the most ticks. Whilst I have never promoted this as anything other than an individual pursuit, the element of competitiveness is really pushing everyone along. There is no prize for the ‘winner’ (i.e. the person who gets to 50 pieces first). There is only the satisfaction of having done it yourself. But nevertheless, the idea of having the most ticks or dots seems to be the most motivating factor for practising more.

In one term, five students have exceeded the quarter-way mark: 13 pieces. The ‘top’ person is up to 20 pieces already! The rest have a healthy start, with most students above 10 pieces.

Here is some of the repertoire I’m using for this challenge, which is working really well for my students:

Dozen a Day – one exercise can count as a piece for the real littlies, otherwise a whole unit can count as a piece.

P-Plate piano (for students up to Grade 2 or so, they learn these super fast)

Getting to’ series: work through books that are 3-4 grades lower than the current exam level. For example, my Grade 8 student is doing stuff from Getting to Grade 4/5 and learning one piece in about 2/3 weeks.

Not Just Another Scale Book’ by Mike Springer. There are three levels and it’s fantastic practice for reading in keys.

The beauty of the ‘no winner’ situation is that for those who have fewer ticks than others, that is those who are coming ‘last’, there is no sense of defeat nor any inkling of giving up. Rather they look at the chart and see that it really is possible to be getting through all those pieces, they just have to spend a little more time practising.

Finally, I have found that the lessons are just so much for fun for me, hearing all this different repertoire all the time. I’ll keep you posted as to how they’re all progressing next term!

Samantha Coates

Samantha Coates is a professional pianist and teacher with over 25 years experience in both private and group tuition. She is the author and publisher of BlitzBooks, the music education series that has captured the imagination of students across Australia and transformed the teaching of music theory, sight reading and general knowledge.

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