The 10 Easy Piece Challenge

Reading about The 30 Piece Challenge and The 40 Piece Challenge got me thinking. Thirty  or forty pieces a year seemed too much for the Mumbai piano student to cope with. So I tested this out by starting my own sight-reading challenge and realised it was worth it.

This challenge is for the Mumbai and Navi Mumbai piano student, who has lots to study and coaching classes to attend in addition to school. It’s easy, workable and fun!

What you need to know, if you’re taking on the challenge :

  1. Learn 10 new easy pieces every 3 months
  2. Bring them to class done, and spend just 5 minutes of class time identifying weak spots and how to work on them
  3. Get them done to the playing standards set by your teacher
  4. Write them in “The Challenge Book”

The results will be uploaded to soundcloud and facebook and emailed to all students/parents.

 

Why easy pieces?

Most Mumbai students beyond late elementary level learn between 5 to 10 pieces a year and this reduces as they move on to intermediate and advanced levels. They play as long as they have an exam, concert or competition to work towards, but very few students continue playing the piano once they’ve stopped piano class.

Learning so little music every year usually means that new pieces are a struggle for many students. Students often struggle to learn even easy new pieces on their own, because they did not learn how to bring pieces up to standard on their own – because all this was done by their piano teacher.

So, this challenge focuses on easy pieces, with just a little bit of difficulty that addresses an idea or a technique that the student needs to work on.

 

The reason for variable playing standards for each student

Students with (naturally) very tight hands and shoulders, transfer students and young beginners who bang on the piano, intermediate students who’ve been playing without a teacher and have learned bad playing habits, all have different learning needs.

The goal is to help each student get a little better than they were before, and to set standards that take the student forward in steps small enough, that it’s easy. So that learning new pieces is relaxing and enjoyable.

So, the standards are graded gradually. For example :

  • Playing gently is the goal for students who bang and play with bad hand shape – working on dynamics is minimal and will be focused on later.
  • Students who are poor readers get very easy repertoire, until their reading skills get stronger

 

How piano friends are helping each other

One student took on the challenge and came to class with 3 pieces done in a week (mostly done with a few rough spots here and there.) And entered her pieces in the register, which is available for all the students to look at. And that was enough to get the others started.

All my students meet each other at group class once in a way, and play for each other. I also ask students to arrive early or stay late to overlap classes, so that they hear each other play, and over time, they become piano friends. So, if one starts playing well, the other gets quite thrilled and goes home and practises.

It was quite a struggle getting the first student to start and it’s early days yet. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it goes well 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

‘Holiday / post-holiday-practise’ Prizes

This year my students will be awarded prizes for good work in January. They’ve been given practise assignments and targets for December/January – which include rhythm work,  scales, pieces they’ve done at class & new pieces they have chosen to learn on their own.

Here’s how the assessment goes :

  1. Students need to submit a hand written practise chart, when they resume class in January.
  2. All student assignments will be recorded during the 2nd class in January, and students will be given another chance at the 3rd class.
  3. The best audio recordings, will be mailed to all parents and students.

The prize : Sheet music to any one piece of the students choice & a little slab of chocolate





 An update :  

It’s almost mid January, and my younger students have resumed class having done very little practise, cos they were out on holiday. Still, it’s been really quite easy getting them back to work at class, this year. 

They’re quite enthusiastic about being recorded, and also about getting prizes. The chocolate seems to be more of interest to most of them, much more than the sheet music!

Month 6 of “My Personal Sightreading Challenge”

April 2015 was the start of My Personal Sightreading Challenge.

It got me practising regularly. There were days I would play for just 5 minutes and then, there were days that I would get involved and stay there for much much longer. I also started to do a little bit of section practise in rotation – so I would work on a different section every few days.

I got over-enthusiastic after reading a post by Wendy Stevens, on “The 30 Piece Challenge” and got started on more than one piece at a time. My goals were still fairly small – just to learn the pieces, and record them as soon as I could play them from beginning to end. Click here if you’d like to hear my pieces at 6 months.

I started to hope that I could keep all my pieces going through the year, and get them done well enough to meet “The 30 piece Challenge”

Related articles :

The impact of 100 minutes of practise

The impact of 100 minutes of practise

A follow up on My Personal Sight-reading Challenge and Month 6 of My Personal Sight-reading Challenge

I started learning new material regularly, with a very flexible practise schedule, ranging from 5 minute to 45 minute practise slots, to no practise at all.

Erratic practise is better than none

Learning of new material was now a regular part of my routine, and I would practise pieces or sections of pieces in rotation to keep in touch with what I’d learned earlier.

An erratic practise schedule like this was not enough for me to reach the playing levels that I would have liked to, but there was progress. Slow, steady, comfortable and enjoyable. It was enough to get me playing full pieces, rather than just demos of sections that I would practise to teach my students.

What’s more important, is that I started to feel the joy of playing once again, and to go to the piano to relax… Something that I had forgotten to do through the many years of busy – with family and work commitments, when I did not make the time to play the piano just for me.

Modifying my goals to meet my abilities

I had a few practise setbacks, because problems with my hands due to some health issues affected piano playing, among other things. So I had to modify my goals, take on easier pieces and take practise breaks for long stretches.

I tried and failed at reaching ‘The 30 piece challenge”  even though I had learned enough material, because many pieces were still too rough and needed more work. I no longer needed to upload my ‘first reading’ of each piece to keep me motivated, so I stopped doing it.

Having easier, and more flexible goals is helping me stay motivated and keep going.

My Personal Sightreading Challenge – 5 minutes and 20 days a month

Making the time in my daily schedule and committing to learn new pieces had always been a struggle. So, in April 2015, I decided to make a change. I started small, with just 5 minutes a day, 20 days a month spent on sight reading a new piece.

My first piece was a Bach 2 part invention – just a few bars on day 1,  and I kept adding 1 or 2 more bars each day. I started out recording the results each day, so I could see progress, however small, and feel a little motivated to continue.

I also decided that I would record that first rough run-through of each piece, the first time I could play it completely, upload it, and post a link online.

My goals were small – to learn one piece a month and keep in touch with the pieces I had learned earlier.

Related articles :

Month 6 of “My Personal Sightreading Challenge”

The impact of 100 minutes of practise