Challenge feedback from the United States


US Piano Teacher, Crystal from Wilton, Iowa writes:

I started the 40 piece challenge in September after our summer recital.  It’s been a hit with my students for lots of reasons!  They like that they can accomplish something fairly quickly.  They get introduced to lots of music.  And since we are writing all their titles and composers down, they can see their progress in writing!

I like the program for additional reasons like I can introduce an easy version of a classic that they would otherwise show no interest.  I see excitement when they add another song to their list.  And I think it emphasizes the importance of  reaching for a goal.  The hidden success is that they are playing more pieces and developing more confidence.

I am half way through the year.   I will probably have all level certificates come September.  It will be an exciting accomplishment!

How is the challenge going in your studio this year?

2015 Certificates are now available to download here.

The 40 Thing Challenge

We love how teachers around the world are taking the idea of the 40 Piece Challenge and making it their own!

Sydney Piano Teacher, Samantha Coates writes about how the 40 Piece Challenge has morphed for her into the 40-Thing Challenge.


Samantha explores the question of what constitutes a piece and how to avoid neglecting important things like composition, improvisation, general knowledge, aural skills, technical work, transposition and theory in favour of learning as many pieces as possible.

You can read all about how Samantha is structuring the challenge in her studio by clicking here.

Samantha will be presenting at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference in July in Melbourne. Not to be missed!

Hot chocolate motivator!

Challenge teacher Rebecca has involved her local community in helping to support and motivate her 40 Piece Challenge students.

Rebecca uses the excellent Coffee Card idea and places a sticker on the students card for each piece learned.

When her students finish 10 pieces they can redeem a free hot-chocolate or ice-cream at her local café. The café provides this free of charge (wow!!!) and it allows the student a chance to celebrate their achievement with their parents.

I wonder how could you could involve other local businesses in your studio 40 Piece Challenge?

Some other little reward ideas to help motivate students along the way…


  Lip Balm Treble Clef: VWS012 Keyboard: VWS014

Bach Bookmark VWP0176

Bach Bookmark

And something for your adult students! Bottle Opener 54660

And something for your adult students!
Bottle Opener

The Challenge is driving them up the wall!

40 Piece Challenge ChristinaPiano Teacher Christina, from Rockhampton sent through a photo of her 40 Piece Challenge wall with this message:

“I wanted to share with you the bit of fun I’m having with my students at the school I teach at.

Our room has 2 walls carpeted for acoustics, so I thought I’d use this to my advantage and design this playing board for the students.

Each student has been given a little character to decorate which is their playing piece for the year.

I have some very creative students!

We are very excited about the challenge and I have some keen beginners who have already moved up the board.”

Thanks, Christina. We look forward to seeing how your students progress.

Best motivation in 30 years!

We love hearing all the positive feedback about the challenge. Sharon from Victoria writes:

“The 40 Piece Challenge is going fantastic in my studio. In 30 years, I’ve never had so many motivated students. It’s just wonderful. I’ve been able to shift the intense exam focus (by many of my kids’ parents) to what’s really important.

The kids are loving it and they’re already better sight readers and so much more confident.

This Taylor Swift book is fantastic!!  Two thirds of my students are primary aged children and it’s a real winner with the girls. It’s great sight reading as it’s simply set out and has no words to distract the reader.”

TaylorSwift You can order this book from your local music store now! Just quote the ordering code: 109369

Pieces are about a Preliminary level, and arranged really well so that they sound like the original.



Parental help with the 40 Piece Challenge

We heard from a lovely piano teacher from WA today, who writes about the challenge:

“I did venture into the 40-piece challenge last year (read about it on one of Tim Topham’s blogs) – well, I gave my students a choice of 20 or 30 or 40 pieces – and found there was quite an even spread amongst them of which challenge they undertook (though I did have one little lad who opted for the 20 piece challenge but completed that in 2 1/2 terms and then asked me for another challenge sheet!!)

I asked parents to give their children a little treat/reward at 10, 20, 30 and 40 pieces and asked the kids to make sure they reminded their parents!!”

Irene – WA

Teachers, to encourage suitable musical “rewards” to be given by parents to students, why not assist with a list of repertoire suggestions. Ensure the repertoire is easy enough so that the student and parent achieve instant musical gratification when the book is gifted.

For example, if a child has just completed their 3rd Lesson Book in a series (for example Level 3 of the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library)

Hal Leonard Student Piano Library Lessons Level 3

suggest one of the books from the correlated series, perhaps a Broadway or Popular Collection. Allowing the parent to choose gives them some ownership or the idea and allows them to hear the music that they want to hear in the home.

00296608Broadway  00296033POP 00296325Classical Themes


40 Piece Challenge- How we roll!

It’s great to read how the Challenge is working in piano teaching studios around the world! We love the “playing bank” especially…

Creative. Piano. Professional

For quite some time my studio has run a certificate system for students completing songs. For completing 10 pieces, they received a green certificate, orange for 20, silver for 30 and gold for 40. This was quite an easy achievement for the beginner students with lots of shorts songs being completed.

Then some time ago, Elissa Milne wrote this about the 40-piece Challenge here. Then Tim Topham wrote about it and the Hal Leonard 40-Piece Challenge website was also launched. An article on this was also published in the Piano Teachers’ Magazine here.

40 Piece Challenge

For my beginner students there was no question of their participation in this challenge. It was very close to the system we were already using.

For my late beginner to intermediate students this presented something of a shift in thinking. My students were normally learning 15-20 pieces of repertoire each year, about a year ago…

View original post 629 more words

How the Challenge has helped James

James is a child who really struggled to read music.  He is very aural and didn’t want to look at music which was a big frustration for his teacher.

James was the reason why his teacher ended up purchasing a digital piano with a recording/USB function, so she could record his pieces for him to listen to at home.

As you can imagine, James’ progress was quite slow.

The 40 Piece Challenge has really inspired James. He is loving it and is really motivated by the competition and reward aspect of the challenge, which his teacher has set up within her studio space.

The challenge has:

  • Facilitated greater self learning opportunities and accountability for his own learning, as the weekly challenges are levelled at his skills and abilities enabling him to work alone to learn and play pieces
  • Provided a forum for James to ‘learn’ key practice strategies (which he usually ignores! but non-the-less!!)
  • Provided a very personalised repertoire able to be tailored to teach specific skills; build strengths and focus on weaknesses
  • Created an incentive to learn pieces faster
  • Reinforced the idea that no matter how good you are, every piano player goes through a process to learn and play new pieces

James’ teacher is happy to report that he is now way ahead of everyone as the leader of the 40 Piece Challenge in her piano studio!

Inspired at the APPC

Earlier this month teachers from across Australia (and some from around the world) met in Toowoomba for the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference.

There was lots of chat at the conference about the 40 Piece Challenge and how it is changing the lives of young piano students and changing the way piano teachers teach.

Here are just some of the things that challenge teachers are saying:
Sight Reading has improved – almost EVERY teacher who spoke to me or who has written to me about their challenge progress has mentioned this.
Students are eager to learn more music – some teachers were surprised by this. If a child is into Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or the Hottest 100 or if they love Disney Movies or whatever there is a print music book available for them. I am guessing that piano teachers are not necessarily recommending pop music to their students, but surely anything that encourages more time spent on the piano has got to be good!
More confidence – students showing more confidence at their lessons both as piano players and as humans
Improved skill and coordination
Happy parents! Parents are obviously happy because they are not just listening to the same 4 pieces over and over again. Happier parents will surely mean that students are happier and more likely to learn and play for longer, which will hopefully make the piano teachers happier!
Coming to lessons prepared – well, that’s got to be a bonus for teachers!
Enjoy playing the piano more – hallelujah!
Better exam results – all good all round I would have thought!

Loving the Challenge in NSW

We love reading feedback from teachers about how the challenge is working for them. Piano and violin teacher, Lorraine, recently wrote to tell us this:

I love the challenge. I have at least 7 who have already completed the challenge and I’ve moved them up to the 100 piece challenge which they are happy to do.

I have made a list of my top 10 students and they have been working hard competing with each other in terms of completing the most pieces.

I have a violin student that just started with me middle of term 1 – he struggled for the 1st month of learning. But since then he’s been crossing off piece after piece. He has now completed 85 songs since March and I’m very happy about that.

As for my other students who have completed the challenge (mainly piano and violin), their sight reading has improved and they are eager to learn more music and get new books which is the first time I’ve experienced this!