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The 'One Week' Challenge
Why one week is long enough
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The 'One Week' Challenge
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User image The 'One Week' Challenge
Posted by Dylan Christopher, 3 years ago
Tags: learning, practise, piano

The 'One Week' Challenge

A week is a very long period of time; in that span, any number of things can happen. Interestingly, it can take one-week for a young plant to sprout a single-leaf. It can also take about four weeks for a newly hatched caterpillar to transform into a butterfly, spending approximately one week at each stage of its life cycle (i.e. egg, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly).

One-week spent with any action or concept would be long enough to gain at least some level of proficiency in understanding and applying it; especially if rehearsed at any length. Often, in practise, it is the first time an action is carried out that the true learning is taking place; after that, learning consists of remembering, understanding and then, applying it to whatever situation it is needed.

Generally, it is a transformative cycle; like the young plant, if the conditions are right, a transformation will occur. In piano playing – or better yet, music-making of any kind – the right conditions always mean the right sort of practise. Specifically, in action, this is not mindlessly repeating for the sake of the exercise. If in any given day, there is a limit on the time one has to commit to practising, this means to make adequate use of the time available; in essence, efficiency.

If a student has only 30 minutes to practise in a day, I always suggest to them using the time available by playing through the piece from start to finish, counting, at a snail’s pace, making sure to play accurately, taking as much as possible from the score away with them – detail. This might take the full half-hour period, but remember, the first play-through is the most important. Some might argue, “But … Dylan, I don’t know the notes! How can I possibly get it right the first time I play it.” which leads to a separate issue on sight-reading (three reasons why you should learn).

Each succeeding day will see an improvement on the last, until eventually, one week later, there will be something resembling music, albeit slow and perhaps needing polish or refinement. When asked by newcomers “How long will it take for my child to get to Grade X?”, I always answer the same way:

“Learning to play the piano is similar to planting a sapling; you water it from one day to the next, remembering to give it enough sunlight, and eventually it will sprout a leaf. If one does this over a number of weeks before we know it we have a small tree. Your child’s progress is dependent on what they do from one week to the next.”

Similarly so, to both the caterpillar and the young plant, the ‘One Week’ challenge is but one stage on the journey to performance. Providing practise is carried out, in the correct manner, one week is always enough time for improvements to be made.

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Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball.  A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.

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