Listening to a number of solo piano CDs covering standards, show tunes, and the like, I have begun to realize that what Duane Shinn is teaching in the 52 week Crash Course is how to play like that. The course has a theme that is consistent with that goal all the way through, that becomes quite apparent when you look at the overall course syllabus. However, the real learning is in all the extra suggestions Duane gives in the lessons to help you get the most out of each. These suggestions are ways to explore on your own, different ways to play the week's assignments. By trying these suggestions, you both become aware of how different a piece of music can sound with just a few minor changes in the playing style and you also begin to gain a greater sense of hand independence as your left hand begins to do a wider variety of accompaniments. Of course, these explorations take time. A person who strictly does each lesson as per Duane's initial instructions for the week might be able to finish the course in a year, but by taking the time to explore in depth what music can be made with Duane's suggestions, the student gets a real sense of what it is like to come up with his or her own interpretations on the fly. This is great preparation for working from a fakebook or leadsheet.
In the past, I have just pushed my way through the lessons with the intention of getting through this course. However, for some reason, I really began to focus on Duane's suggestions and have been very pleasantly surprised at the difference these make in the music coming out of my piano. It is definitely well worth the time to slow down and really experience all the course has to offer.