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Group vs. Private Piano Lessons – Which One is Better?

September 14, 2011

When parents consider starting their child in music lessons, often they wonder if private or group lessons would be better suited for their child.  In this article, I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of private lessons and group lessons, and later conclude on my assessment of which type is better.

Private Lessons

 

Advantages:

  • Personalized attention – The student gets one-on-one attention from the teacher at all times of the lesson. This means the teacher can tailor the lesson concepts, pace of learning, and progression according to the capability of the student.
  • Pace is customized – Music concepts are progressive and build upon previously learned topics.  In a private setting, the teacher can go as fast or slow as needed to ensure the student comprehends all of the necessary music concepts before learning the next topics.  Students with above-average musical aptitude can move at a much faster pace, which will reduce risk of boredom.  On the other hand, students that need extra help can spend extra time with the teacher on certain areas to ensure they understand the concept fully before moving on.
  • Faster progress – On average, students who take private lessons will progress faster in their music studies than those who take group lessons.
  • Personal connection between student and teacher – Since the teacher and student will spend a lot of time together, a deeper personal connection can be developed between the two.  Students who study for the same teacher for many years typically have a strong bond with the teacher.
  • Easier to schedule – It may be simpler to schedule lessons since there are only two parties involved in a private lesson (teacher and student), unlike multiple parties in group lessons.

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive – Private lessons can be considerably more expensive than group lessons.  If a family is on a budget, the price differential can really make a difference.
  • Solitary activity – Playing the piano is already a solitary activity, and a child may continue to feel that they are once again alone at their private lessons.

Group Lessons

 

Advantages:

  • Less expensive – The more people in the class, the less each student needs to pay.  This can be a large determining factor for some families, especially given the current economic environment.
  • Peer competition can be healthy – If a student knows that they will be performing in front of their peers, they may be more likely to practice their assigned pieces to avoid making mistakes in front of others.  Also, they may have more incentive to do their homework if they do not wish to be the only student who didn’t finish their homework.
  • Social time – Given the peer interaction of group classes, group lessons offer social time for the students. With multiple students, teachers have more flexibility to play games and hence, students may think lessons are more fun.
  • Can learn from others – When students see other students their age and level play the piano, they can learn from observation, instead of a teacher verbally telling them.
  • Ensemble skills – Playing in a group means that students are forced to listen more to their peers.  This can develop their ensemble and ear training skills.
  • Longer class time – Group classes are longer than private lessons (group lessons are typically an hour vs. 30 minute lessons for young children beginners).

Disadvantages:

  • Less personalized attention – Instead of the teacher focusing on one student, the teacher must divide his or her time among many students at once.
  • Different skill levels can be difficult – In a group setting there are lot of different types of learning styles.  It can be difficult to handle the various learning styles and pace of learning.
  • Less effective for shy students – Children who are shy or who don’t enjoy interacting in groups may be uncomfortable in group lessons.
  • Group lessons usually use keyboards, not pianos – The piano is a large instrument.  With multiple students, teachers typically do not have one piano per student.  Instead, digital pianos or keyboards are used, which is different than an acoustic piano and can be less effective when the student reaches a more advanced level.
  • Difficult to teach more advanced piano techniques – Once the level of piano study starts to involve playing with both hands and more advanced piano techniques, it may be more difficult for the teacher to work on the specific advanced details in the piece, such as phrasing, texture, balance between hands, touch, etc.

Consider the following when assessing if your child is better suited for group or private piano lessons.

Consider the following for group lessons:

  • Does your child like being in groups and work well with others?
  • Do they like team sports?
  • Do they have an extremely tight extracurricular schedule that makes it hard to find daily practice time?
  • Are they under age 6?
  • Are you under a tight budget?

If so, group lessons are probably your first choice.

Consider the following for private lessons:

  • Do they dislike team sports or shy around other peers?
  • Are they exceptional students academically and tend to progress faster than other kids?
  • Or do they tend to progress slower than other kids and sometimes require special personalized attention?
  • Do they have a burning desire to learn the piano?
  • Are they 6 or older?
  • Can you afford private lessons?

If so, private lessons are probably your first choice.

In the end, the decision for a child to begin private or group lessons depends on a number of factors, including the child’s personality, developmental progress as compared to other children their age, and parent’s ability to afford the lessons.  In my opinion, private lessons are always the preferred method since it ensures the student has a more comprehensive musical learning experience and allows the student to progress at their own pace (and often a faster pace as compared to other students).  If parents can afford the cost of private lessons, private lessons are highly recommended for piano study.

 

About the author

Theresa Chen runs two music education websites, Opus Music Education and Opus Music Worksheets. If you are interested in finding a music teacher in California, please check out Opus Music Education at http://www.opusmusiceducation.com.  To download free music education worksheets, visit http://www.opusmusicworksheets.com.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 5:20 pm

    I am planning to enroll my kids in a piano lesson but I can’t choose what kind of piano lessons are good for them. Some said that group piano lesson is much better. I am lucky to found this post. Now I know what my kids should have.

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