As a piano instructor, I am very often asked by new students, or parents who are planning to get their kids involved with learning the piano for the first time, would group piano or private piano classes be best for them? I’d like to point out some of the pluses and minuses for both so that you can compare group piano and private piano classes.
Students want the best for themselves, and if the student is a kid, the parents want the best for their kids. But without experience in the field of music, it might be hard to know what would be the best. There are many factors involved, including interest level, financial situation, availability, or if they have an instrument for practice at home. There may be many other considerations, too.
The student, teacher and parent connection in piano lessons.
I started taking piano classes when I was almost five. I don’t even remember my first piano class. My parents used to take me and my sister to private classes once a week. I never knew that I would continue playing the piano for over 25 years. I didn’t know until later in my life that not only was it my dedication, but also that of my parents and teachers plus their patience, motivation, and inspiration that continued to keep the process of learning the piano alive for me.
Unfortunately, in the group class environment this is something harder to be achieved. In group classes there will be at least 4 students, one teacher, and, in the best possible setting, one keyboard per student. However, in my experience it is rarely the case to have one keyboard per student. Many times there will be only one instrument in the room. This setting automatically puts the teacher in a completely different situation than when she or he teaches students one by one. Learning how to play an instrument is a skill and requires many, many cautious repetitions of certain movements that must be supervised by the teacher. This might be hand position, fingerings, or learning specific patterns. In the group situation, the teacher can’t observe and correct all the actions of all the students if there are many instruments. Or if there is only one, then each student will have only very little supervised time. It is also much harder to develop those strong interpersonal relationships between student and teacher (and parents for young students) that is needed to keep the students progressing well.
Social skills and individual strengths and weaknesses
All of the students in a group class have to be engaged in what is happening in the class, and take part in the learning process. But all of these students have a different way of learning, different weaknesses and strengths when it comes to coordination, memorization or ear training activity, among many other traits. Its nearly impossible to provide for all of them what they actually need.
However, the good part is that even when this happens, the students get to socialize, (improve social skills if they are kids), share with one another, be competitive, and even be inspired from one another when in group setting. This is something which doesn’t happen in private, one by one session. This is why I am happy with the situation at Sage Music where I teach. We provide private piano lessons for the students development, plus recitals, concerts and events to create those important social interactions.
Related: Should I take Group Music Classes or Private Lessons?
Time consumption and dedication
When starting with private classes instead of group there are also time and financial issues involved. Sometimes students or parents believe that it is much easier to “see if I like it” and try couple of sessions with the group, instead of signing up for private sessions. They think the cost of taking private lessons, investing in a keyboard, spending much time practicing without really being completely dedicated to the new experience only to give up a year later is not a worthwhile commitment. And they are right, spending that time and money is not a worthwhile commitment. But new students should note that group classes may actually cost about the same as a private 30 minute lesson. It is also our experience, that when students are progressing and seeing results they tend to continue to take lessons, and this happens all of the time with private lessons – so the investment is then totally worth it. More often students do quit after taking group classes because they do not see the same results.
Making a smart choice
Having said all that, whether you start with group piano classes or private lessons is actually a personal choice, and with the right teacher and learning environment you or your kids will have a great start in the piano world. Be sure to consider the quality of the instruction you are going to receive, the cost and your financial situation, the likelihood you will continue. Be smart about your choice and make the one that is right for you.