Many prospective students ask me this simple question: should I take group music classes or private music lessons?

The answer: It depends upon your goals…because there are pros and cons to each.

Below, I’ll give you the info you need to decide which one is right for you.

In general, private music lessons are usually far better for your progress. Group classes are better for social experiences and learning some musical skills like improvising or playing in an ensemble.

The Benefits of Private Music Lessons

Private music lessons help you meet your personal goals

When you study with a professional private music teacher, you’ll receive your teacher’s full attention and focus for the entire lesson.

You’ll get lessons planned and tailored to your specific needs, goals, and learning style. For that reason, you’ll progress swiftly and easily because classes are made just for you. (You’ll still have to put in the practice at home, of course.)

Students who take private lessons usually make steady progress toward their personal goals.

Group music classes can’t offer that kind of individualized instruction. The teacher usually follows a predetermined lesson plan and must balance the needs of many students. These students will have different needs, abilities, learning styles, goals, or ages. So you just can’t get the same level of individual focus.

Private music lessons provide better student growth

Each student learns and functions differently. These differences can be especially wide between children 4-15 years old. Or between a 20-something and a retiree. So it’s rare to have a class of students that have the same needs and learning style.

As a result, group class teachers must compromise. They balance each student’s needs to needs of the class as a whole.

Imagine that one student is struggling with something the rest of the class finds easy. The teacher can help him while the other students wait. Or the teacher can go on because most of the class is ready, leaving the struggling student behind.

Neither is a good solution if the best progress is your goal, but that’s a common problem in a group class.

None of these are issues in private lessons, making them the best choice for you if you are looking to make quick and easy progress toward your goals. Students who take group classes to learn an instrument often form bad habits because they don’t have personal, individual attention. Mistakes go unnoticed and uncorrected.

Private lesson are private

Many new students aren’t confident in their skills.  They aren’t ready to play music in front of others just yet.

Group classes can be intimidating for these students. Private lessons offer you the chance to work on music comfortably until you are ready to play in front of others. This removes the the pressure some may feel at the beginning.

The Benefits of Group Music Classes

Group music lessons provide better social experiences

There is something to be said about being part of a group.

You can gain a sense of belonging. Group activities can be fun and rewarding. And you may feel motivated by your peers in the class.

Private lessons aren’t able to offer that sort of social experience, because they are one-on-one.

So if you just want a fun experience, to meet some new people or try something new, then group classes might be your best bet.

Just be aware that group classes are not great at helping you develop your skills on your instrument. I’ve seen many students from other programs develop some really bad habits in these group classes.  Then they have to relearn a lot of things later on.

Group music lessons teach some skills that private lessons can’t

What if you have already developed the ability to play an instrument to some degree?

In that case, you may be interested in learning how to advance your skills by playing in a band or learning to improvise.

Private lessons can help you prepare to be in a band or improvise, but you have to play with others to really develop those skills. This is where group classes do best.

If you can already play an instrument, then I would highly recommend taking group classes to learn performance skills like playing in a group or improvising.

Just be sure that you have already developed your technique with private lessons enough so that you can concentrate on playing with others, instead of worrying about how to play your instrument. You will be much more comfortable this way.

What about the price difference between private and group classes? Aren’t group classes cheaper?

I also get many questions about the difference between private lessons and group music classes price.

Try not to compare just the price. You should instead compare what you get for the price.

Do private lessons cost more per hour? Yes.

Does that mean you get less for your money? Absolutely not.

It depends on your goals and what you want to get out of your lessons or classes.

Say you want to learn an instrument or voice. In most cases a private lesson with a qualified teacher is going to cost about twice as much per hour as a group class. That’s because in a group class, students share the cost of the teacher’s time.

In other words, a 30 minute private lesson costs about the same as a 60 minute group class. So, for the same price, would you rather have a 30 minute lesson with your teacher’s full attention and a lesson plan customized for you?

Or would you want a group class for 60 minutes follows a scripted lesson, provides little individual attention, and doesn’t well incorporate your personal goals. Of course you’d want the private lesson because it will help you reach your goals faster.

On the other hand, if you want a social experience or to learn an ensemble skill, then private lessons won’t give you that.

Even if you hire the most expensive private teacher on the market, he can’t conjure up other people for you to learn with or to improvise with. You actually need other people to work and practice with. In this case you’ll want to take the group class that helps you meet your goals.

Private Lessons or Group Classes
Which one is right for you?

Take Private Lessons…

  • when learning to play an instrument for the first time
  • to reach your goals the fastest
  • to develop your technique and musicianship
  • to avoid common mistakes and errors

Take Group Classes…

  • when learning skills requiring a group, such as ensembles or improv
  • to socialize, meet new people, perform with others
  • to develop certain musical skills after you have the ability to play

Our recommended approach – the best of both worlds

What if you want social experiences and fast progress?

Then you should do both, but be careful to do them at the right time and in the right order.

Take private lessons first to help you learn how to play your instrument. Because that’s what private lessons do best. Once you’ve developed the ability to play some things, you should then be able to apply them in a group class.

You’ll feel more confident in your ability when you step into the group class. And when you are there, you can concentrate on the ensemble skills, or improvisation skills instead of strugging with your instrument.

Most music schools offer both of these types of courses. By working with a reputable music school, you should be able to have the social experiences you want.  And you should get the focused attention you need in your private lessons. And you will get the opportunity to develop certain skills in a group setting.

A word of caution….

Just beware about taking group classes that promise you to learn an instrument. Can you learn an instrument in a group class? Certainly. But it’s more difficult, less focused, and there is the risk of developing bad habits.

We get a lot of students here at Sage Music who have tried to learn an instrument in a group class at other schools. They nearly always hit a cieling. Get bad technique. And feel like they can’t progress. It takes months of work to fix the bad habits. We always do the work with them to fix them up, but it’s hard.

The bottom line: Take a private lesson to learn how to play an instrument or sing. Then take the group classes for the social experience, to develop musical skills like ensembles and improvising, and to apply what you learned in your private lessons. That gives you the best of both worlds.

By knowing what your own goals are, you should be better equipped to find the classes or lessons that are right for you.

Contact us now, if you have any questions about whether group classes or private lessons would be best for you.

Good luck!