Pros and cons: group lessons versus private music lessons

Remus Badea, AMI Executive Director

Remus Badea, Executive Director, American Music Institute

Thinking of taking music lessons? That’s a great idea, but you have to choose the right format if you want to get the most out of them. You can go for group lessons or private lessons. For those thinking of group lessons, below is a detailed explanation of both the negative and positive sides to help you make an informed decision.

Pros

  • The students will gain from the social development involved. They will be able to make new friends with their classmates whom they can play with as well as share their ideas and thoughts on the classes they take. Additionally, the learners will be able to learn how to relate well with people from all walks of life in a learning environment. Learning becomes fun; a great delight as well as an invaluable experience helping them to build confidence for a lifetime. All these are not possible in private lessons.
  •  Unlike in private lessons, students in group lessons are able to learn playing different parts of a song to make a whole. Moreover, the students develop better sight reading, following instructions, rhyme, and coordination as well.
  • Motivation is a great asset when learning music, especially for children. It is what gives them the will to go on and be the best they can be. Motivation, in this case, will come from observing what other students are doing and the desire to play like them or better. They inspire each other to do better as well as discover new things.
  • Pressure is not good for learning, especially for kids. The pressure, in this case, is less for the group than it would be for one student. This is because the teacher’s attention is divided among all other students which gives them time to relax and enjoy free time. Pressure would create a non-conducive learning environment for the learners.
  • Since the students are already used to playing various music instruments in front of their classmates, they will also have the courage to play even when the audience is different. This is a way of nurturing their talent and building their self-confidence. A student who learns all by themselves may be shy playing in front of people. This confidence gained will not only be useful when the students are playing music but also in other areas such as public speaking.
  • When in a group, there is positive competition which helps students strive to do their best in the class. It is also an opportunity to learn from others as well as give and receive positive criticism which helps them in the learning process. A competitive environment helps them learn more and faster.
  • Singing is also part of music, a very important part. Most people will find themselves more comfortable singing in a group than they would while alone. Therefore, groups can foster this part of music education.
  • Team spirit is also greatly developed in groups. There are many activities such as singing and playing various musical instruments which the students have to do together. They can learn to support each other during class performances, at festivals, as well as during exams.

Cons

  • The teacher is not able to give each student their full attention. He/she has to divide his attention among all his/her students and at times it is not enough. Therefore the slower learners or shy students might end up not benefiting as much from group classes. Some people argue that they are cheaper, but the quality of these classes is wanting at times. In some cases, taking private music lessons would be more expensive, but the student will be able to grasp every detail taught.
  • Group lessons are not easy to schedule. There are many students involved and finding the right time that will be convenient for all of them might be difficult. The class time may not be convenient for all of them. On the other hand, private classes can be scheduled when it is convenient for both the teacher and the student.
  • Music lessons involve note reading. You cannot claim to know your instrument if you are not good at reading. Most group lessons do not go through this thoroughly as in private lessons as the teacher has too many students for him/her to teach this section well. Private students have more time to pay close attention to learning note reading; hence private students will do better at sight reading than those in groups.
  • Some students may take socializing and making friends in a group setting a bit too far. They may see class time as entirely about socializing, forgetting that they have classes to take. Group classes can become some sort of a distraction instead of allowing them to concentrate more fully on learning music.
  • Finally, some students may pursue competition negatively. They may make group classes all about winning which may demoralize some of the group. Those who are not very good in class will end up feeling left behind, and with low self-esteem. This would not be the case if they were in a private setting.
  • In conclusion, music classes are a very sensitive topic that has to be handled in the right way, by the right teacher, and in the right state of mind. Choosing the right learning format is very important if you want a student to do the best they can.

 

Remus Badea is Concertmaster of Southwest Symphony Orchestra, adjunct professor at Elmhurst College, and Executive Director of American Music Institute. He teaches violin, viola, cello, and piano.

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