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Piano Lessons - Group or Private?



Piano lessons are a great activity for children. They encourage creative thinking, develop math and reading skills, and improve students overall educational progress, as well as building a fun life-long skill. As a result, over six million children in the United States take piano lessons! One of the choices that parents have when their child is beginning piano lessons is whether to enroll their son or daughter in a private or group lesson. Parents often have misperceptions, or at least several questions, in making this choice.

Q: What is the difference between private and group lessons?

A: Individual lessons are usually thirty minutes in length, with the piano teacher working one-on-one with a student. Individual lessons provide a high degree of personal attention for a student. Group lessons are generally 45-minutes to an hour in length, and consist of between two and four students working with their piano teacher. During group lessons, each student plays their own piano or keyboard and receives both individual and group instruction. Students are introduced to new skills in the group every week and are then given individual playing assignments. They practice these assignments using earphones and the teacher rotates among the students to check on their progress and provide additional instruction.

Q: Dont children learn more in a private lesson?

A: Not necessarily, and it depends very much on the student. Some children thrive with individual instruction. However, private lessons can also create a dependence that students may have a hard time overcoming, as some children grow to feel that they cannot learn on their own without their piano teacher repeatedly showing them every new thing. To prevent this, successful piano teachers create supportive learning environments that let children know that they are responsible for their own success. This helps children learn how to set goals and that their own effort makes a difference. Thats why, even in a private lesson, students need some time to work independently.

Group lessons are a great way for children to learn, and many children learn faster in a group setting than in individual lessons. Group lessons create a fun and supportive environment, and students learn both from the teachers instruction and from each other. It also helps many children to know that other students are learning the same skills.

I encourage most new students who are seven years of age or older to start out in group lessons. However, I have found that private lessons typically work best for two groups of students. First, they can provide a solid learning foundation to very young students (ages 5 to 7) who need one-on-one instruction to help get started. Parents of these very young children sometimes stay with them during their lessons. When children get a little older and have the basics, they usually can transfer to a group lesson. Second, private lessons are appropriate for late intermediate to advanced students who are looking to apply music theory and advanced playing techniques requiring intense instruction and dedicated home study.

Q: Cant group lessons be intimidating for students due to peer pressure and competition?

A: While some parents may initially be concerned that group lessons create peer pressure and competition, the lessons actually help students feel more independent and confident in piano. Students play the pieces theyve just had instruction on before they leave the lesson, which helps them feel secure about playing the songs at home. As students often play their songs for each other during lessons, it helps avoid the performance anxiety that students taking individual lessons can feel before recitals. Plus, students generally find that working together with other students increases creativity and fun! Over time, experience has shown that most children learn more in small group lessons because these lessons encourage independence and build confidence, which is a strong foundation for success not only in piano lessons but in the other areas of students lives.

Copyright 2005, Cynthia Marie VanLandingham

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