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: Don't 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. That's 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 teacher's 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: Can't 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 they've 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 student's lives.

Copyright 2005, Cynthia Marie VanLandingham

Cynthia VanLandingham is the owner of TallyPiano & Keyboard Studio in Tallahassee, Florida where she has been teaching piano for 20 years. She is a member of the American College of Musicians, the National Guild of Piano Teachers, a graduate of the Florida State University College of Education, and President of TallyPiano Enterprises, LLC.

You can visit her website and download her original compositions free at http://www.tallypiano.com

Cynthia is also an author of a series of exciting books for children, with the mission of Using Music, Art, Science and Literature to Help Children Achieve their Dreams. Her illustrated series for piano students is called, Little Bear's Piano Adventures!TM These stories take young piano students on a Musical Adventure to find out what piano lessons are all about in a fun way that children can easily understand.

For more information about these wonderful books E-mail Cynthia at [email protected], where you can also subscribe to her free internet newsletter, Piano Matters!

TallyPiano Studio: (850) 386-2425
Hotline: (850) 264-7232

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