The past 20 years have seen the emergence of a new form of piano teaching – the group piano lesson.
On the face of it, group lessons may look like a good thing. After all, they’re sociable and fun, and from a cost per hour perspective, they’re cheaper than individual private lessons. But group piano lessons are not a good long-term investment in your child’s musical future. Here’s why…
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Individual piano lessons at a studio are always taught on a piano. This allows the teacher to teach your child correct technique and musical expression – two of the building blocks for good piano playing.
Group lessons, on the other hand, are almost always taught on keyboards. This is problematic, because your child cannot learn proper technique on a keyboard. Other aspects of keyboard learning are also difficult to translate to piano playing, as many keyboards have keys that are a different width to a regular piano, and many have fewer keys as well – 49 rather than 61. (If you’d like to know more about keyboards vs. pianos, check out my piano buying guide for beginners.)
Most private piano lessons are taught by a qualified piano teacher – often with a university degree.
In contrast, many group lessons are taught by less-qualified teachers, usually with AMEB grade 4 certification. Less-qualified teachers know less about the theory and practice of teaching, and are generally less able to teach correct technique.
Individual piano lessons allow the teacher to give your child their undivided attention. They can also tailor and personalise each lesson to suit your child’s learning pace, talents, and interests.
In group piano lessons, students receive little or no individual attention. Everyone is taught exactly the same thing at the same pace, and in the same way. Because of the less-personalised nature of group lessons, it can be difficult for students to improve quickly, and individual challenges can remain unaddressed.
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Technique and Note Reading
Thanks to the individual attention they receive, and the teacher’s qualifications, children enrolled in private piano lessons are often better able to learn correct technique and note reading. Correct technique is the foundation of piano playing. If it’s not taught, then a student will often have to start from scratch when they change piano teachers.
For some reason, many group piano classes don’t cover note reading. However, there’s only so far your child can go with the piano if they can’t read music. Because the teachers are unable to provide each child with extended individual attention, the children cannot learn good technique at the same pace they would were they enrolled in individual lessons.
During individual piano lessons, the teacher can personalise and vary the repertoire your child plays according to their interests and abilities. Your child’s repertoire choices are ultimately unlimited, if the teacher is willing.
Most group lesson syllabuses, on the other hand, aren’t designed to teach past nursery rhymes. So the repertoire is much more limited.
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From a basic dollars perspective, private piano tuition is more expensive than group lessons.
However, if you look at the number of dollars that you pay per minute of individualised attention, group lessons are actually more expensive. It all depends on your perspective, and whether you’re interested in making a long-term investment, or saving money in the short-term.
If you’re serious about your child learning to play the piano, then you can’t go past private, individual piano lessons.
The piano is a complicated instrument to learn. Your child has to learn to read two musical staffs simultaneously, and they have to learn to play with two hands, which will usually be doing different things simultaneously. As such, I believe that learning to play the piano is a task better achieved with individual attention and teaching.
Have you ever enrolled your child in group piano lessons? What was your experience?
Thinking about enrolling your child in piano lessons? Share this post on social media to start a discussion with other parents about the pros and cons of group and individual piano lessons.
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