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What’s the Difference? Group Piano Lessons vs. Individual Tuition

The past 20 years have seen the emergence of a new form of piano teaching – the group piano lesson.

 

Group Piano Lessons vs. Individual Tuition

 

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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Instrument

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.)

Teacher Qualifications

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 Attention

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.

Repertoire

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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Cost

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.

The Verdict

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.

Your Say

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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Simple Solutions to Help Your Child Practice the Piano

Tips for parents who want to support and encourage their kids

 

Simple Piano Practice Tips to Help Kids with Lessons

 

Attention parents!

Have you ever wondered how you can best encourage your child to practice the piano?

There are many different potential barriers to piano practice, from tiredness to busyness, and everything in between. Below I’ve outlined some tried and true simple solutions to these problems, as well as other tips to help you encourage your child to practice the piano.

How Often is Practice Required?

In the last Piano Notes post, we discussed how at the end of each weekly piano lesson, the practice tasks which I set for my five to nine year old students should be achievable after three consecutive 10 minute practice sessions. Not all piano teachers follow this pattern, but if your child is enrolled at Le Piano Academy, then that’s the volume of work they will be set. Ideally, that means that your child should be practicing for just 10 minutes every day.

But how can you help them do that?

Advice for Two Income Families

Many of my students come from families where both parents work. Because of this, they go to day care after school, and often won’t return home until 6pm, or even later. At this time of night, most young children aged 5-9 are too tired to practice. So what can you do?

The solution to this problem is actually simple: Get your child to practice 10 minutes in the morning, before they go to school. That way, they’ll be alert and awake (we all know too well that kids are morning people!). As an added bonus, having your child practice in the morning will also keep them out from under your feet while you get ready for work, or attend to your younger children.

Advice for “Extra-Curricular” Families

In addition to taking piano lessons, several of my young students participate in other extracurricular activities each week. These activities include swimming, tennis, football, dancing, gymnastics, and a range of other things. Once again, this can mean that they return home late each day, and even if they don’t return home late, they’ll often still be tired.

As before, the solution is simple: encourage your child to practice for 10 minutes in the morning, or before or after dinner.

The Best Forms of Encouragement

In my experience, bribing your child to practice (e.g. “if you practice, then you can play Minecraft on the Xbox”) and threatening punishment if they don’t (e.g. “you better practice, or we’ll stop taking you to piano lessons”) are extremely ineffective.

 

The Best Forms Of Encouragement

 

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I structure my lessons for young beginners so that practice will be easy, achievable, and ultimately fun. It isn’t hard. So all you need to do as a parent is to remind and encourage.

One effective way to encourage your child to practice is to say something like “why don’t you go and practice what you learnt yesterday so that I can see how much you’re improving?” Most children love to receive attention, approval, and praise from their parents, so this approach tends to work a treat. Experiment and see what works for you.

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The Final Word

Do you have difficulty encouraging your child to practice the piano? Have you found an approach that gets them playing every time? Share your thoughts in the comments below to help other parents in the Piano Notes community who are facing this age-old challenge.

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How to Prepare Your Child to Take Piano Lessons

A handy guide for parents of young, budding pianists

 

Tips on Preparing Kids to Take Piano Lessons

 

Are you thinking about enrolling your child in piano lessons?

Learning to play the piano can be a great experience for your child. However, sometimes as parents we can become so excited about our child learning the piano that we forget to make sure they’re actually ready!

Having worked as a piano teacher for over 16 years, I’ve developed a pretty good idea of things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons. While some of these steps simply involve waiting (waiting for them to grow, to learn, and to mature), there are also plenty of things you can do to help prepare your child for piano lessons. While every child is different, this checklist for preparing them to take lessons applies to all young potential pianists.

Expose Your Child to Music

One of the best things you can do to prepare your child to take piano lessons is to expose them to music – especially piano music. After all, why would your child be interested in learning to play an instrument when they don’t know what it sounds like, or what it can do?

There are lots of things you can do to expose kids to piano music. For instance, you can take your child to piano recitals at the Sydney Opera House, or the Sydney Conservatorium (which offers some free concerts). You could also watch my “Piano Fingers” showcase page, where your child will see several examples of other young children performing on the piano.

I also suggest that you try to play music in the background at home. One good, free place to start is to listen to radio stations such as ABC Classic FM (92.9 FM in Sydney). You can also buy recordings for your children to listen to. I particularly recommend Mozart and Bach, as the first years of your child’s piano journey will focus on classical piano. However, you can also expose them to other genres such as jazz.

Teach Them Their Left and Right

Playing the piano requires an understanding of the difference between left and right, the ability to tell the two apart, and the ability to control and use each side of the body independent of the other side. Teaching your child their left and right is one of the most simple and important things you can do to prepare them to take piano lessons. By making it a fun activity you do together, it can also be a great bonding exercise!

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Alphabet

Music employs its own alphabet – F A C E G B D, which your child will become familiar with as they begin taking piano lessons. But first they must be familiar with the English alphabet. As such, an important step in preparing your child for music lessons of any kind is to teach them the alphabet. If you make learning the alphabet as fun and interesting as possible, this will help your child to learn.

One Reason You May Need to Wait

Many young children have difficulty differentiating between letters such as “b” and “d”, or “p” and “q”. If your child confuses these letters, they will almost certainly confuse the written musical alphabet too. It’s normal for a young child to struggle with this aspect of reading, so don’t worry! You just need to be patient and encouraging. You may also want to speak to your child’s school teacher to learn how you can help your child to overcome this difficulty.

Teach Your Child Basic Reading Skills

Playing music involves reading. Before your child begins to learn to read music, they must learn basic reading skills. They need to know that reading involves going from the left to the right, and they need to demonstrate that they can do this by reading simple sentences or children’s books. Once your child can read words, they will be ready to read music.

Check Their Concentration Levels

The reality is that if your child can’t concentrate for at least ten minutes at a time, they’re not ready to take piano lessons. We might all occasionally wish it were otherwise, but concentration skills can’t be forced on a child (although you may be able to help them learn).

Try testing your child to see if they are able to concentrate for ten minutes at a time. One easy way to do this is to sit them on a chair and start asking them simple maths questions, such as “3+2=?”. Young children think with their feet. If they start moving their legs and feet, you’ll know they’re not concentrating.

Be Prepared to Invest in a Piano

In an ideal world, you would have an acoustic piano (i.e. not an electric keyboard) for your child to practice on from the moment they begin taking lessons, but I’m enough of a realist to know that this isn’t always possible right from the get-go. After all, pianos are expensive, and require space in your home.

However, once your child has been taking piano lessons for a year, it’s time to seriously consider getting them a real piano to play on. Proper piano techniques such as playing with a relaxed hand and fingers, and producing different sounds, tones, and colours, cannot be taught or practiced without a proper acoustic piano.

Always talk to your piano teacher first before buying a new piano. My advice is to stick to popular brands such as Yamaha and Kawai. I also have partnerships with some of the piano and music stores around Sydney, so my students can get discounts for instruments.

Wait Until Your Child is 5 Years Old

This can be a somewhat controversial topic, but as an experienced piano teacher, I can assure you that most children under five years old are not ready to learn the piano. Children under five generally can’t read very well (if at all), they don’t know their alphabet or their left and right, and they have very short attention spans. In other words, they don’t yet meet the criteria we’ve been discussing.

Five years isn’t very old, and as any parent can attest, the time flies! In the meantime, you can concentrate on helping your child to prepare by following the guidelines I’ve outlined above.

Recipe for Success

Letting your child begin piano lessons when they’re ready, and not before, will improve their learning experience and mean they will become a better pianist, sooner. If you teach your child the alphabet, reading and their left and right, and expose them to piano music, you will prepare them for the first steps in their musical journey.

Over to You

Do you have any questions about preparing your child for piano lessons, or other thoughts you would like to share? Then I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you know someone who is planning on enrolling their child in piano lessons? Give this post a friendly share on social media so your friends and followers can learn about preparing their child for piano lessons too.

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