Private Music Lessons Vs Group Lessons

Over the years I have experienced both Private Music lessons and Group lessons. When I was 12 years old, I started learning the Viola through the String program put on by the Toronto Public School system. These were group lessons and they were great and I continued with the String program until I was 18 years old. I enjoyed the instrument and did a lot of home practicing. However, I didn't start to make any real headway until my mom enrolled me for private lessons over a summer at the Royal Conservatory of Music. That summer alone saw me progress much faster than my school mates who were schooled only through the group lessons. After a while I became bored with the music being played in the school lessons and orchestra and I left the Viola for the far more promising chick magnet guitar. I had picked up the guitar when I was 14 years old and was able to teach myself some basic chords and melodies. When I entered high school I thought about taking the group lessons, saw that it was a beginner class and opted out. Again, my mom enrolled me in private lessons and I learned much more than I would've ever learned in the group lessons.

Years later I started teaching both private guitar and piano lessons. One of my guitar students was taking group piano lessons from someone else and I went to a recital. What I heard horrified me. The majority of players couldn't play the right rhythm and couldn't get through a song without stopping, in many cases these were only single finger melodies. I guessed that these 45 minute group lessons, which parents had paid $15 for, were really $15 for 5 minutes as I found out there were only 3 pianos available for the 10 students.
The other day at the school I work at, a 12 year old boy played single finger melodies with a bit of difficulty. He was in a group lesson. Again I was horrified.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that not everyone wants to be a musician and that some people are learning just for fun. However, I believe that if you're going to teach someone something, do it properly. I, for one, am a stickler for rhythm, if it's a two beat half note, then play it as a two beat half note, not a one beat quarter note. Students end up spending so much time on getting the right note that timing gets left behind and, in group lessons, it seems that this is considered OK. This is understandable as there just isn't enough time to focus on each student. Sure, group lessons may cost less than private lessons, but what the student isn't getting is the focus from the teacher, and that's worth the cost.

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