We often get the question ‘Are these group lessons, or private?’, and rightly so, as it should be one of your most important considerations when looking at taking music lessons.
Whether you are an adult student, or a parent with a child, the amount of attention you receive in your instruction is of paramount importance when considering the potential for your improvement and progress. Consider how fiercely parents fight for small class sizes in schools. Everyone knows that the fewer students there are, the more individual attention those students have, and the better their chances for being interested in turn. After all, an ignored student is one that loses interest the most quickly!
To put this in more precise terms, there are three very basic categories we can divide students into when they are in a group situation.
THE FAST AND THE BORED
Typically this student is the one that learns easily, integrating new concepts and techniques quickly. In a group, this student gets ahead of everyone else early on, and boredom usually develops as a result of waiting for everyone to catch up so ‘the class’ can move on.
THE HAPPY CAMPER
This student is in the middle of the two other groups, and learns at the speed at which the course is laid out, generally without any problems.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
This student is the one that can start very enthusiastically, but quickly realizes that they can’t keep up with the class, or develop their skills fast enough to meet the class requirements. In these situations the student gets discouraged quickly, and (depending on age) can get resentful or even vocally unpleasant in the class setting resulting in a poor experience for the other students, as well as themselves.
If every class was equally divided by these lines, 66% of students would be unhappy! Clearly, a one-on-one lesson eliminates all of these considerations, and caters not only to the individual student, but to an ideal philosophy of education, where the goals are improvement of knowledge, ability, and enjoyment of learning.
Another significant disadvantage of the group, or class setting is that there is little flexibility to accommodate interest, or individual student challenges. Most people are drawn to music because they have a style that they like and feel that meets their needs for expression in music. This can be a song, or a favourite band, or just the sound of the instrument they choose. Similarly, there is no telling what technical challenge might be understood and performed today, versus which challenge might take weeks to master and execute properly. Individual instruments have their challenges, as do individual people, and being locked into a class makes it very difficult to address an individual student’s needs from lesson to lesson.
Are there situations in which a group lesson will work? Yes. The most common of these is the ‘Masterclass’, in which a master teacher is invited in to share a high level of expertise with a group of advancing students that can pay attention and ingest the concepts for practice later. This is a format that is very successful, but also works best for teens and adults, so it is limited in its application.
Ultimately, working privately with an expert in any discipline is a luxury that students deserve, and should insist upon whenever possible. As educators, we strongly support the private lesson model, and prioritize the growth of knowledge, ability, and enjoyment of music for all of our students.