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Group Piano Lessons – A Good Idea?

Group instruction is a common way of teaching many instruments, such as the guitar or orchestral instruments, especially in the early stages. However, while the piano has traditionally been taught on an individual basis, group lessons are an option you might want to consider. Let’s take a look at what’s involved in learning piano in a group.

What Are Group Piano Lessons?

With group lessons, a single teacher generally instructs a number of piano students. Small classes of around six or less are often preferred, although some groups may be larger. The students are usually beginners who are all starting from the same stage. The lessons are taught in a large room or studio, usually with at least one real piano and a number of electronic keyboards (sometimes each student has a real piano, but this isn’t typical). The teacher can explain the material in a classroom setting, and can demonstrate music and techniques as the students play along, while also giving each student some one-on-one attention.

Some teachers also offer a combination of group and private instruction, where the pupil has regular private lessons, with a group class at periodic intervals, where they can gain experience of playing with and in front of others – this is perhaps the best of both worlds.

Why Choose Group Piano Instruction? – Pros and Cons

Learning piano in a group has a number of advantages:

  • It’s cheaper. The cost of regular private piano instruction can be a problem for many, but a group piano lesson is cheaper, since the cost is spread out among the class. This means you can often get a longer group lesson for less than the cost of a shorter private lesson.
  • It can be less intimidating. Many people find individual lessons to be somewhat nerve-wracking; if you’re just starting and are unsure of your skills, being the centre of attention can be an unpleasant experience, even if it’s only your teacher who’s listening. With a group, you can blend in a bit more, and hearing others who are at the same stage can help you feel less self-conscious about your own mistakes and technical deficiencies.
  • It gives you experience of ensemble playing. The piano is generally taught as a solo instrument, but many pianists play in groups, or as accompanists etc. Playing with other people isn’t something that most pianists learn when taking private lessons, so learning as part of a group can help you get this valuable experience early on, and you’ll find it more natural to play with others as your skills become more advanced.
  • It can be a lot of fun. Group lessons can have a more relaxed, laid back atmosphere than their private counterparts, and many people find that they’re more enjoyable. This can be especially true for children.

Group Piano Lessons For Adults
piano keyboardMany adults who are interested in learning piano prefer group lessons because they’re cheaper and take some of the stress out of getting started. Many towns and cities offer night classes which can be a convenient way to fit the lessons into a 9-5 schedule.

Group Piano Lessons For Children
Group teaching can be especially valuable for children. They often enjoy the group setting more, as group lessons can feel more like play and less like ‘school’ – this can help keep them motivated to keep practicing and less like to want to give up the piano.

However, piano group lessons aren’t always the best choice – here are some of their disadvantages:

  • An obvious downside is that you get less one-on-one attention from the teacher. This is less likely to be an issue if you’re a complete beginner, but as you start to advance, you’ll likely require more individualised instruction that’s tailored to your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • As the group moves beyond the absolute beginner stage, some people will naturally progress more quickly than others. It will be difficult for the teacher to accommodate different ability levels within one group, and this can lead to frustration both for those who are surging ahead, and those who are struggling.
  • Not everyone finds the experience fun. Group lessons can be noisy and somewhat overwhelming for many students. Both adults and children who are more introverted by nature may prefer private instruction. The dynamics of different groups vary too, and personality clashes may arise.
  • Learning on a keyboard is often less desirable than learning on a real piano, although this isn’t really such an issue if you have an acoustic piano (or a high quality digital piano that mimics the touch of an acoustic) at home to practice on. If the group lesson is taught using keyboards, each student should have some time on the real piano as well.

For both children and adults, group lessons can be a great way to get started (and to find out whether the piano is the instrument you want to play), but if you or your child are serious about progressing with the piano, moving on to private lessons is usually necessary after a while.

Advanced Group Piano Tuition

This article has focused on group piano lessons for beginners, but these aren’t the only type of group-based tuition available. More advanced students will often attend piano masterclasses, where students can perform in front of the group and gain feedback from both peers and the teacher (who may be a well-known pianist or someone with expertise in a particular area). Sometimes these masterclasses will focus on a specific piece, type of music, technique etc., offering the chance to study a specific aspect of piano playing in great depth.

Finding A Group Piano Teacher In Your Area

Most piano teachers focus on individual lessons, so it can be more challenging to find group tuition. But the process for finding them is basically the same as finding a private teacher. Here are some places to look:

  • Schools – if you’re looking for group tuition for your child, their school’s music department is a good place to begin. Some schools offer piano lessons themselves, and if not, will normally be able to recommend teachers in the area. For adults or older students, try checking with the music departments of local colleges or universities for recommendations.
  • Music shops & libraries – your local music stores and libraries will often have noticeboards where teachers can advertise, and the staff may also be able to recommend suitable teachers.
  • Community/adult education – as mentioned earlier, a lot of places offer music instruction for adults at night classes, so this is another avenue worth checking.
  • Yellow pages & business listings are another source of listings for music teachers.
  • Online – the internet can also be a great source of information about local music instruction. Simply Googling for group piano lessons in your area can turn up some relevant results, and there are also sites where music teachers list their services, such as http://musicteachers.co.uk/ or http://www.findpianolessons.com/
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