At Noteability Music School, we teach piano lessons in Greenville, SC in both group class and private settings. But is one better than the other? How do you know which medium is better for your child?
The simple answer is that every student is different, and the benefit of having options is that you can give your child a learning environment that will play to their strengths. But of course, there’s more to it than that - we discuss below.
Piano class can be fun, rewarding, and very effective for teaching both children and adults, here’s a list of the benefits you can expect from a group educational setting.
Group piano classes always operate on a schedule: three-month cycles, maybe a semester-long curriculum, and similar configurations. As a result, music schools that offer classroom piano education have a specific set of goals they want their students to achieve. Here’s a hypothetical list of deliverables:
It’s not an open-ended arrangement, so there are clear goal posts that the class will be working towards. This can be reassuring for parents, and it can be a good structure for certain students.
Taking piano classes with motivated peers can be an extremely effective way for children (or adults, for that matter) to expedite the learning process. Nobody wants to be the classmate that holds everyone back, and if every student shares a similar mindset, great things can be accomplished. There can also be a small element of productive fear - showing up to a group class unprepared could be awkward when you are asked to play. It’s worth mentioning that good teachers will only motivate students, not shame them in front of their peers.
It’s a two-edged sword though. Some students can be crippled by the weight of their peers’ expectations, and they may accomplish less because they are thinking more about what other people think than their own enjoyment of the piano.
If you aren’t sure that your child will love the piano, and if you want to simply give it a try and see how it goes, group piano class is a fantastic outlet. As mentioned above, the class semesters have beginning and ending points, and if you don’t think your child is enjoying lessons by the end of the semester, you can simply choose not to re-enroll.
Group piano lessons are often held in a “piano lab” setting with electric keyboards, screens, additional audio equipment, and more. Young students especially may benefit from the multimedia approach to learning piano, and their attention and creativity may be sparked by the backtracks and visual elements. Group piano classes will often incorporate group rhythm activities and games as well.
It’s no secret that grade 1-2 piano music isn’t all that interesting, but when you have young students play duets or ensemble music instead, they get to become part of a much more engaging piece of music. Group piano class give students the chance to play duets, trios, and larger ensemble music right from the beginning, and this can help them love being a part of music from a young age.
No two piano students are alike, and expecting a group of 5-10 students to learn the same way, and at the same pace, can sometimes be unreasonable. A good private lesson instructor can get to know the student, figure out which methods, exercises, and repertoire have the greatest chance for success, and create a custom roadmap for the student. The teacher can also pivot to a different approach at a moment’s notice - you’re not stuck in a particular curriculum.
We hinted at this above, but not everyone responds well to pressure. Of course, if a pianist wants to perform or play in high-level situations in the future, they will have to get comfortable with pressure, but the ultimate purpose of learning the piano is to enrich one’s life with music. If the pressure is robbing someone of joy at the piano, then it’s not doing any good!
If you think your child (or if this applies to you) is losing their love of the piano because of the expectations their peers may have placed on them, then consider switching to private lessons.
Many children enjoy the piano because of their teacher - it’s a unique relationship that can lead to a lifetime of music-making. Young children especially may think they dislike the piano, but they are happy to attend lessons because they enjoy the time spent with a more mature musician. This relationship can’t be replicated as effectively in a group class setting, so if you think your child will benefit from a one-on-one relationship with an instructor, consider private lessons.
If your child is a top performer, or if they show an above-average drive to succeed at the piano, you may want to opt for private lessons. Just like peer pressure can pull students up to new heights, very good pianists can sometimes “play down” to the level of their peers.
In an effort to take all of the above into consideration, Noteability recommends that very young or beginning pianists enroll in group piano class for a set period of time, then enroll in private instruction once they’ve reached a base level of competence. The fundamentals can all be learned in a classroom setting -- reading, counting, posture, technique, basic music theory -- and then, once the student is familiar with these concepts, a private teacher can help the student grow at his or her own pace thereafter.