Let me premise this blog by saying I believe both group and private lessons are important its just that group lessons tend to be viewed as less important and this is just not the case. I guess when the average person imagines a guitar lesson they think of a private scenario. We see ourselves sitting one on one with our guitar teacher in a small dark room with a music stand, a lap top, sheet music and guitar posters on the surrounding walls. I know this is what we expect and private lessons have their place but many guitar students miss out on the benefits of group work.
Guitar is personal
Many school bands surprisingly do not include guitar despite its enormous popularity. Instruments like saxophone, clarinet, tuba, trumpet etc are usually offered at school along with an opportunity to participate in group learning. Many of these students have private lessons plus group band rehearsals several times a week which gives them a great all round learning experience. Guitar students on the other hand rarely get this opportunity at school and find themselves learning privately after school with no real opportunity to participate in group learning.
Discovering the group learning advantage
It was not until I started teaching groups after almost 10 years of doing exclusively private teaching that I came to truly appreciate the advantages of group work. I was already aware from my own experience with bands but I had not really made the connection when it came to my own students. As a young teen I would get together with classmates but it was often a frustrating process. We were all too loud, out of sync and none of us really had any idea how to make it work. My guitar teacher eventually put together a Rockschool program and with his guidance the magic appeared. What had been lacking was an understanding of how to work together as a group. The teacher was able to show us how to work together as a team. Teamwork is probably the most important element of a successful band. There are many great guitarists who simply never learn to play with anyone else. In fact there are thousands of bedroom guitar heroes all around the world. Just look at Youtube and you will see them shredding along to their own backing tracks somehow hoping to be discovered.
Keeping up with the pack
Another big advantages of group learning is it can prevent many students from becoming lazy. Some students are fortunate in they are highly motivated and work hard no matter what but they are the exception. Most of us need external motivators. One of the best motivators which has been shown in study after to study is group influence. This is apparently embedded into our species because throughout our evolution it meant survival. We will work harder to stay with the group. I have seen it many times. My group students almost always out perform private students.
The importance of friends
Another big plus to group learning are the friendships we make. Friendships mean support and encouragement. Learning guitar is not easy and having a friend or two learning with you will give you the support you need when it seems all too hard. Students tend to see the teacher as someone who is accomplished who may not understand how they feel whereas another student is able to relate. Their words of encouragement can make the difference. Students who learn in groups we have found are less likely to drop out as well because of this support factor. If they drop out of lessons they are not just leaving their teacher behind but often good friends. You can see this in team sports or when children have to change schools.
Combine private with group for best results
Now group lessons are definitely worth considering for the above reasons but this doesn’t mean that private lessons are not beneficial. The best guitarists know that they need both. If you are truly serious about becoming a great guitar player you need to be spending time in both camps. If you visit a place like the Guitar Institute in Hollywood you will see exactly this. Students moving in and out of group classes and private tuition. If there are no group learning opportunities in your area speak to your teacher as they may be able to put something together.