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The Value of Group Lessons

When three's not a crowd ...


by Chris Loeffler



Anyone who plays an instrument has been asked about lessons at least one from a colleague who wishes to learn to play or a well-meaning coworker who is looking to give their children the exposure to music they never had. The challenge this presents to the typical musician is two-fold- gaining a mastery of an instrument by no means signifies a musician would be a good teacher, and non-musicians are seldom aware of (nor financially prepared for) the cost of private lessons. A solution to this, which is already common in larger cities but is a long time coming to smaller communities, is group lessons.


While there are well documented cons to group lessons, such as less personal attention, shared curriculum, and the challenges of securing a space large enough to host a larger group, there are many reasons why group lessons are a superior option for people looking to learn to play an instrument in a formal instructional environment.


Money… It’s a Gas


As we’ve already mentioned, private lessons are expensive. Whether it’s a home visit or a small room in the back of a music store, lessons are likely to cost anywhere from $15-35 per half hour of instruction, plus whatever printed material the instructor uses to teach. Not every household has $60-150 per month for such an extracurricular activities, regardless of how much they may value the idea of musical literacy.


Group lessons allow instructors to spread the cost of their time and the venue across many students, making it possible to charge $10 or less per student for their time, dropping the expense per student 30% to 300% while creating a possibly even larger return for the instructor. Obviously, there’s a point of diminishing return for the students as the size of a group lesson extends beyond, say, six students, but an instructor with a solid grasp of the number of students they can effectively teach at a given time can easily double their income by carving out two 45 minutes sessions in a day for groups of five as opposed to four half-hour private lessons at the going rate.


Brothers in Arms


Another benefit to group lessons is being a part of a peer group to support each other in the learning process. Whereas private lessons often beget private practice and a more focused but insular experience, group lessons allow students to share their experiences with the rest of the class; a built-in social group to share and practice your love of the instrument. Often, impromptu jam sessions take place among students immediately before and after group lessons, providing creative jumping points from the lessons being learned.


While instructors seldom encourage students to reach out to them between lessons when they find themselves stuck on a particular concept, classmates are much more approachable and create an instant community bank of knowledge to reference. The result can be immediate feedback or correction for challenges in the lesson rather than needing to wait until the next formal lesson to seek clarity. Groups tend to naturally develop a pecking order based on passion and technical proficiency, with every student standing to learn something from the others.


Imagine All the People


More people in a lesson means more diversity. Diversity in musical tastes, cultural backgrounds, physical approaches to playing an instrument, and even in how theory is memorized and applied. The melting pot of musical inspirations and goals for the instrument make it impossible to not only discover new music, but to also consider new applications for playing and see your instrument from a different perspective.


While a younger player may be trying to learn the latest YouTube indie hit, a player of a different generation who is also just learning their instrument may be able to tie the chord or melody to an older Beatles song, creating a greater appreciation for both parties’ understanding of song construction. An aspiring metal head has as much to learn as he has to teach from an AM country influenced player… we’re all working from the same handful or notes and chords. The result is a richer appreciation of music beyond one’s immediate goals and guaranteed exposure to what might be their new favorite inspiration.


Let’s Do It, Together


Between the financial savings, peer-group support, and expanded musical exposure, there are a lot of benefits to group lessons, and I encourage musicians and instructors to consider expanding this approach to lessons. Not only do group lessons create a more accessible entry for new players looking to learn an instrument, but they also build up a tight-knit community of new players that are more likely to stick with it, collaborate to create new music, and ultimately grow the presence of music in general in your community.  - HC






Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 


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