Private or Group Lessons: Pros & Cons

Oct 18, 2017

So, you’ve chosen a musical instrument for yourself or your child to start learning to play. But now comes a new decision that you hadn’t even thought to consider when deciding that you wanted to start learning music: should you go with private, one-on-one lessons, or try a group or ensemble setting? If you’re not sure which would be the best fit, don’t worry, you’re not even close to being alone. It’s a hard choice for many people to make, and it’s made even harder by the fact that there are advantages to both styles of learning. Your decision will most likely come down to an honest evaluation of your, or your child’s, level of experience, learning style, and personality. But to help you make the best, most informed decision, let’s take this week to go over some of the pros and cons of both private and group lessons.

Private Lessons: Pros

For a lot of people, private lessons simply seem to make the most sense because the student is able to get 100% of the instructor’s attention for the entire session. And going hand-in-hand with this is the fact that every lesson will be specifically planned and tailored to the learning style and experience of the student, regardless of their age or skill level. For example, if you’re struggling with your fingering technique, your teacher will be much more likely to address that issue in an intimate, private setting than in a group lesson.

Another advantage of private lessons is that the lessons wait for the student. If, for example, you’re sick one week and have to cancel your lesson, your instructor will pick up right where you left off when you come back. In a group setting, the lessons will continue without you, and you may miss something.

Lastly, private lessons allow you to learn at your own pace. You can take the time you need to learn each concept, one at a time. If you or your child tend to learn at a slightly slower pace, or need extra tutoring, private lessons might be the best choice, as the instructor can focus more on helping you improve your individual techniques.


On the other hand, private lessons miss out on one of the biggest and arguably most important aspects of music: the social component. If you’re looking for a space to make new friends, or simply to interact with new people, while learning music, you just won’t find it in private lessons.

The other major disadvantage to private lessons is the cost. Due to the very nature of the one-on-one sessions – the fact that the instructor is giving their student their undivided attention – they tend to be significantly more expensive than group lessons. If you’re sticking to a tight budget and the expense is an issue, group lessons are much easier on the pocketbook.

When you boil it all down, private lessons miss out on two important benefits: community and camaraderie. But, as a way to try to make up for this loss, many private music lessons also offer something like a monthly “jam session” so students can meet, hang out, and play together.

Group Lessons: Pros

First and foremost, it’s a common misconception that students who are in group lessons don’t have any one-on-one time with their teacher. In fact, group lessons tend to run longer than private lessons, and teachers go out of their way to use that extra time to spend quality time with each and every student.

Another key advantage to group lessons is motivation. We all know that watching what others are doing and how they are progressing works amazingly well to motivate us to improve too. It’s a sort of positive peer pressure that keeps you motivated to practice often, so you won’t be the weak link in the orchestral chain.

Lastly, one of the big pros of group lessons is the ability to play in front of others. When a student plays with a group they develop the ability to play comfortably in front of their peers, which in turn helps with any anxiety when it’s time for a performance. And what’s more, that comfort can spill over into other aspects of public life, like speaking in front of a crowd, which is often sighted as one of the most common fears in today’s world.


Of course, there are some disadvantages when it comes to group lessons as well. Fist, they can be hard to schedule. With all the different students and conflicting schedules, finding a good time for everyone can be extremely difficult. In private lessons, your teacher is able to work around our schedule, but in a group class, you’ll likely have to work your schedule around the lessons.

Another problem that can arise, especially in children, is taking the social aspect a bit too far. For people who have a hard time concentrating the temptation to socialize can just be too much. If this is the case for you or your child, it might be a good idea to consider private lessons for a little while.

Finally, the focus in group lessons tends to be a little different than with private lessons. Group classes don’t tend to focus as much on things like theory and note reading as much as private lessons do. If you already know how to read music, then this won’t really be an issue. But if you’re coming to music for the very first time, and you’d like to build a foundation of theory and note reading first, private lessons may be the better option.

Which is better?

Well, as you can see, there really is no right or wrong answer. You can learn to play an instrument in either setting, so it all comes down to what you think will be a better fit. If you prefer a more social environment, try group lessons. If you need a more intimate setting to concentrate fully, give private lessons a try.

Either way, you can usually end lessons at any time. So if you’re not sure, try one. If it doesn’t work out as well as you had hoped, you can always switch to the other style of learning.