The Benefits of Group Lessons

Are you getting the most out of your guitar lessons?

There are many popular misconceptions about learning an instrument, and in particular the guitar.

Acoustic guitar is not a stepping stone to electric guitar.  This isn’t primary school; you aren’t gaining your pen licence and leaving pencils behind for those who cannot handle the power of ink.  Your teacher isn’t there to flood you with information that you memorise and then chastise you when you don’t practise.  You may think you want to learn “theory” but in reality that involves learning a bunch of stuff that you don’t really use and you’ll find it really boring.  And private lessons are not better than group lessons.

When I was in high school (which was not that long ago despite what my students tell me) the saying that was knocking around was “people in bands play better”.  Back in the day, there were lots of people in rock bands and there were a lot of guitarists – a situation which I’m told has not changed. For boys, being a guitarist at school seems to score points with girls who think you are way cooler than you actually are for slinging an axe on your shoulder and engaging in a bit of soulful shoe-gazing.  I remember hearing some of these guys play and the ones that played well were the ones that played in bands.  Most of these young people had private lessons but I observed a few key things about them overall:

1.  the guitarists in bands were playing more;

2.  part of the reason they played more was because it became a social activity;

3.  the people who weren’t in bands stopped playing guitar after a while and unfortunately for them they usually lost a bit of their “cool factor” (let’s face it – playing guitar makes you more attractive).

We can extrapolate these observations into the guitar teaching studio, where we observe that in most cases group lessons yield better results than private lessons.

Some benefits of group lessons 

It’s social.  We are social creatures and enjoy the company of others.  You get to meet like-minded people who like the same music as you and play guitar!  Turning up to your guitar lesson when you know there are others going through the same thing as you can really help you to manage your own doubts and questions.  It can be a great relief to find out that the bit you found ridiculously hard to do was the same bit that everyone else found hard.  If you get together and play with these people outside of your lesson it means you are going to play more which equals greater improvement.  If you make arrangements to practice with yourself, it’s easy to blow it off and watch TV.  If you’ve made yourself accountable to others by arranging a group practice session, you’re much less likely to blow it off!

Friendly competition.  A group environment can bring out your competitive side which at its weakest manifests as “I just need to make sure I’m not the worst”.  There is nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition and it exists as an excellent motivator.

Peer learning.  Having other people learning around you gives you the chance to watch other people doing the same thing as you, and you never know – someone might do something that makes more sense to you then how the teacher had originally demonstrated it.  You can also learn a lot from other people’s questions.  They might ask a question of the teacher that you couldn’t have even known to ask yourself.

Playing in an ensemble or band context.  Bedroom guitarists often underestimate the importance of playing in time, and miss out on the experience of playing with the “ebb and flow” of a real band.  Playing well in a band requires a lot of experience. Developing communication skills and the ability to play “tight” is essential.  You can practice in the bedroom with a metronome as long as you want, but it won’t mean you can step into a band and be good.  Only by playing with other musicians will you develop the necessary skills in this area.

Longer lessons.  Group lessons, dollar for dollar, mean more lesson time which equals greater results. Simple.

Why not?  Name one thing that you need to learn that cannot be taught in a group environment.

At The Guitar Gym, we consistently observe clients achieving better results after making the switch to group lessons.  We do take great care when allocating people to groups to ensure suitability, which is why we offer a free lesson in order to evaluate your ability and discuss your goals first.  If you are considering having lessons, or feel you should be getting more out of your current lessons, maybe a group lesson is the answer for you!

© The Guitar Gym Pty Ltd, 2012.  Except as provided by the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.  Links to this article are permitted.

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