Most people who get a guitar are very excited to learn how to play, and the internet seems like a great place to find help. But there is too much information online and no plan or accountability, so it doesn’t take long to realize that you need a good guitar teacher if you are serious about learning. For a lot of folks, the next decision involves choosing between individual lessons, or group lessons. I don’t think that one method is better than the other. It depends on the teacher, your learning style, and your goals.
Good Reasons to Take Group Guitar Lessons:
- You cannot afford private lessons, which tend to be more expensive
- You want to learn broad concepts to see if guitar is for you
- You want to take the class with a friend
- You want to meet new friends who also share an interest in guitar
Good Reasons to Take Private Guitar Lessons:
- You know you work better with personal attention
- Your time is very limited
- You have very clear goals
- You want to be able to ask a lot of questions
I hear from a lot of students who sound like they would get a lot out of group lessons, and I also hear from teachers who want to teach group lessons because they can help more folks while earning more money. It sounds like a great situation for all parties, but that’s not always the case.
Most of the people I have met who have taken group lessons tell me they didn’t get as much out of the course as they had hoped. Sometimes the pace of the course was set by the slowest or fastest learner in the class. Many times, the course jumped around a lot and it became obvious that the teacher didn’t have a clear and flexible plan, or teaching style. Often times, students are grouped together in ways that just don’t make sense. If the teacher can’t pull all the folks together, the class can feel uninspiring.
Simply put, not all guitar instructors are great at teaching individuals and groups. It’s a totally different game. While a lot of guitar teachers can “wing it” during their private lessons, that’s pretty much impossible to do during group lessons (if you want to do a good job). Teachers must have a plan with clear objectives and they should be able to share those objectives with students before signing them up for the class. They should also be able to choose students for a class and make sure those students share similar goals.
The student who is taking lessons (group or individual) also should be willing to ask questions and give the teacher feedback on what is helpful and what is unhelpful. A good teacher who has a solid and flexible plan can go in a variety of directions to ensure that students are learning effectively and playing songs they enjoy along the way.
So, it may be easier for most people to find a good private lesson teacher than to find a good group guitar teacher. That shouldn’t stop you from trying to find a good guitar class if that is what interests you, just know that it may take some time to find the best fit. Once you start taking lessons, make sure you communicate with the teacher about how she/he can be the best teacher for you.
Bottom Line: Group lessons and private lessons can be awesome, but make sure you find a good teacher with experience, a clear plan, and references!
Susan Palmer teaches jazz, blues, and rock guitar styles in Seattle and via webcam. Since 2006, she has been the guitar instructor at Seattle University. Palmer created and taught, “The Rock Project” at Cornish College of the Arts from 2010-15, and she was music instructor at Seattle Girls School for the 2016-17 school year. Palmer is the author of, The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series which is used by teachers and students in over 10 countries, including faculty at Berklee College of Music. Her extensive collection of lesson videos and jam tracks are available for free on YouTube. Palmer’s current and former students perform regularly throughout the country, including these Seattle venues: The Comet, The High Dive, Skylark, Neumos, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chop Suey, The Tractor Tavern, The Rendezvous, The Sorrento Hotel, The Crocodile, The Mix, Cafe Racer, The Edgewater Hotel, The Sunset, and other private events.