Oftentimes, we think of piano lessons as one student at the piano with a teacher sitting next to them. However, today’s teachers have realized that group lessons meet unique needs for their students. The following is to help prepare you for group lessons that are held throughout the year in between private lessons.
What Are Group Lessons?
Some studios offer weekly group lessons while others hold group lessons at set points throughout the year.
There are multiple terms to describe group lessons:
- Group lesson,
- Master class,
- Piano party.
However group lessons, by any name, have a few things in common:
- Multiple students gather together at a common time and place.
- Focus on a particular set of skills or concepts.
For studios that offer primarily private lessons, common times to hold group lesson weeks are:
- End of term (Winter or Summer),
- When your teacher will attend conferences for additional training,
- Holidays where many students would be unable to attend regularly scheduled lessons.
Typically, these group lesson weeks mix seasonal activities with the current studio focus. For a Halloween or Autumn-themed group lesson, students may explore pulse andamp; rhythm with whole body activities to burn off any pre-candy energy. For a Christmas or Winter-themed group lessons, students typically perform music they have prepared to play over the holidays. But, they will also participate in activities that tie together musical terms or ideas from the previous months. And, for an end of academic year or Spring-themed group lesson, student may take a light-hearted approach to activities with plenty of games and fun activities to wrap up their learning.
Why Have Group Lessons?
If your child regularly has private weekly lessons, the idea of changing the schedule may seem strange. But, I promise there are very good reasons why piano teachers have opted to include these activities.
#1: Piano Can Be A Lonely Activity
While other instruments are portable, pianos are more stationary.
Imagine trying to carry your acoustic piano to a friend’s house. Perhaps you have a great case that zips up to protect it from the weather. Maybe little wheels to make it easier to transport.
I think we will both agree that scenario is highly unlikely is you have an acoustic or digital piano with full stand. Especially if you have ever seen adults attempting to move a full sized piano into a home.
Moving away from this tongue-in-cheek imagining, think about where the piano is placed in your home.
Is it tucked away in a corner or even worse in the basement? When your child plays are they alone? Or, is a member of the family close by to encourage and occasionally sing along?
Making Your Piano A Part of Family Life
When I was much younger, I remember an moment when someone decided the radio was going to be turned on while I was practicing piano. Except the radio made it hard for me to hear what I was playing. What resulted was a hilarious (in hindsight) game of who could be louder. Me on the piano or the stereo speakers.
Another time, I was playing “The Rose” which happened to be one of my dad’s favourite songs. What I remember was finding out how much it meant to him every time I played that song. And while it was not my favourite song at the time (life experience has made the lyrics much more poignant), boy did I play it a lot when he was around. Consequently, “The Rose” became a song that I mastered very well.
Being with other students helps students:
- See how far they have come.
- Get inspired by where they can go.
- Realize that the ups and downs of piano are ones other students have experienced as well.
#2: Chance to Focus on Specific Concepts
As piano teachers, we do our best to give your child a diverse and interesting learning experience each lesson. And while this does create an environment of exploration and fun, it does mean that some concepts are a little more difficult to cover. Group lessons give students the opportunity to delve into topics that we may only get to superficially in lesson.
Music history often is one of these topics. Understanding what makes each musical era unique helps students create their own interpretation of the songs they play. Making time to go into these details during lesson or assigning this during the week is more difficult to implement.
For example, one year we “Traveled Through Time” in our studio. At the December group lesson we all learnt the basic steps for the minuet because we had focused on the Baroque era.
Not only was it fun to try something new as a studio, but individual private lessons make activities like this either difficult or impossible.
#3: Change in Routine
Why do we love holidays so much? Because they are a break in the routine!
As a former classroom teacher, I can tell you that there are certain times of the year when our students resemble swarming ants more than focused children. In fact, I would venture to guess that you see many of the same behaviours at home.
While routine is important and creates a foundation for learning, shaking up the routine is just as important.
Rather than fighting the natural desire to take a break from the routine, changing the timing can bring a whole new energy to lessons!
#4: Professional Development
The best piano teachers take time for professional development throughout the year.
Rather than cancel lessons completely in order to attend training, teachers can use group lessons as a win-win situation.
The teacher continues to learn. Your child still has a piano lesson albeit in a different form.
Scheduling Options For Group Piano Lessons
Each teacher will handle group piano lessons a little differently, so be sure to ask your child’s teacher.
There are two options that teachers use to set up group lesson days and times. Neither is better or worse. They just reflect the goals or comfort level of your child’s teacher.
#1: The teacher sets the schedule and you are informed which group lesson your child is expected to attend.
#2: The teacher has a way for students to sign-up for one of several group lesson days/times.
In our Must Love Music online piano studio, a group lesson registration link is included in our monthly newsletter. This form shows a couple of options with days/times for group lessons. Piano parents that register quickly get the spots that work best for their family. Piano parents who wait take the spots that are left.
Keep in mind, the second option gives more flexibility to the family, but more planning for your teacher.
After working as a classroom teacher with students with a wide range of developmental, neurological, learning and other difficulties, have multi-level, multi-age group lessons is something that I’m comfortable with. That being said, the planning is very different than if groups are all the same age and level.
Day of the Group Piano Lesson
Each group lesson will have a specific drop-off time and pick-up time. Think about the expectations when your child attends a birthday party at a rented facility (for example, laser tag). There are certain social norms that apply in both situations.
#1: You are expected to ensure your child on time.
For in-person group lessons, arriving 15 minutes early is not acceptable, unless you are supervising your child in your vehicle. This is because your child’s teacher is prepping for the group lesson. For online group lessons, your teacher will probably have students stay in the ‘wait room’ until they are ready.
Regardless of whether group piano lessons are in-person or online, arriving late is also not okay since this disrupts the natural flow of activities already happening.
#2: You are expected to pick up your child on time.
For in-person group piano lessons, children will often worry if their parent is late for pick-up. It also means that your child’s teacher is unable to shift to other prior commitments because they are still caring for your child.
For online lessons, please keep an eye on the clock so you know when your child will be signing off.
What To Bring To Group Lesson
Your child’s teacher will tell you and your child what they are required to bring to group lesson.
This can include your child’s:
- Practice pouch (with pencil andamp; eraser)
- Music that will be performed
If you are not sure what your child needs to bring to group lesson, ask your child’s teacher. They want your child to have a successful group lesson as well!
What Happens During Group Piano Lessons
Again the activities within group lesson will vary from teacher to teacher. And, to a certain extent from group lesson to group lesson.
Often there is an intro activity. This is something that allows students to settle into group lesson and transition from whichever activity they may have add before arriving.
This intro activity could be a worksheet or invitation to warm-up at the piano before performances begin.
The Main Event
Typically, piano teachers switch activities often within the group lesson.
This ensures a few things:
- Students do not have a chance to get bored, regardless of their age,
- Group lesson seems to “fly by” with students wondering where the time went,
- Students can explore concepts in several different ways to facilitate deeper learning.
Activities can range from:
- Playing the piano (individually or as a group)
- Listening activities
- Whole body movement
- Videos with discussion
The goal is for your child to have fun while learning. Or as I jokingly say, “Trick them into learning.”
Your teacher may or may not have a closing activity.
In our Must Love Music online piano studio, students find out about any challenges, holidays or other events coming up in our studio. After a quick run-down, we may talk about the music or activities within the group lesson lesson. Or, students may visit as a group.
Either way, students have created closer relationships with other students in the studio and started the transition for their next activity outside our studio.
What to Expect For Group Piano Lessons
Most teachers give information to their clients before group lesson. They may talk with the student beforehand to answer any questions. But, some children can be nervous going into a new situation. And as parents, we want to know how to help our child. Using the above details will hopefully ensure your child’s first group lesson is an exciting one!
What questions do you have about group piano lessons, whether in-person or online?
Let me know in the comments below!
If this approach of programming that allow students to be part of a musical community looks good to you, click to set up an interview to join our online piano studio!