The 7-year-old guitarist 6) Individual vs group tuition

Will a beginner do better in an individual lesson or in a small group?

This is a huge question for music teachers and for parents, and of course it is not specific to the guitar.

The answer is not necessarily the same for every instrument, and certainly not for every pupil.

But I will stick my neck out and say that as far as 7-year-olds are concerned, most guitar beginners will learn AT LEAST AS WELL AND PROBABLY BETTER in pairs or small groups as they do one-to-one. Exceptions are: pupils at the top or bottom end of the ability range, and pupils who for personal or behavioural reasons will not work well with a group.

I have plenty of experience of this, as I am lucky enough to have long teaching sessions and long pupil lists in my schools, so I teach individuals, pairs and small groups all on the same day and am able to shuffle and reshuffle from term to term according to current rate of progress, interests, and availability of compatible lesson partners.

True, sometimes I have known pupils who have switched from group tuition to individual tuition and suddenly started to do better. But I can think of at least as many examples of pupils who were, frankly, failing in a one-to-one situation, but who suddenly flowered on being switched to a group, and took off both technically and musically. Social learning is a very powerful thing.

The fact is that the teacher often does not have much say as to whether a pupil is taught individually or in a group. But if you do have a choice, I would simply say: do not just assume that pupils will do better in individual lessons. It is a widespread assumption in the instrumental teaching world – often made by teachers who prefer a quiet life or who simply haven’t bothered to consider any other format – but it is a lazy assumption and it is often plain wrong.

And if you haven’t tried teaching pairs or small groups, have the courage to give it a go. (It has benefits for the teacher as well as for the pupils, by the way). But do read up about it  first – lots of ideas and inspiration in the excellent “All Together Now” published by ABRSM.