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Are schooltime group instrument lessons any good?

(28 Posts)
BiscuitMillionaire Mon 13-Jul-15 22:54:02

DD (7) has been learning violin for a year and a half with a private teacher, and done well, got her grade 1 exam. The teacher is moving away and I have the choice of finding another private teacher (which wouldn't be too hard), or seeing if she can get in to the violin lessons offered by the LEA during schooltime, which are in groups of 3 children. We started privately as the LEA didn't offer them for her age-group at the time.
What do you think? Would she progress more slowly in a group lesson? Could she even hear if she's playing in tune? I don't know how these work. She might enjoy being in a group and it might encourage her to practice, to keep up, I suppose. She's about to go up to juniors, where she'll be able to join the orchestra too.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeGoes Mon 13-Jul-15 23:00:37

I think it all depends on the teacher. DD started keyboard at the start of this school year, made really good progress in the first term, different things to practice every week, all her goals checked off in the grading checklist in her book as they were achieved. But the teacher left, another one took over and all progress seems to have ground to a halt. We have no way of contacting the teacher other than via the book. I'm not very impressed. But DD loves it and says she is learning. We should get their final report for the year tomorrow, it will be interesting.

Whereas with a private teacher you have so much more control, you choose them, meet them, talk to them, work together. But it might not have the fun element of playing together.

BiscuitMillionaire Mon 13-Jul-15 23:37:57

Hmm. Yes control... of course I wouldn't be there when she has the lessons. I might do some asking around to try to see if the teacher's good. Thanks.

ReallyTired Mon 13-Jul-15 23:42:57

If she has already got grade 1 then group lessons will be a total waste of time. My son did group guitar lessons and nearly lost the will to live as progress was so slow. A lot of children simply don't practice. In your position I would look for individual lessons.

Potcallingkettle Mon 13-Jul-15 23:50:32

Speak directly to the school instrumental teacher. In my experience, you pay for the time. So whatever it costs for a lesson for 3 altogether, you could pay for a private lesson. Alternatively, enquire if there is another child at the same standard who could share a lesson.

Theas18 Mon 13-Jul-15 23:51:52

Agree if she's grade 1 group lessons are pointless unless she can be pared with a similar ability child. You imply she's year 2 going to year 3. School may have a grade 1 violinist but realistically they'll be year 5 probably- so faster to learn and more dexterous presumably?

Much better to stick with 1to1 lessons. School may well accommodate this (and charge appropriately but that's not the point) .

BackforGood Tue 14-Jul-15 00:05:16

IME, group lessons are a waste of time and money - even more so if they have already got as far as taking grades.
You'd be very lucky to find a group where all the dc were at approx the same level and also were all putting in the same practice and all had the same aptitude.
It costs more for 1:1, but you certainly get what you pay for in this instance.

BiscuitMillionaire Tue 14-Jul-15 00:11:46

Oh thanks for all the replies - you all seem to be saying the same thing. Yes she's going to year 3. And she has been learning quite quickly, seeming to take to it well, according to her teacher. OK, well I might try to speak to the school teacher to see if there's anyone else of her ability to pair up with. But a private teacher looks like the best option then.

SE13Mummy Tue 14-Jul-15 00:16:44

DD1 has group trumpet lessons at her primary school. At the end of Y3 (after 1 year of group lessons with 4 children per group) she took grade 2, in Y4 she took grade 3 and 8 months later did grade 4 so I would say that for her, group lessons have been incredibly successful. Communication with the teachers has always been via the practice book but topped up by occasional e-mails.

One of the factors I suspect contributed to her success was that the original brass teacher grouped children very much by stage rather than by age. This meant that because DD1 made rapid progress, she was taught with Y5 and Y6 children a term into Y3. Unfortunately, the original brass teacher moved away which coincided with a new headteacher arriving at the school. She took it upon herself to regroup all the children who receive peripatetic music tuition and so DD1 found herself in a group arranged by age with no regard for the stage/playing level which meant that DD1 (Y5) was preparing for G4 whilst two Y6 pupils were still pre-G1. Once she had taken G4, we opted to have 1:1 lessons, still at school with the new brass teacher and this has definitely been the right decision.

Your DD sounds as though she's making steady progress but G1 after 18 months of 1:1 lessons isn't so exceptional as to expect that there won't be other 7-8 year olds at the school on a similar level, even if they haven't taken any exams. It may also be the case that some children who start in Y3 will catch up quite quickly so it would definitely be worth her at least trying out the peripatetic lessons. All the peripatetic music teachers I know are very used to teaching children of varying levels although G4 and beginners isn't ideal and I'm sure you'll be contacted if it's felt that your DD would be better off receiving 1:1 lessons.

ReallyTired Tue 14-Jul-15 00:24:59


It takes longer to get to grade 1 in violin than grade 1 in a brass or a wind instrument. With brass progress in the early stages is faster than stringed instruments. Violinist often take a long time to make a tolerable noise, but they go through the later grades faster. (Think strangled cat!)

BiscuitMillionaire Tue 14-Jul-15 00:30:55

Or vile-din.

SE13Mummy Tue 14-Jul-15 01:12:38

ReallyTired I am aware that it is generally considered that the earlier stages of learning a stringed instrument are usually slower than for brass or wind instruments, not least because one of my brothers 'played' murdered the violin whereas I played the clarinet and he made sure to mention it repeatedly. For years.

I was only using DD1's trumpet progress as an example of school/group lessons that had been successful as most of the other posts came down on the side of school/group lessons not being worth considering which I felt was a shame! Locally, there are state schools where children of the same/similar age as the OP's DD have taken G1 violin having received 12-18 months of group tuition at school and, because I know the music teacher at one such school, I also know that some of those violinists started violin lessons in Y3 rather than Y2, but have made rapid progress (aided, no doubt by lots of practice).

If she is going to be joining the orchestra, it sounds as though the OP's DD may be playing alongside slightly older children so there may well be scope for her to join a lesson group that other orchestra members are in. It's also possible that the groups are fairly fluid (as they used to be for my DD) allowing children who make faster progress to be moved mid-term rather than being stuck in a group of those who don't practise/are struggling. All in all, I'd still encourage the OP to at least talk to the LA music service/the school about the possibility of her DD joining the group lessons.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeGoes Tue 14-Jul-15 07:24:10

It also depends how big the school is, ours is quite small so there are only two groups for each instrument therefore not much room to move. Also we have to commit to pay for the whole year of lessons up front, as the school has to pay the county that way.

teacherwith2kids Tue 14-Jul-15 07:35:04

Some of the Y5/6 children who learn the violin at my school in a group of 3-4 have just taken their Grade 3, having started their lessons in Year 3. So it is possible, even with a stringed instrument - but usually only if you have a group of similar ability.

ReallyTired Tue 14-Jul-15 09:17:50

I think a lot depends on the catchment if the state school. My son's group lessons were full of free school meal kids who parents had signed them up because they got music lessons for free. The some of these kids played up the teacher and they never did any practice.

The amount of practice a child does has more bearing on progress than anything. I can see that if a child is in moviated group they can do well.

Wafflenose Tue 14-Jul-15 09:42:14

I teach group recorder lessons and I do as well as I can with them - they start in Year 2 and because of being very popular, the children are in groups of 6-8. They tend to leave me in Year 6 around Grade 2-3 standard, having played in music festivals, carol services, assemblies, concerts and having also collected several Music Medal badges along the way. If I have someone relatively advanced starting with me, there is always an appropriate group for them because of the numbers. But I imagine that might be a problem if there's not another violinist of the same level in her school. I'd ask the school - a paired lesson can be very fun and social, with the potential to play duets and trios - but if there's not anyone at the same level I'd stick with private.

Ishouldbeweaving Tue 14-Jul-15 10:57:18

You could always sign up for a term and see how it goes because it depends so much on the other players in the group. If it turns out to not be a rewarding experience then you can give notice and find a private teacher. I wouldn't do that if I had to pay for the year at a time, our music service has a six week notice period and I think that would be enough to see whether it was going to work or not.

DS started brass in a group of three, it worked really well when it became a group of two because he was determined to play what the other boy could play and it really did encourage him to practise. We had about a year before the gap between them meant that it had to be private lessons.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 14-Jul-15 20:46:55

Agreed I wouldn't sign up for a year, but would consider trying a half term.

We have had variable experiences with music service grouped lessons at Primary, it very much depends on the teacher.

I'd also be looking at the cost of both.

Mine are at secondary now which employs their own teachers and don't teach in less than groups of two. (My Dc are in individual lessons.) Cost is £7.50 for 25 mins with very high quality teachers. Our catchment secondary uses music service teachers, and charges £18 per lesson or £12 per group lesson. At that price I'd be paying the £13/£14 for an individual lesson privately.

I actually still do this for DS2s trombone lessons as the secondary school brass teacher, although very good, is not a trombone or jazz specialist, both of which DS2 loves

BiscuitMillionaire Tue 14-Jul-15 21:25:40

My problem is that DD is super-stubborn, so if she started group lessons at school and I thought they weren't very good, I doubt she would agree to stop lessons which involve having time out from school, and start going to a private teacher in her free time.

RunAwayHome Wed 15-Jul-15 08:41:31

Lessons at school don't necessarily have to be group lessons - you could enquire if she could use the peripatetic teacher, but still have an individual lesson (at more cost to you, obviously, but in line with what you'd pay privately anyway). Then it's just a matter of whether the peripatetic teacher is as good as your previous private teacher or not, because you'd have the same problem if you wanted to change teachers and your DD wasn't willing to go back to out of school lessons.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeGoes Wed 15-Jul-15 09:02:38

Biscuit, that's exactly the problem I've got now, DD wants to carry on in the group and I want to switch to private.

Worriedandlost Wed 15-Jul-15 11:45:26

Only private!

FastLoris Thu 16-Jul-15 22:59:45

Don't do it.

It's a no brainer. Generally speaking, group lessons at school are nowhere near as good as individual lessons outside of school for actually making progress and learning an instrument properly. I can go as far into the details why as you want, or just trust me - I've taught privately, coordinated peripatetic teaching in several primary schools, and been involved with kids' lessons and ensembles in all kinds of roles. And I'm telling you, there's no comparison.

Get her signed up with a new teacher outside of school, and do it properly.

Sometimes this can be mitigated a bit with instruments that are relatively easy in the early stages, where the fun of learning in a group can help and it's possible to make decent progress despite the disadvantages of the structure itself. The violin is not one of those instruments.

Sometimes it can be mitigated by an exceptionally dedicated, honest and organised peripatetic teacher. But you have no way of knowing whether the school will supply one of those, and statistically, they probably won't.

BiscuitMillionaire Fri 17-Jul-15 21:37:24

Thanks FastLoris, and everyone. I chatted to another mum who is a musician and whose child plays an instrument with the school service and she said they never get any homework or told what to practice for the following week. That alone is enough to put me off. Your post kind of clinched it.

SE13Mummy Sun 19-Jul-15 21:55:22

Reading this thread makes me extra grateful that the brass teachers DD has had via Lewisham Music Service have been brilliant, not just because she's made excellent progress but because they are very clear about their expectation that she will work on whatever they have written in her practice book and communicate directly with parents too.

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