Although my lessons and articles are aimed for those who want to learn on their own, this article is a follow up from my other article for those who have decided on finding a teacher. This post discusses the issue of deciding between a music school and a private teacher. I have experienced both types and I have interviewed many friends of mine who learn guitar to give you the information here.
Music schools are businesses specifically created to provide lessons with a teacher. Many people like the idea of going to a music school thinking they will receive top service based on the words ‘music school’. While many music schools do offer great service, there are quite a few that fall quite short. Unfortunately, many ‘qualified’ teachers in music schools are not great teachers. In the My experiences section below, I describe my experiences with two music schools that provided poor service. But if you are considering lessons through a music school, don’t be turned off by my concerns. I am only stating these issues to warn you of potential signs so you can recognise a poor teacher and find a good one.
So have a read of the potential disadvantages below to assess the quality of the music school you are considering.
DISADVANTAGES OF MUSIC SCHOOLS (OR I SHOULD SAY, PROBLEMS YOU SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR)
· Be aware of music schools that lock students into contracts. This can be very costly if after two weeks you choose not to continue and they don’t offer any refund. Any missed lessons due to sickness or other reasons could be forfeited and no refund supplied.
· Many music schools offer group lessons. Although this seems a cost effective way to learn, it often achieves the complete opposite. From personal experience, one-to-one tutoring is the only way to learn as each student learns at a different pace and has different needs. What if you learn twice as fast as the other student? Every lesson you will have to wait for the other person to catch up to your level.
· It is common for schools to book students one after the other with no gap in between. For example: a student would be booked for a half hour lesson at 4:00 – 4:30 then the next booked in from 4:30 – 5:00. Doing it this way wastes at least five minutes from each lesson. When added up over a year of lessons, the teacher would have wasted over 6 whole lessons by changing between students. That’s a lot of wasted time and money.
· Some schools will have a set path for every student that lessons will follow. Watch out for these. Remember that lessons are most effective when tailor made for each student’s individual needs.
ADVANTAGES OF MUSIC SCHOOLS
· A music school with a great reputation can be the most effective way to learn. Teachers who truly understand how to teach can give you the best learning environment.
· One-to-one lessons are great learning environments
· There may be other minor advantages that I cannot think of, but just remember the first point because it is so valuable.
My experiences with music schools:
For a 10 year old to recognise that the music school I was attending was providing terrible service, it must have been really bad! Looking back I can see even clearer how horrible the service was. I was lucky enough to recognise it early and managed to only waste one contract worth of lessons (they committed me to 10 lessons).
This music school had all of the disadvantages I outlined above. That’s why I am writing this article, because as I found out, some seemingly reputable schools can be quite horrible on the inside. The biggest issue I had was the fact that the other two students (it was a group lesson of 3) were at least 4 months behind my skill level. I remember the teacher saying once that they just need to catch up. Most of the time was spent listening to the other students try to learn the parts. I hope none of you have an experience like this.
After the contract with that school expired I found another school and the quality of the lessons improved so much by the fact it was one-to-one. Little time was wasted in the lesson compared to the group lessons. The main issue with this school was the teacher was completely un-prepared and the impression was that she was guessing what to teach me. There was little progress made so after the contract expired (they would not let us pay weekly, we had to prepay 10 lessons) I gave up with music schools forever.
REMEMBER: I have outlined my experience to make you aware of potential problems with music schools. Don’t stress and think all music schools are bad because it isn’t true. I just was unlucky with the quality provided in my area.
The alternative from music schools are private tutors. These are people who teach on their own, often in their own home. There is no business behind them. The quality of private tutors is harder to assess than music schools. The range of private tutors can be from somebody who knows almost nothing about the instrument to a professional with qualifications mounted all over their walls. The hard part is assessing the quality of the tutor. The professional with qualifications all over their walls may not be as good as he appears or the teenager with no qualifications may be fantastic at explaining complicated techniques.
That’s the main problem with private tutors – range of quality. One simple way to assess the tutor’s lessons is ask if you could have a ‘trial lesson’ where you come in for one free lesson to see if this is for you. Most tutors will be okay with this. Although you can’t judge much in one lesson, it does give you a good idea of the style of lessons.
My experiences with private tutors:
The first tutor I took lessons from did not know how to play guitar. He explained everything from the book I was learning from. Ironically, he was a better teacher than the music school teachers I experienced later on. His understanding of music made up for his lack of guitar skills. Although I do not recommend finding a keyboard tutor to teach you guitar, this gives you an idea of why you shouldn’t ‘judge a book by its cover’.
DISADVANTAGES OF PRIVATE TUTORS
· Can be hard to find a good one
· The quality of teachers vary considerably compared to music school teachers
ADVANTAGES OF PRIVATE TUTORS
· Can be better value for money compared to music schools
· Private tutors normally spend more time preparing for lessons. This means that the lessons will be better planned out to give the best value.
· They are more flexible than music schools. There will likely be no contracts and no forfeiting money because of missed lessons.
You need to consider all the points I have made above to reach a decision. I have not suggested one way or the other because the answer is different for everybody. This article focuses on the negatives of each path so you are aware of them, not to criticise them. If you are aware of potential problems, you are more likely to avoid them. I wish you all the best in finding a suitable teacher. Of course, you can always come back here if you wish to learn on your own with my lessons.