Often when a parent contacts me for music lessons for their children, their second questions is, “Do you think it’s a good idea for my kids to take lessons together?” The first questions usually is, “How much are lessons?” The two questions are linked together, and I do understand why.
Any type of private study or lessons for a child are an expense. With more than one child, the expense can grow quickly. I do recommend that siblings work on a piece of music or duet individually and then come together to practice and then perform the music. We do offer sibling and family discounts, but I always tell parents that after four to six weeks of learning the basics, siblings are better off to study individually, and here’s why:
Individual lessons can meet different needs
First of all, they are siblings. Conflict, and competition, is only a breath or look away! I have found when children are in a lesson, each one is having their own frustrations, successes, questions and overall needs presented.
I have taught many siblings, including twins, and it is always more beneficial for them to learn individually. Even in situations where the siblings get along well together, their needs are better met one-on-one. Differences in age, one being more dominant than the other, different goals and musical preferences and differences in learning styles are also big factors. Often, one child takes it more seriously than the other and practices more at home. Spending valuable lesson time each week trying to bridge the two can result in a misuse of an entire lesson. This quickly leads to frustration for one or both of the students.
A case study
I once taught twin girls that were very mature and respectful of me, and each other. They got along well and mostly liked the same music. They also paid close attention and didn’t get distracted or mentally drift off. But they learned completely differently.
One had a very strong ear, she learned complicated rhythms and strum patterns quickly by watching me, she heard where the song was going and often times didn’t need a chart after using it just a few times. She was totally fine just jumping in and going for it, learning and figuring it out as it was happening.
The other sister was very serious, studied the chart carefully, noting the form and structure, asked several questions and wanted to piece it all together in her mind before playing something new. She counted out all of the rhythms and strum patterns before starting. She was very methodical and linear. They were both very serious students and practiced consistently outside of lessons, but they each had very different needs as individual students and from me as an instructor. If I were to teach them in a lesson at the same time, it would not have gone well for them. There would have been constant frustration and a push and pull between their two approaches, skill sets and learning styles. I don’t think they would have lasted more than a few months. They started individual lessons a few years ago, and they are still playing today.
And considering the time, travel and expense of lessons, you want your children to get the most out of that half hour or hour lesson because it is happening for a just a short period of time each week. Their individual growth and reward will be stronger for it.