Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Group Guitar Class

Group Lessons, Part 2 of 3

By Robin Steinweg

Guitar-group of kids

My waiting list had grown, especially with prospective guitar students. What to do? I multiplied my time this summer teaching an 8-week group guitar class (read about my 8-week vocal group here: https://blog.musicteachershelper.com/group-lessons/).

Part 2: Group Guitar Class

I’ve seen great success with group guitar classes in the past—this was no exception. Here’s how I went about it. You may have excellent ideas, too. We’d love to read about them, if you’d share them below!

*How many in a group? Six students signed up. I’ve had as few as three and as many as thirteen. I’ve been in larger groups myself, so I’d go up as high as twenty. The toughest part of that is tuning. I have them come early for that.

*What ages? Ten to adult. This group had three children (10+) and three adults. Though I enjoy groups of similar ages, I think the ones with adults and kids together are the most fun. The generations encourage and enrich one another, and the adults tend to remove the need-to-be-cool factor. We can get silly or serious. It makes the youngsters more open to songs of a variety of genres and decades.

*How long are classes? I aimed for forty-five minutes, but we usually ended up going over.

*Materials used? This class was for absolute beginners. I came up with my own instructional materials and compiled appropriate songs, which has given me complete freedom to tweak as I go for the particular group. I also have future group guitar class materials for advanced beginners, intermediate, advanced intermediate, and advanced. I’ve often had students stay with me through all five groups, and then enroll in private lessons.

I present most songs as chord/lyric sheets. I decorate with copyright-free clipart.

Each student must have an acoustic guitar to play. No electrics—I don’t like to mess with cords and amps in a group. I’d get hoarse talking over them!

guitars on stands

*Where to hold the class? I’ve taught in my home studio, in my living room, and at two different churches in town, depending on the size of the classes. They all work well.

*Is a group an advantage or a hindrance? There is much to be said for both group and private lessons. But in a group, students encourage each other with how their practice paid off, or even that they haven’t quite got it yet. They spur one another on. A little friendly competition helps, too.

*What if they don’t know the songs? I plan for a lot of review and a lot of repetition. Some songs have so many verses, by the time we’ve sung half of them, they have learned it. Also, I have a portable digital music recorder (this one: http://tascam.com/product/dr-05/), and I record and email students the songs in an MP-3 file. Sometimes I provide youtube links.

I can reach more students with group guitar classes than I can in private lessons alone. I can charge a lower tuition fee per student. My prep time is once for all the students in the class. When the class is over, I can re-use the materials for another beginner class. I have prospective students for further classes or for private lessons, and it’s good promo for my studio, especially if we hold a final mini-recital.

*How Music Teachers Helper helps: MTH keeps track of payments, expenses, it emails reminders to students, birthday greetings, and after the final recital, they can view photos on the web site provided. Such a deal!

What do you think? Is teaching a group guitar class for you? Visit my post on August 27th for more specifics of what I include each week and how I use parodies to personalize the groups.

About the Author

Robin Steinweg has found music to be like the creamy filling of a sandwich cookie--sweet in the middle--especially making music with family.
A great joy is seeing her students excited to make music for themselves. From her studio in Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, she teaches ages 4-84 piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, ukulele and recorder.
Musically, she composes, arranges, performs, directs, consults... [Read more]

14 Comments

  1. Kathryn Whitney

    Great post on teaching in groups. I teach a group class for adult choristers hoping to improve their sight-reading and there are definitely things we can do in the class (of c.10 people) that we couldn’t do one-on-one. They also get to know one another and have a great group experience, as you say, which is both enjoyable for them and helps their learning. I get the benefit of lots of company and we also have lots of fun. Highly recommend group teaching. Thanks for the post!

  2. Robin Steinweg

    Kathryn, thanks for reading! Your group sounds like a blast. Imagine that–people interested in sight-reading–a dream-group. 🙂

  3. Jacob Morrison

    Hey, nice post – group lessons are definitely something I’ve been considering. I was wondering how you priced group lessons as compared to privates? Many thanks, Jacob

  4. Robin Steinweg

    Jacob, good question! I don’t have a formula, but for each student I charge two or three dollars less per lesson. I use my own materials in a 3-ring binder, and at this point, it’s $15 per 8-week session. The beginner class has over 50 pages.

    I plan to continue groups, so I’ll come up with a policy on it. If only one signs up sometime, there’d need to be an understanding that the person would pay private tuition. That’s one reason I don’t lower it more. But also because I work hard to give group members plenty of personal attention, and I’m available to them outside of class–help them with buying and changing strings, find songs they especially like, tuning (even over the phone!)…
    besides, managing a group has its challenges beyond private lessons, too. 🙂

    I hope your groups are a success–keep in touch–I (and readers) would enjoy hearing how it goes!

  5. Jason

    Robin has done a great job listing the most important aspects of planning group lessons. For anybody thinking about running a group lesson, it’s okay if your approach and answers to the points above differ to Robin’s. Every teacher takes different approaches and that’s okay. As long as you’re clear on your answers to each point above, you will find group lessons very rewarding. Generally speaking, group lessons become an issue when a teacher hasn’t properly planned ahead and considered the points listed in this post.
    It’s also worth mentioning that the size of your group will influence your teaching approach. For example a class with 20+ students needs a very different teaching approach to a class with 6 students. Keep this in mind as each teacher will have a different ideal class size.

  6. Robin Steinweg

    Jason, thanks for your comments! Excellent point about teaching style changing with the number of students. That is so true. And groups take plenty of planning. Do you have a preferred group size?

  7. Jun Savoe

    Hello, Ms. Steinweg
    I am going to start a group guitar lesson at a church. There are going to be various ages but not sure what age groups. I was wondering if you have some lesson resources that I can use to get a kick start with the group.

  8. Robin Steinweg

    Hi, Jun Savoe,
    Sounds like fun!
    Coincidentally, my next two Music Teachers Helper articles are about group guitar classes. I will give more details than there’s room for here. You might check in occasionally to see if they’re up yet.
    I don’t personally have materials published for sale. I create binders with my own graphics for my groups. I decide what we’ll cover in the class. I make sure they have at least 1-2 songs they can play the first day. “Frere Jacques” and “Row, Row, Row the Boat” can be managed with just one chord. I teach two chords the first lesson. “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” has 2 chords. Try an internet search for 2-chord Bible camp songs. Or children’s songs. There are dozens.
    As you probably know, there are loads of worship songs with 3-4 chords. I start with ones that don’t change chords too often.

    Here are three that come to mind, and until students learn other strum patterns, they can do a simple downstroke on the beats.

    1. Hosanna (Praise is Rising) by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche. Give them a YouTube link so they can hear it over and over if they’re not familiar with it. The chords are G, C, D and Em. The first phrase stays on G awhile. And then on C. I like this key, because little fingers can play an easy version of G or C, if they stick with strumming only the first 3-4 strings.

    2. “Here For You” by Jesse Reeves, Matt Maher, Matt Redman and Tim Wanstall. Teach them the verses first–only G and C. Later, when they learn more chords, add the next part, C, D, G, Am. The last part only has G, C and Em.

    3. “Great Are You, Lord” by David Leonard, Jason Ingram and Leslie Jordan. This has a 6-8 feel, but students can still play a downstroke on the beats. The chords for the verse: C, Em, D.
    The chorus: C, Em D. The bridge: G and C.

    4. Just thought of another!!!! This one uses only G and C most of the song. The bridge adds a D, and one Em. “You Are So Good To Me” by Ben and Robin Pasley and Don Chaffer.

    You might use a beginner method, either to remind you what needs to be covered, or for each student to have as a reference. You could go online and search “group guitar books” to see if any of those are a fit.

    I start with the very basics: finger numbers, parts of the guitar, and the all-important chord chart (grid). I spend plenty of time on that, because if they forget the chord fingering they can find it again if they can read the chart.

    Blessings, and let us know how it goes!

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