How much do you charge for music lessons?
I get that question periodically and set out to see what is typical.
Some teachers charge per lesson, per hour, per month or per semester. I found “packages” where you could buy 8-lessons at a lower than lesson x 8 rate – and monthly fees that were less than week by week. Session lengths include 15-minutes for the very young, 30-minutes (most common), 45-minutes for group lessons (and some individual) and 60-minutes. University students can expect 30-minute lessons for “non-majors” (usually at 1 credit hour) and 60-minutes for music education and performance majors, who likely receive 2 credit hours per semester.
Depending on location, demand and pricing, you may be required to go to the teacher, but some teachers will come to your home, offering convenience and easing safety concerns, although usually at a higher price. Or perhaps the teacher does not have access to a studio or a location suitable for teaching. Some teach full time (30-50 students and waiting lists) while others schedule lessons after school or after their day job. Experienced or in demand teachers tend to have structured payment policies (and penalties for no-shows or late-pays).
The purpose of this article is to answer some of the basic questions parents (and students) ask, or should, using a variety of sources, including my own.
Types of Lessons
Traditionally, music lessons are a 1-1 ratio with teacher and student together and alone in a room or studio. Some teachers go to the students’ homes, more have students come to their homes. Some teach from music stores, at high schools or in university settings.
I have taught lessons at my home, at the high school band room and in studios at the local university.
In economically challenged areas, and to increase the dollar per hour income, some teachers offer group lessons, normally charging each student less (see ‘pricing’ below).
A Music Teacher’s Blog recommended $15-$20. A blog aimed at mothers of young children (2point5kids.com) distinguished between individual and group lessons. For individual lessons, parents were told to expect $20-$45, or in group lessons to pay $15-30 ea in a small group setting.
Another discussion board at Dis Boards had prices ranging from $15-$65. The $65 price was explained as related to the neighborhood that teacher was in. Lessons at a university ranged from $13 for a university student teacher to $51 for university music faculty.
The Berkeley Parents Network mentioned $44-55 if the instructor comes to your house, $36-45 if you go to someone’s studio and $37 at a community school.
Payment / Policies
The overwhelming number of full time music teachers charge by the month vs per lesson. The main reason is that in per week payment plans, it is too easy for students (or parents) to cancel lessons.
I have witnessed a private lesson teacher come to my band room to meet with 2-3 students, only to discover one is a ‘no show’ – leaving an unpaid gap in his afternoon.
I do have students pay weekly. My policy is that if they cancel with less than 24 hrs notice, that they still owe for the lesson. Enforcement is awkward.
Most teachers allow for lessons to be made up, but not refunded when missed. One site mentioned having to pay by the third week for the upcoming month — or lose a spot. Obviously, in-demand teachers or fully booked studios can make that demand. A common policy I found:
…If the teacher cancels the lesson, it will be rescheduled at a mutually convenient time. If the student cancels the lesson, it is up to the teacher if/when to reschedule. There are no refunds.
At the university where I teach, semesters are approximately 16 weeks. Students pay the university for lessons, with the expectation that they receive 12. In my Syllabus, I require a minimum of 10 lessons to receive a passing grade and credit.
Organized schools, such as the School of Performing Arts in Cookeville, Tennessee, charge per semester. At that school, your tuition includes all books/materials and an accompanist for the end of semester recital.
Music is a Performing Art. Most piano teachers, music studios, schools of performing arts, and universities — offer recitals. In some school settings, there may be a solo festival where students perform. In addition to the performance aspect of our art, parents should hear the results of the study (and for writing all those checks).
Considerations in finding a teacher
A college music major can work for short-term projects (starting band late, help with a playing test). They can help in a high school setting when it comes to basic technique. Advanced students should work with a more experienced expert.
A band director has been professionally trained on at least one instrument and has a music degree. A band teacher can help with music preparation on any instrument, but for serious, systematic study with the idea of getting to a high proficiency level, you should try to find someone who is a specialist on your instrument.
When I was in high school, my band director (played Euphonium) coordinated clarinet lessons for me with another area band director who was a clarinet specialist who taught out of his home outside school hours. I went to his home weekly.
A choir director is a trained vocalist, able to help both male and female singers. At higher proficiency levels, students may seek a teacher specializing in their range.
A university professor, especially if it is with the professor at a school you are considering attending, is a great idea. The price will be considerably higher because now you are studying with someone who has (at least) graduate level study on that instrument. If too expensive for your budget, consider a small number of lessons prior to your college entrance audition. It doesn’t hurt for a college teacher to get to know you.
A professional musician. If you are fortunate enough to find someone who makes his/her living playing (orchestra, professional accompanist, etc), that can be a wonderful experience as they know what it takes to get to that level. CAUTION: Not all performers are good teachers. They are so good at what they do that it may be difficult for them to understand and address difficulties others may have. Expect to pay more.
My son studied several years with the principal trumpeter in a professional orchestra. At the time, I was paying more than double the local norm. When the teacher sent a message that he wanted to go from 30-minute to 60-minute lessons, I approached him with the question,
“Do I get a volume discount?”
“You get me for double the time at twice the price.”
My comment to my son the next time I was writing that check,
“I am paying for your college
education one week at a time.
By the time you graduate,
you need to be good enough that
colleges will pay for you to come.”
It worked! They did.
APPROACH, EXPECTATIONS, REQUIREMENTS.
Are you just wanting short-term help on an audition piece or are you looking for ongoing, systematic study?
Is the teacher strict or someone who wants you to have fun? Either approach has merit, depending on your personality and what you want to do.
Will there be some theory and history involved or is it just about the instrument and music at hand?
What are your teacher’s expectations? Are you required to put in a minimum of practice per lesson? The teacher I had in high school, who got me prepared for and into college on a music scholarship, put out his overall expectation at my ‘audition’ when he accepted me as a student:
“You have potential, but you need help getting to the next level. I can help you — and will work with you until the day you show up here unprepared. Do we have a deal?” -Robert Roden
Practice and Prepare
Make sure your parents
are getting their money’s worth.
What will your other required expenses include? Books and solos? How many? How much? How often? Will you need a tuner, a metronome, computer software (i.e. Smartmusic or some other practice enhancing program)?
Other possible considerations
- Location. Will the teacher come to you, meet you at school, do you go to his/her home? One forum discussion participant said it was worth the extra money for the instructor to come to her home for her child’s lesson.
- References. What do others say? How have this teacher’s students done at solo contest, auditions, college scholarships, etc?
- Safety concerns. How well do you know this teacher?Are you (parents) able to listen in? Is your student comfortable with this teacher in a private 1-1 setting? I tell people not to “ignore your gut”. Consider an article I wrote called,”Safety, Transparency and Reputation“.
Hope this helps. Here’s my commercial:
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Thanks for reading.