A Parent's Guide to Music Lessons

    Everything a parent should know before enrolling a student in music lessons.

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    How Much Do Music Lessons Cost?

    You should expect to pay between $15 and $50 for a half-hour lesson and $30 and $100 for an hour-long lesson. That's a pretty big range, but prices will depend on several factors. Some factors that will impact lesson price are:

    1. How long is the lesson? (shorter lessons are cheaper)
    2. How experienced is the teacher (less experienced teachers are cheaper)
    3. Where is the lesson being held (If the lessons are held at the school, it usually means the teacher has an arrangement with either the band director or the school district. This can cap the price they charge)
    4. What instrument do you play (Teachers who play more popular instruments are usually cheaper. These would be instruments like trumpet, guitar, clarinet, drums, and vocal)
    5. Are you signing up for multiple lessons? Teaching music can mean inconsistent cash flow. Teachers might be willing to offer you a discount if you pay for a month's of lessons in advance.

    When Should Your Student Start Taking Lessons?

    Most students begin taking music lessons when they are in middle school. Some parents will enroll their children in piano lessons or violin lessons as early as elementary school. While there are advantages to starting at a younger age, there are also some disadvantages. For example:

    1. Practicing takes a lot of focus, which is typically something you don't develop until later in life.
    2. Most instruments are made for adults. This means there might be some physical limitations preventing progress. (Think of a child trying to play double bass or trombone).
    3. They might not like it. Sure, as a parent, your job is to expose your child to different experiences to help them develop. However, if you introduce the experience at the wrong time in their life, they might hate the experience due to external factors. Wait until your kid shows some interest in music, either by directly asking to enroll in a band or choir, or by really enjoying listening and moving to music.

    Why Should I Take Music Lessons?

    Even if you never want to play in the New York Phil, there are many reasons that taking music lessons can be beneficial.

    1. Learn to set goals. Practicing is a series of short-term and long-term goals. You might want to perform well in a difficult concert 3-months from now. That is your long-term goal. To get there, you have to figure out the small steps that will help you achieve that goal. This is a life skill that will translate well to managing projects in other subjects or the workplace. A good lesson teacher will help show students how to think like this.
    2. Learn how to take feedback. It can be difficult to hear that something needed improvement, but learning how to take feedback and build upon is critical for improving in music and other skills.
    3. Improve mental focus. Practicing is one of the more mentally strenuous activities that one can participate in. Consider how much time we teach kids how to study. Hardly ever, yet knowing how to learn quickly is a critical life skill. Practicing forces you to look at how you learn best and develop your own routines to maximize results. This translates extremely well to other subjects and work.
    4. It's part of the big picture. There has been an increasing focus on STEM subjects in the school system, but consider this: If you were to visit another country, what would you find more fascinating – someone doing math or listening to the music of their culture? If you said the former, remind me not to vacation with you. Since the time of the Greeks, music has been part of the curriculum as it goes beyond learning and into personal development.

    How Do I Find a Good Music Teacher?

    Start by asking your music director if there is someone they would recommend. They should know several teachers in the area that are talented and trustworthy. You should also ask your friends for recommendations.

    Once you have a couple of options, ask the teacher if they do trial lessons. A good teacher should say yes, as it will let you see if there is a good connection. Come to the lesson prepared. Have a piece of music that you have been working on but that you have some problems with and would like the advice on. A good teacher should ask you what your goals are, ask questions about you, listen carefully as you perform, provide clear feedback, suggest exercises, and assign homework for your next lesson.

    If the teacher talks the entire time or, worse yet, is on their phone during the lesson - move on. You should feel like they really paid attention and that you left the lesson with plenty of ideas to work on for the next week.

    How Often Should I Take Lessons?

    Just like practice, lessons work best when you are consistent. Aim to take lessons once a week for between 30 minutes to an hour. Shorter than that and you won't have time to get into your problems. Longer than that and it can be difficult to maintain focus.

    A common mistake I've seen as a teacher is that students will treat music like another subject and want to "cram" before an audition. Taking four lessons in four days might help you, but it won’t help you as much as spreading them out over the course of a month. You must have time to practice the feedback and build new habits. Consider how much longer it would take you to learn to do a backflip as compared to learning that George Washington was the first president.

    I wouldn't recommend taking private lessons more than once a week, however, some teachers do have studio meetings. A "studio" is all the students who study with the teacher, and sometimes teachers will have a day or session where all the students get together to play for one another or to listen to a guest performer. These kinds of sessions are different from lessons and can absolutely be stacked on top of your usual routine.

    How Can I Support My Student?

    Music lessons are where you check-in and get new ideas, but the real work takes place during the rest of the week. Since the teacher isn't there, it can be hard to know if your student is following through or correctly practicing the assignments. You can be a strong ally to the teacher in monitoring practice habits in the time between lessons.

    1. Ask the teacher what this week's assignment is.
    2. Make sure there is time for your student to practice every day.
    3. Encourage your student to keep a practice journal. Ask to see their notes.
    4. Ask the lesson teacher if there are certain things you should be listening for. What is a bad habit your student is working on? How should they be correcting it?