Hour Lessons for Beginners?

By James Flood

There is a well-known on line referral service that covers practically every service under the sun. When it comes to music lessons, these folks unwittingly encourage students in search of piano, guitar, flute etc. teachers to request hour-long lessons. Well, for many teachers, this is great news. They can get double the money from one student! But the beginner student? Well, they are unnecessarily shelling out double the cash.

Most of the inquiries from prospective beginning level students that I receive through this misleading service request 60 minute lessons. To these I have to begin a little speech about how in the world music lessons it is an assumption that a beginner takes half-hour lessons once a week, why this is a good tradition, and that I would recommend half-hour lessons.

A beginning student is not tackling a lot of music. Ideally maybe roughly 5 or 6 short songs, each about two to four lines long that could easily be played in a matter of 5 to 10 minutes per run-through. A half-hour is enough time to instruct a beginning student and send them off with clear instructions for the coming week. If time runs over once in awhile (as it often does with music teachers) to 35 minutes or perhaps 40 minutes due to an increased need for that particular lesson, that does not mean it’s time to go to an hour lesson. If I had to fill an hour lesson week after week with a beginning students, I would have to conceal from them that I’m deliberately filling up dead time with needless words. I would basically have to behave in a dishonest manner.

Go to any music school/teacher and ask to start beginning lessons and they will give you times for half-hour slots. But why not hour slots? More time means more instruction for the student, and more money for the music school, right? Well, of course, while some businesses have high ethical standards, others do not. But at least the latter have enough scruples not to start pushing hour-long lessons on complete beginners. This could only be because they know it’s beyond the pale.

Some students will go on to 45 or 60 minute lessons when they are at an intermediate level, and advanced students should be taking 60 minute lessons, as long as he or she can afford them. For a very small handful of beginning students, an hour lesson is appropriate. I have had some of these. But this can only be determined after giving lessons to the person for a period of time. Recommending hour-long weekly lessons to complete beginners is at best naive, and at worst exploitative.

So beginners, if you see a service steering you towards hour-long lessons, listen to the teacher that says you only need 30 minutes. If they were acting in their own interest they would be taking more of your money. Such advice must mean that they’re looking out for you.

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