Are Private Violin Lessons Worth It?

April 30, 2022, 5:51 PM · Many parents who are looking for music lessons are worried about the cost of music education. They are concerned that after spending hard-earned dollars, the result will be that their money was wasted. Although every family's situation is unique and every child is different, we will examine some of the more common reasons for this fear and insecurity below:

  1. There is a fear that the child will waste time
  2. There is a fear that a child is not 'talented'
  3. There is a belief that since music is fun and seems easy to play, it should be free
  4. There is a misunderstanding on the part of the parent how music lessons work
  5. There is a mistaken belief among parents that music is not worth paying for

Let's address each of these topics one at a time, shall we?

child playing violin
Photo by Mart Production.

1. The fear that a child will waste time

Most children are ready for violin lessons between the ages of 5-7. Some are ready before. If your child is able to focus for a 30 minute private lesson and show respect for an instructor, he or she is ready! Are you worried about whether or not your son or daughter will practice at home? Don't, because if the teacher is clear in his or her expectations and the child is engaged by the teacher, over the course of the first year, a practice routine will be developed. Yes, some parents need to be involved to supervise or help a child's practicing at home, but it takes time to develop good habits, whether practicing the violin or doing math homework.

2. The fear that the child is not 'talented'

Violin has a rap for being a hard instrument - and it is. Yet, a good teacher knows how to simplify the technique so that from the very first lesson, a child is making music - even if just by plucking one note on the instrument! Talent, although partially a product of natural inborn ability, is not an accident. At Maestro Musicians, we believe that talent has to be cultivated and developed - it doesn't just happen. If your child is enjoying lessons, likes to listen to music and/or sing at home, that's the only pre-requisite!

3. The belief that since music is fun and seems easy to play, it should be free

Sadly, at my academy we have had countless (usually teenage) individuals approach us, thinking that music lessons are a free service. For whatever reason, our society often takes music for granted, and music is seen as a service that is donated to the community. Perhaps it is because so many schools in major metropolitan areas offer after-school programs or perhaps it is because music organizations are often seen as a non-profit activity. Regardless, the life of a starving artist is not glamorous -- for the benefit of your own child, you do not want a starving artist teaching him or her! In fact, the more the arts are supported, the better the quality of education and value your child will receive. This is directly translatable to the well-being of your child and general artistic, cultural, and yes, even academic development.

4. A misunderstanding on the part of the parent about how music lessons work

If parents have not had any experience with learning instrumental music, they may not understand that it takes time and repeated technical work to learn an instrument. Much like an athlete has to practice running, basketball, or pitching technique, a musician has to develop crucial skills to produce a unique sound, the ability to play in tune, and ease and efficiency in playing complex pieces of music. Like sports, music has the power to be a lifelong pursuit, and your child's ability to learn the crucial skills of constant self-improvement can be taught through music lessons.

5. The mistaken belief that music is not worth paying for

Music lessons are profoundly valuable. They create a positive result that impacts the well-being of the next generation. Having regular access to someone with both the time and expertise to develop these skills requires paying for that time and expertise.

The reasons why music lessons are so important to a child's development are many, but here are just a few:

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks and happy fiddling!

Replies

May 1, 2022 at 03:11 AM · Different families prioritize different things. For some parents, those hard-earned dollars are carefully saved to pay for material luxuries such as a nice car, home, or jewelry; or experiences such as dining, movies & shows, sports, or vacations. Some parents pour huge amounts of money into youth team sports or expensive hobbies such as horseback riding, skiing, sailing, or golf. I can see where it could be hard for parents who have not had the music-lessons experience themselves as kids to appreciate their value, especially when music lessons are not unique in their ability to develop the kinds of aptitudes that Daniel has listed at the end of his post.

May 1, 2022 at 07:08 PM · Yes, I did enjoy this article a great deal. I had six violin teachers from the time I was a kid till I finished my degree program. I was supposed to start in the elementary public school program but ended up going with a private teacher instead. So glad I did, because I believe this helped me progress faster. Two things that I'm sure helped: 1) I was self-motivated; 2) my first teacher, like the others after her, was a dedicated professional and an inspiration to me.

Even though I decided, near the end of the degree program, not to go into the music business after all, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the training that I got as a music major. Not only have I kept playing as a serious amateur, but the training has carried over well to other areas of my life. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Your paragraph on talent had, among other items, one statement that definitely rings a bell with me: "If your child is enjoying lessons, likes to listen to music and/or sing at home, that's the only pre-requisite!"

I remember listening - on my own at home - to classical music before I started elementary school. By age 7, during the cold, gray stretch from November to March, when each school week had finished, I had my own Saturday routine of sitting in the living room for several hours at a stretch, playing one album after another from my parents’ collection. My parents suspected that I might have musical ability and enrolled me in beginning piano lessons on a trial basis. Then the violin muse got hold of me, and I switched instruments - didn't get beyond elementary level in piano. It's a bit like what happens when you acquire a second language at an early age - and then find that the second language takes over and becomes the one you use in daily life.

May 1, 2022 at 11:08 PM · I am a former Music Teacher in Baltimore. I was teaching in an inner-city high school. One day a student came up to me and said, "You know, I wasn't coming to school today but we had music class." This is what you need to give to your children.

May 2, 2022 at 01:31 PM · I give lessons in Florida through a local charity that subsidizes music lessons for children whose parents can't afford it. We try educate parents about the positive impact music lessons have on child development so we can reach more kids and overcome the counterproductive beliefs parents have about their value.

May 2, 2022 at 02:13 PM ·

Whether music is already part of the family, or for whatever reason, some parents will want to provide private music lessons to their child(ren) at an early age.

But, I think that beginning with class lessons is a satisfactory way to broaden a child culturally, and at the same time, test whether they might be serious enough about music to warrant private lessons.

That's the path that I followed: I began with class lessons in the 6th grade, and then took an interest in classical music. That prompted a conversation between my Mom and I, and private lessons followed shortly thereafter with the same teacher. Ever since, music has been a huge part of my life. But I don't think that would have been the case, had I not taken lessons.

I would say that 5-15 is a reasonable range in which kids are ready to take music lessons. But once a child enters high school, I think that beginning music lessons has fewer chances of success. Continuing lessons into high school, yes. Beginning? Doubtful.

May 2, 2022 at 03:59 PM · Transactional relationships have dominated my adult life. In my retirement, I don't want them. My wife and I are child free and live in a working-class town in a high income county.

I first held, and attempted to play a few notes, on a violin in 7th grade. When I asked my parents if I could get lessons, my father's response was "when you can pay for them, you can". I had to wait till I was in my late 20's and discovered a family violin in my Mother-In-Laws attic. That was over 40 years ago.

I discovered that a neighbor child wanted to play the violin and the school lessons for "G&T" children were far from wonderful. I've added other students and there is never a charge. Not that I think everyone should get free lessons but there are some who should. I was once accused of stealing students. I pointed out that none of the families could afford the local going rate for violin lessons ($1/minute), so these would never be their students. Like all children the passion sometimes fades.

My reward is doing something nice, passing along the Schweitzer principle of "Each one teach one". Also, my lawn gets mowed, snow shoveled, a home cooked meal, and when I had an accident and was hospitalized the parents of my current and former students helped my wife and provided transportation when I could not drive.

None of these young people will become professional musicians but they love making music, parlay a stipend to play in a college orchestra, and share the joy of music.

Music lessons should not be "Free" but how the teacher is compensated depends on the teacher. FWIW: I'm known in the local musical community as a teacher that prepares a solid foundation that other teachers can rely on for students that will pay attention, practice and prepare and always do their best. They often get partial scholarships from professional teachers .

Yes, I've had requests for "free lessons" from people driving Tesla's - my response to them is always - no.

I do tell my students that part of my price is that someday they pass along what they have learned without being transactional - Each One Teach One.

May 2, 2022 at 04:33 PM · As we all may agree, private lessons along with the training in chamber music, orchestra, music theory, and solfége are necessary components of musical development of musicians at all levels of learning. Two issues with the private lessons in the USA: (a) high fees that further promote inequality and divide students on those "who can" and "who cannot" AFFORD and (b) quality control (almost anybody who plays instrument to some level can pronounce themselves private teacher; there is no interview for the job, no checking qualifications, no supervision or observations by peers/administrators, no required professional development.)

It is interesting that Auer in his book Violin Playing as I Teach It, in Chapter IV, Tone Production (on p. 19-20) talks about tone production from the aspect of quality of "developmental instruction." He urges action towards "compulsory standardization of private violin instruction....[as the way to] improve tone production..."

In short, one could say that the state of private instruction in the USA is concerning and parents' hesitations are understandable.

At the same time orchestra and strings instruction in schools is certainly something that the USA can be very proud of! There is no other part of the world where strings/orchestra instruction in schools is so well developed and established, despite all difficulties and odds that music education in the USA faces on a daily bases.

It is through the instruction in schools that learning string instruments in the USA became more equitable and that some quality control took place.

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