Prices for lessons

June 6, 2007 at 01:27 AM · I need advice on a lesson price increase...

I have some private students that I have had for a while that are only paying me $15 a half hour. About a year ago I raised my rate to $17 per half an hour for all new students. My students who have been with me since before the $17 increase are still paying only $15. I have been thinking about raising my rate to $20 per half hour. (I drive to my students home for the lessons and do not feel that this increase is unfair due to the rise in gas prices.)

My question is: Is it a high increase? It is only $3 per lesson for most of my students, but $5 for some. My husband suggested explaining to the lower cost lessons how they have been saving $2 a week for the last year and that everyone will now be paying $20 per half hour.

What are everyone's thoughts on this? Do any of you go to students houses for lessons or have teachers that come to you? If so, what do you charge/pay for lessons?

Thanks for your feedback.


Replies (39)

June 6, 2007 at 01:28 AM · Just a disclaimer: there are laws against price-fixing. Rates vary radically from city to city, and also based on the experience and education of the teacher. Let's keep to a discussion of your philosophy of lesson pricing, and how and when you decide to increase your rate.

June 6, 2007 at 02:23 AM · Price fixing? How does that enter here?

June 6, 2007 at 04:31 AM · Why don't you just inform your students that your new rate for teaching is $x? No further explanation should be necessary.

June 6, 2007 at 04:47 AM · You know, the greatest guitar player who ever lived charged $5 for a lesson, which could last all day, and which often included a meal. But then that's 1960s dollars, but also he sort of lived in poverty, or maybe he just didn't mind not having front teeth.

June 6, 2007 at 06:31 AM · One philosophy would be to keep current students one price increase behind, if you want to reward them for loyalty.

To implement this, the first time you raise rates, you could announce that you are keeping prices the same for current students, and that when you need to raise rates in the future due to inflation, that they will always pay less than new students.

June 6, 2007 at 06:00 AM · I agree with Bruce. We string teachers are sometimes squeamish about asking for money. I've found my students (or rather, their parents) understand if I have to raise my fee. Gas has gone through the roof, as have housing prices. The parents of my students, whether they're doctors, lawyers or teachers, are in business to earn a living as well and they understand perfectly. I recently raised mine from $20 to $22 per half-hour for everyone. Makes things simpler.

And the other issue: when is price-fixing price-fixing? Is asking what others charge price fixing? It's a good question. I don't think it rises to price-fixing, which would be an actual agreement ("let's you and me charge X amount.."). Asking what others charge could be compared to looking on a wedding photographer's website to get an idea of how much you can charge to photograph weddings. Or of researching how much you can get for a bow on Ebay and charging the same. It's a question of whether you are conspiring and agreeing to charge a certain amount.

June 6, 2007 at 07:04 AM · teacher charges $55/hour (but I don't pay for them...thank god for my Parents!)...I'm going to move and study with YOU GUYS!

June 6, 2007 at 08:39 AM · FWIW, I charge slightly more than that for voice lessons, and around here (NYC vicinity) that's about average.

It does depend upon the quality of the lesson and the attitude of the student. A pro teaching other pros should (IMO) charge a higher rate than the local lady teaching school kids. That may not be fair, but it has to do with what the student is willing to pay and can afford, perhaps more than the quality of the lesson.

There is alos more competition for pro students, since they tend to shop around more and are willing to travel farther for the right teacher.

I don't think the OP should charge different rates for new students. You are worth what you are worth. No need to "reward" long-time students, their reward is having had you tutelage all this time.

Another factor, which really is true, is that most people will judge you skill and abilities based on what you charge. If you raise your rates, your students will likely think better of you, not less, and be less likely to leave for "that higher priced teacher in the city."

June 6, 2007 at 10:20 AM · When is price fixing price fixing, and when is it market research? Setting the price of your lessons is very difficult, and also very important.

Setting it too low (often students are the ones who do this) will let people think that because it's cheap, it may not be very good quality. Setting it too high will mean that certain students won't be able to have lessons.

One idea is to ring around and see what other teachers in your area are charging. Ask them what their rate is, and how much experience they have. That will give you a rough idea of what is standard in your area. Choose a fee within that range.

Another idea is to not have a set fee, but when someone asks you, ask what they are willing to pay. If your fee is $20/hour, but they're willing to pay $50/hour, then if you have a flat $20 fee, then you're losing $30/hour. But this of course means a separate rate for each student.

As for price increases, it's standard to expect that fees will increase over time. Generally, increase at the beginning of a financial or calendar year. If you put prices up on the 9th of november, it seems a bit odd, and it makes it hard to keep track.

June 6, 2007 at 11:05 AM · Hope, I have been in your situation. Please consider the following:

If you keep your long-term students at $15, instead of bumping them to $20, they will be receiving a $5 scholarship per week. Let's do the math:

$5 x 4 lessons per month = $20 scholarship per month

$20 x 9 months (more or less) = $180 scholarship per year, per kid.

So, do these students merit a $180 scholarship per year? Can the parents of these children afford $180 a year? What does that $180 mean to you?

I felt really guilty about raising my prices, but due to escalating health insurance costs, I had to. What I found was that the parents who weren't willing to pay the extra few $$ a week were the same parents that didn't care if the kids practiced, brought all the music to the lesson, valued punctuality, or rarely paid on time. So it was OK.

Also, about price fixing, why is it that every gas station in town charges the same $$$ for gas? Coincidence? Should I call the DA? At least here in my town, lessons range from $15 to $60 per hour.

June 6, 2007 at 12:59 PM · If kids are progressing well in general, I am sure parents wouldn't mind the increase. I wouldn't anyway. We get raises annually at work.

It would be nice to have an advance notice about the increase; when you come back next year, or starting next month, etc. That would give parents time to think about other options if they didn't like the increase.


June 6, 2007 at 05:11 PM · Thank you all very much for your opinions. I think I am going to just go ahead and raise the rates to $20 for everyone.

Bruce, thanks for getting me back on track with how it should be. I don't know why I feel it is so neccessary to explain everything.

Anne, thanks for the math breakdown. $180 a year is a lot per student.

I am going to give plenty of notice. I think I will start telling my students for a August 1st increase.

Thanks again.

June 6, 2007 at 05:17 PM · When we started with our teacher the fee was $70/hour, and over the years it increased to $80. When we get the schedule for the new year we get an update about the price of the lesson. Obviously, if you appreciate the quality of the teacher, a 5-10 dollars increase is just normal- inflation, etc. I don't think anybody expects to pay the same price forever. By the way, we drive to the teacher's house- about 45- 60 min. I would gladly pay another 10 dollars per hour for him to come to our house! I don't think you should worry about offending or loosing students. Michelle

June 9, 2007 at 12:02 AM · My teacher's price is a fair $20 per half an hour. But she is swamped with students. I think 20 is the perfect price.

June 9, 2007 at 05:17 AM · I think the increase is fine.

I pay 80 dollars/lesson, so I wouldn't be complaining about that rate!!!

June 9, 2007 at 03:58 PM · I think you should raise sure the parents will definetly understand. I feel kind of bad because I started taking half an hour lessons with my teacher for $20 and she decided that I should come for an hour instead but she said it would be the same you just have to set the price and hope everyone understands!

June 10, 2007 at 09:15 PM · Being a parent of a violin student, I would say that it depends on what kind of teacher. I would also say that I think you should charge a set rate for everyone reguardless whether or not you drive to their lessons.

I have seen various teachers charge anywhere from 14 dollars an hour to 85 dollars an hour.

To me its about the quality of teacher. I don't mind paying extra for quality teaching.

June 11, 2007 at 04:20 AM · Those prices are very reasonable. If any of you are in Orange County, feel free to contact me. I need the lessons;)

June 11, 2007 at 10:13 AM · I switched over this past year to a flat monthly fee for lessons (minimum 4 per month, maximum 6), ten months per year, two months off (one for summer when I'm away at festivals, one for the winter holiday, even if I'm still teaching them then).

My student's parents appreciate being able to budget out music lessons for the entire year, and it has reduced lesson attendance problems significantly, as I place the responsibility of scheduling lessons and finding time to play for me part of the student's job rather than the parent.

June 11, 2007 at 12:41 PM · These days I offer my lessons by Spring or Fall semester. I go through my own schedule of things and make a list of lesson dates for the semester, then adding in one make-up lesson per person. Lessons are paid for at the start of the semester. This system has worked out really well for everyone. Parents are more likely to bring their students to lessons even if the child seems like they've "had a long day" (haven't we all had a cancellation like that?) so I very rarely have a cancellation and I simply don't even think of cancelling even a single lesson when I'm busy because it's more trouble than it's worth to make up or repay the lessson later.

June 11, 2007 at 02:46 PM · Hello:

This is a hard question because of so many unknowns. In my area you have extremely low prices.

Are your fees in line with others in your area providing the same services? I suggest you contact a local music store and check out their staff and prices. I think you need to add traveling cost, if you're not tax dectucting it (there's your gauge). Furthermore, I'd suggest uniformity of pricing or announce scholarships. Your students may talk with each other and not understand your point of view. Look at the cost of living and make your increases accordingly. People understand raises. I've had many increase over eight years with my quartet teacher.

June 12, 2007 at 12:38 AM · Well some teachers have lessons as one of their only source of income. So that's another reason for high pricing. Not just the quality of the teacher... ok they both intertwine.

June 12, 2007 at 02:14 AM · Why not charge a sliding scale? Have a prospective student play a 3 octave scale and if you hear any slides charge double.

June 12, 2007 at 11:24 AM · I think that there is an ever shifting balance between and among such factors as our age, location, degree of professional expertise, credentials, and qualifications - as well as what our particular markets will reasonably bear. I don't think that musicians should necessarily take a vow of poverty - though it sure often seems like we did so, somewhere along the way! Let's put in in this perspective: w.o. any sort of put dowm, consider such jobs as sanitation workers and transit workers. It's necessary and not ignoble work. But how many years of training, and how much sacrifice went into that? Now think about psychotherapy, or even massage therapy. How about lawyers and their billible hours? How about interior decorators? Find a balnce somewhere in this sort of continuum along with the factors I began with - and don't sell yourself short.

June 12, 2007 at 06:02 PM · I have no guilt for increasing fees. Parents pay ridiulous amounts for soccer, ballet, karate, and other sports. Plus, I remember coaching with violinists here and there and paying $80-200 bucks per hour. I don't mind paying what the person is worth, even if it is a stretch. Never undervalue yourself.

June 13, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Heh every mistake you make you have to pay two times of what it was when you made the last mistake, with a base amount of 20 dollars. You played that wrong you owe me 1000 dollars now muahahaha.

June 13, 2007 at 01:13 PM · Hope, the prices you charge for your lessons will in part reflect the region you live in and the kind of studio you run, so although your fees seem low to some of us, they may be appropriate for your region. I don't think we can comment on that without greater familiarity with your circumstances.

But the fact that you drive to lessons makes your price increase seem unquestionably valid. Gas is so expensive right now, and the prices are in continual flux. You've committed to driving the same distance for these 1/2 hour lessons as you would for a 1 hour lesson, assuming the entire fuel cost and saving the parents this cost. If you were conducting these lessons in your home and the students were driving to you, your costs would be much lower (and you would have more time for more lessons) and their individual costs would be only marginally higher.

I would suggest making all lessons $20/half hour (or whatever) and sending a letter, not a personalized letter, to all students at the end of the season announcing next season's rates and explaining about the fuel costs. I would be surprised if anyone objected since, as noted above, the increase in fuel costs is driving (forgive the pun) up costs everywhere. And the impact on you is undeniable.

June 13, 2007 at 02:43 PM · Regardless of your price, I think that charging some parents the amount before the raise and some the rate after the raise isn't fair - and they're bound to find out. Charge all students the same - and don't give discounts or scholarships. I was at a lecture for this once and it made so much sense when the lecturer said that you can't judge a family's financial situation if you have a student whose parents want a scholarship or discount, but drive an SUV and wear fancy clothes.

June 13, 2007 at 04:14 PM · I think an increase to $20 an hour is more than reasonable and it should be for all students. If you continue giving a discount for students that were there before the price increase then you'll end up, over many more years of teaching, with a confusing pricing system.

It also depends on your area- look to see how much some of your colleagues are charging. Where I live, I have paid upwards of $90 a lesson, but we also live in an area where everything costs a lot. If your price is reasonable they'll pay it. I imagine that $20 an hour, no matter where you are, is perfectly reasonable.

June 14, 2007 at 04:27 AM · Your rate seems very inexpensive. I think teachers who don't make their main income teaching tend to charge by the lesson vs. by the time. In my opinion it works out better that way for our son. Some lessonsare short, some are longer but in the end, the teacherssays when he is finished not the clock. Our teacher finishes when he thinks he has taught our son what he needs to know. This really works for us because we can budget, the teacher can budget, and our son takes the lesson and reaching specific goals very seriously vs. burning down the clock just to be finished. We really trust our teacher and never feel "ripped off". Sometimes the lesson is 45 minutes, sometimes 2 hours with a ton of theory. The teacher only has six students total and is not "in the teaching business", but makes the bulk of his income performing. He only teaches students he wants to work with and they all pay the same amount. The new teacher never makes us feel rushed in or out.

In the past, I hated when the old teacher had this 1/2 hour lesson deal going and 1/2 of the lesson was the prior student packing up their stuff and the next student getting set up. It was very distracting. It was like MacTeaching from a parents perspective. At a beginner level it was ok for a while, but became old very quickly. She averaged out the lessons over the semester and to be honest, I feel she over charged us. Be aware she was not a performer and had what I call a Suzuki "franchize" and just pumped students through the studio. I was glad when we left because it was a all about her time and income and not about our son learning. The next student was always waiting at the door. If you undercharge, you don't have the luxury of focusing on the student, but need a bunch of them which could make your lessons feel rather mechanical as was our experience.

June 14, 2007 at 05:07 AM · We pay $160 per month for my daughter's lessons. We do get a little bit of a price break because we're getting hour lessons and not half-hour lessons (but the half-hour lesson folks pay $85 per month).

June 16, 2007 at 12:34 AM · I'm surprised at these cheap rates. The rate where I am, southern california is $30 per 1/2 hour, and $50 an hour. I've yet to find cheaper...

June 16, 2007 at 01:05 AM · That's right. You don't want them asking you to mow their yard after you finish teaching the lesson.

June 16, 2007 at 07:48 AM · Everything costs more in California.

June 16, 2007 at 08:55 AM · hm... I live in Slovenia (Europe :)... and our profesors are like from 40$ - 130$. It depends on how good profesor is.... or more like how the profesor value himself, but it's often that they overrate their knowledge. Here in Slovenia are two or three profesors that they are really (REALLY) good, so because they don't have competition, they fix their prices high.

You definitely have to go to their houses, or to schools they are teaching on. And you have to be REALLY pleasant if you want to have another lesson with him/her.

June 16, 2007 at 09:11 AM · haha, I hope that you American guys understand my english :)

June 19, 2007 at 05:39 PM · The plumber's fee on my bill is $110 per hour.

Does it takes a whole life study to become a plumber?

June 20, 2007 at 06:55 AM · Maybe not, but plumbers will do some things I would definitely never do.

August 6, 2007 at 08:24 PM · I think the best way to handle prices is to think what you'd be willing to pay yourself (if you were a student studying with you). I don't set my prices very high, because I'm not doing it to make a living income. I teach students whom I want to work with and 99% of my students are very self-motivated. In fact, I think I undervalue myself with the lesson fee, but I'd rather have a talented and ambitious pupil over more $. Also, I've been fortunate to have worked with top teachers who didn't charge me much or gave lots of complimentary lessons so I think it's a small way I can give back.

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