lesson fees

July 13, 2012 at 03:58 PM · I'm considering changing this up to reflect how much more work I do for advanced students than beginners and intermediates. I spend substantial time choosing literature, learning/re-learning pieces, reading up on new ideas in what/how to teach more-advanced technique, and learning the piano accompaniments. That is surely in part a reflection of the relative number of elementary and middle-school assignments I had while teaching public school strings/orchestra compared to high-school. Does anyone use a scale that reflects outside work, or do you all charge by the time-block? Thanks, Sue

Replies (25)

July 13, 2012 at 06:39 PM · Do you feel you're passing on a charge to the student that is reflecting exceptional, over-and-above teaching, or are you asking for them to, in effect, pay for you playing catch-up?

I certainly don't mean that as an insult--you sound like an excellent, knowedgeable teacher, and i actually am in a similar situation where I've had to address the same concern. It kind of cuts both ways--as I have become a better teacher (still a relative newbie) my students are progressing faster and better, and I'm having to work more as they are reaching the cutting edge of what I've taught before. (Actually I'm having to work extra hard as they're also reaching my "black hole" of late intermediate technique where I did not have good instruction and am still filling in the gaps! So that is also in account for me...)

I have been actively working on improving my teaching especially in the advancing areas. I've bought a ton of literature and invested in extra lessons for myself. I view this as "catch-up" to bring myself up to the level where I can really offer them the teaching they need, and I don't feel right passing these costs along. However, I feel perfectly justified in recognizing that these changes are coming about *because* I am becoming a much better teacher, and reflecting that by raising my base fee (for new students) to a level that reflects the professionalism and experience I can now offer.

You are much more experienced than I am so I don't know how much this applies to you, but hopefully it's somewhat of a help!

Also--I could definitely see an advanced student being cool with an upcharge if it also includes a bit of liberality on the lesson length--in other words, charging more for the knowledge/expertise you're going the extra mile for, and then having the freedom to take as long as you need (reasonably) to communicate it.

July 13, 2012 at 10:07 PM · I think charging based on time is the standard metric for lessons. Personally I would be opposed to having a teacher who charges me more just because I'm an advancing student and the teacher needs extra time to prepare. It feels like you're passing along your costs to the student when it really should be your cost of doing business. If a teacher isn't willing to absorb the costs of taking on more advanced students then perhaps they should stick with beginners - my two cents.

July 14, 2012 at 06:18 PM · I'm with James on this. One thing that might be different -- for example -- is if a student wanted you to write fingerings for a piece but didn't want to spend their lesson time watching you do it. Then it would seem reasonable to charge for the additional outside work. If you're serving as an accompanist to your students, then it's reasonable to extract a fee for that particular service unless it's truly trivial (e.g., first three Suzuki books). Another example would be if a student wanted you to spend time helping them choose a new violin. So, sometimes it can be justified when it is specific work that is clearly "above and beyond" and also clearly intended for one student's benefit.

That's my two cents -- for which I am charging you a nickel. :)

July 14, 2012 at 07:31 PM · I think time is the only fair way to charge.

Your proposed method doesn't really look fair to a beginner, either...i.e., she's only charging me $X, so I must not be worth much as a student because she doesn't care enough to prep or pay as much attention...

July 14, 2012 at 07:36 PM · also, with time, the advanced literature you study as pedagogical material becomes part of your knowledge base - as much as simpler pieces for beginner have. with time, you'll use the same pieces. if you go by rationale tht you deserve to be paid more for exerting more effort in the case of advanced student...well, what happens when you have learnt that advanced material with one or two students and and you've been using it over and over again with others...you're no longer really exerting more effort.

also, i think that this also ---perhaps---suggests that teaching beginners excuses less effort...foregoing reading up on/thinking about how to approach the very basics from the non-habitual point of view of the new comer. and having to break down things one might take for granted...analyzing...

July 14, 2012 at 08:38 PM · Yes, the advancerd students need, (and usually deserve!) this extra work!

I love teaching beginners (of all ages) but I find it far more exhausting! Many more advanced ones give me back more than I put in, energy-wise..

July 14, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Like wise, no matter the level of the student the teacher must be prepared, or don't take on advanced students. The lesson fee covers all work done during the lesson and outside lessons. If the fee does'nt reflect the amount of this work, then raise it across the board.

July 15, 2012 at 02:51 AM · Do your advanced students have longer lessons? If so, the amount of overhead figured into the hourly fee should compensate: one high-schooler with a 60 minute lesson equals two beginners with 30 minute lessons.

July 15, 2012 at 05:58 AM · I charge a monthly flat rate for lessons, and everyone pays the same.

The whole pay scale concept with 30 minute, 45 minute, and whatever-number-minutes-of-lessons seems counter-productive to me. We're not meter maids!

If a student comes in wholly unprepared, and has to be sent off after a half hour of reminders about last week's material, then so be it, they wasted their time, too bad. If a student arrives super-prepared and needs some extra time to finish polishing a work for their college auditions, then they get that time. The average lesson is about an hour, but the flexibility is there so that students get what they need.

July 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM · From the posters so far, my approach is most similar to Gene's - except that I charge a flat fee by the lesson, rather than month. I expect punctuality from a student. But once the lesson starts, I rarely look at the clock. With a fairly well-prepared student with a good amount of material to cover, the lesson averages an hour and a half. I don't charge more for a longer or less for a shorter lesson. If I go for a medical examination I wouldn't want the doctor to be looking at the clock. I also reserve the right to shorten the lesson quite a bit if the student is very unprepared. If I have an advanced student working on material that I, myself need to review a bit, so be it; I wouldn't charge them for my doing a little extra practicing.

July 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM · Some of my favorite time savers:

"Choosing literature":

Having a working curriculum template is most helpful, and lessens the need to re-invent the wheel with every student. And, luckily, there are many models to learn from/steal from. I revisit and revise mine every year.

"Learning/re-learning pieces":

Yes, well, no one pays you to practice. (Insert Wry Smile Here) Nothing beats a quality demo; enthusiasm and competency can't be faked.

"Reading up on new ideas":

Same as above.

"Learning piano accompaniments":

Same as above, but if you are the accompanist for your student recitals, you can charge an appropriate recital fee that reflects that service. If you are doing lots of piano accompaniments in lessons, again, you can set lesson fees that reflect this extra service.

Another time saver I employ is to keep a permanent library of all of the music in the curriculum, with favored bowings and fingerings all marked in preferred editions. (Stolen from Galamian, among others.) It takes very little time, inside or outside lessons, to transfer your personal edits into the students' parts.

How you set your fees is up to you. But, a teacher that uses an interesting curriculum, plays violin well, keeps striving and developing, AND also plays piano, is a teacher that can, and should, charge accordingly.

Good luck!

July 15, 2012 at 05:45 PM · Hi,

Here are some thoughts on this... I agree with those who posted that a flat rate for lessons should be the standard.

This is a personal concern which may come across but is not meant as a specific criticism to anyone: if one finds that they cannot play or demonstrate, or have knowledge of advanced repertoire that they can do, it would be advisable the let the student go to someone who knows. Now, we all have to revisit repertoire from time to time if we have not taught it or played it for a considerable amount of time. But, we all have limits to our knowledge, though all of us are constantly pushing forward to increase our knowledge. We can only teach what we know. One of the most damaging things that I have seen is teachers teaching past the point where the student should have been sent to someone whose field of expertise is more advanced students, or a student's next stage of development. I personally have spent considerable periods of time trying to get students to be at the level of the repertoire they have been given by previous teachers who held on past their level of knowledge. I do not mean to criticize anyone, but one has to know his or her limits (including myself). We have a responsibility to the student for his/her future and to know what our fields of specialty are. There is nothing wrong with sending someone to newer pastures once that period is past when it is in the other person's best interest. If we do it correctly, wisely and ethically then all of us can contribute to providing the best for a young person's future. It is a collective effort. Often, threads pop up on this site about environment and what happens to give a certain young person in their development. The answer lies in precisely there: having the right people with the right expertise at the right time.

A rare personal opinion...


July 15, 2012 at 06:44 PM · Many thanks for your interesting thoughts on this. I think I might have phrased myself better, but the answers I've received are useful. If anything, I feel a little guilty taking my "standard fee" from beginners and intermediates, so the idea that charging LESS would affect their attitudes is something I never considered. It's not that I don't think about what and how with less-advanced players. I certainly do. But I can commonly do so in minutes per week (or less). Nor is this a question about needing to hand along advanced kids based on constraints that hinge on a skill level. It may be a cellist will need to go elsewhere in a year or two, since that is a secondary instrument for me. If a couple of relatively-advanced violinists start to think career, they may need credentials and a "name", too. As to devoting practice time and accompanying, it's good for me :) I have enough lit. under my belt that I probably could choose from what I know, including all the Suzuki violin books, 6 viola and 4/5 cello. I just don't want to. There are kids I believe need quite a different thread based on what goes well, what goes easily.

July 15, 2012 at 07:02 PM · "I spend substantial time choosing literature, learning/re-learning pieces, reading up on new ideas in what/how to teach more-advanced technique, and learning the piano accompaniments."


Your proposal to be a "meter maid" as someone so aptly put it, is more akin to the fee structure of lawyers, who rack up billable hours for every imaginable (and probably not a few imagined) efforts ("thought about case during lunch: $375"). However, few professionals charge as lawyers charge, which is one reason everyone seems to hate lawyers. I don't pay my doctor extra to read medical journals or attend conferences. Self-advancement is expected of any professional.

Charge for every minute of time at your own risk. I doubt the market will support it.


July 16, 2012 at 08:42 AM · I charge for the scheduled lesson time, at a flat hourly rate.

Background work is ongoing professional development, and rarely is specifically relevant to only one student and then to be forgotten. Researching or learning repertoire or accompaniments, reading, collaborating with or observing other teachers, all these things are of a wider benefit to my teaching and so shouldn't be something billable to a particular individual.

I also see the fee paid as also providing for me to accompany for exams and concerts, or to spend time helping pick out a new violin. I'd suggest that the hourly rate should reflect all of this, which takes it well away from the 'meter maid' mentality.

July 16, 2012 at 09:40 AM · > except that I charge a flat fee by

> the lesson, rather than month.

I like monthly for long-term students; I've taken some all the way from Twinkle to entering college as a music major. It helps families to budget their costs for music education very easily.

> It is a collective effort

And this is why it's important to maintain a network of colleagues with different specialty areas. Sometimes, it's a personality issue more than anything else, but that student still deserves quality instruction from someone they can get along with! If I can't do the job, I do know someone else who can.

I fully admit that the manner in which I choose to teach violin and viola isn't suitable for every single kid.

July 16, 2012 at 01:14 PM · "Background work is ongoing professional development, and rarely is specifically relevant to only one student and then to be forgotten."

That's true, but if a student said, "I want you to finger the whole of the D Minor Partita for me but I don't want to stand here while you do that during my paid lesson," I would either say, "Too bad, that's the way this works," or "Okay but I'm going to have to charge you an hourly fee for that outside work."

One type of service that generally is unique to the individual student is help choosing a violin or bow. That should be considered lesson time.

Sue, I want to add that I sensed in this thread a fair amount of "piling on" in the negative responses to your proposal. I think you got the message, pretty early on in the thread, that your colleagues here at violinist.com feel that prep time is not generally billable to the student. While I agree, I also want to reassure you that your question/concern was legitimate and you should not be made to feel bad for having raised it.

July 17, 2012 at 04:20 AM · "That's true, but if a student said, "I want you to finger the whole of the D Minor Partita for me but I don't want to stand here while you do that during my paid lesson," I would either say, "Too bad, that's the way this works," or "Okay but I'm going to have to charge you an hourly fee for that outside work.""

A student ready to start the whole D-minor Sonata should be assigned to finger the urtext themselves, with a critique by the teacher at the next lesson. As learning to finger a work is part of the learning process, it should be done on the student's lesson time.

July 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM · Thanks, Paul. I was a bit surprised at the level of negativity. I am, however, a (very) seasoned teacher/player with a solid sense of my own worth (and weaknesses), so as usual with online stuff, I'll just take what seems helpful. I'm guessing some of those with negative comments didn't check my bio, something I generally do if I have some questions about what/whether to reply to folks. Or my question prompted something they've wanted to express, which is pretty much fine with me. Sue

July 17, 2012 at 12:24 PM · When I finger and bow something for a student, I expect him to pay attention, as the whys and wherefores are also part of the learning process. If that's "boring", too bad! And I would never finger or bow a whole movement of something at a time. It's a passage here and a passage there, only after deciding that what the student was doing wasn't working. And I'd do this hopefully sometimes through the Socratic method, eliciting from the student - if advanced enough - some ideas towards the decided-upon fingering and bowing.

July 18, 2012 at 03:10 AM · @Raphael, actually some of my favorite lessons have been when my teacher has been helping me with fingerings and bowings because, exactly as you say, that is when I learn the how and why. Money very well spent. I guess it was a bad example. LOL

July 19, 2012 at 04:56 PM · I just had a thought on this:

Whatever you charge for your fee, make certain you mention that if the parent attends more than the first 5 minutes of the lesson, that fee is doubled. If they stay the entire lesson, it is doubled again.

July 19, 2012 at 07:32 PM · With my teacher, who by the way is most generous with her time, erasing my fingerings and bowings and telling me why is sometimes part of the lesson. I have no complaints.

July 19, 2012 at 10:36 PM · Roland - I like that -lol!

July 20, 2012 at 05:32 PM · Charge more for a parent being present? I'd be more likely to do the opposite, with the little ones...it's so much easier to deliver an appropriate lesson when parents can chip in with observations about what has or hasn't gone well over the week, rather than having to extrapolate from what the child says and does.

I suppose I didn't always feel this way, though, it's only after gaining a fair bit of experience and confidence that I prefer this approach.

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