Are half an hour lessons every week enough?

April 5, 2017 at 02:03 PM · I've been taking 30 minute lessons once a week for the last year or so and I'm pretty content with these but, I was wondering if it's worth it to increase them to 1 hour at some point.

Looking at this from a $ perspective but, mostly from a time based one since, I'm pretty swamped as it is (and will continue to be so in the future) and would rather not have to commit that extra half hour.

Replies (34)

April 5, 2017 at 02:16 PM · How much are you practicing? The necessary length of a lesson is directly related to the amount of material you can prepare in a week.

Most of my high school students take hour lessons though I do have a few 45-minute students who enjoy the violin but for whom it is not a passion (this being reflected in their practice commitment). I don't recommend half-hour lessons for high school students because even the least serious usually need to cover more material than we can address in half an hour.

My most serious middle school students also take hour lessons though 45 minutes is more usual there; I have a couple of near-beginners who are still at 30 though. Usually it becomes obvious when the student needs a longer lesson--they'll work harder during the week and have more prepared for their lessons.

It's hard to get much done in 30 minutes once you are past the "keep your wrist STRAIGHT" "now I will introduce low second finger" stage.

April 5, 2017 at 03:36 PM · I practicing 14 hours a week at the moment and I'm planning on doing 19 a week long term.

April 5, 2017 at 04:46 PM · Go for the 1 hour lesson.

April 5, 2017 at 04:51 PM · If you're still a beginner, 30 should be fine. If not, 45 minutes.

April 5, 2017 at 05:51 PM · If you're averaging two hours a day of practicing, then I don't see how you could possibly be covering everything in 30 minutes. I'd suggest an hour lesson for that level of commitment.

April 5, 2017 at 07:01 PM · Christian, can you tell us a bit about how you practice during these 2hr session? Also, how do you record your lessons (such as note-taking, recording)? Do you review lessons throughout your daily practice sessions? If answers to them are all positive, then you are way ahead of many young players I know. Also, it depends on how your teacher teaches. My current teacher always gives me tons of stuff in one hour lesson, much more than my previous teachers ever would/could. If I could, instead of one hour/week, I'd love to have two or three 1/2hr lessons each week. So if your teacher is like her, then 1/2 lesson could be a lot for you to absorb over the week.

Remember, it's not a matter of how long the lessons are; what's really matter are the quality of the lessons and, most of all, how much you can take in and how well you can incorporate what you've learned in these lessons into your practice. When I practice, I am basically self-teaching and exploring by carefully "chewing" and digesting what my teacher has told me and what I've learned by reading, discussion and performing, etc.

Lastly, time and money are some of the factors that no one can balance that for you. When in doubt, stay where you are. The time will come when you will know for sure if and when more lesson time is necessary.

April 5, 2017 at 07:32 PM · Stay with weekly lessons. 1/2 hour is enough for beginners, or lessons on technique only (exercises, scales, etudes). It is repertoire that needs the longer time, 45 min- hour, depending on how long your pieces are. jq

April 5, 2017 at 08:07 PM · Yeah, 2h per day is a lot, I neither stand how 30 minutes worked for you. If you're practicing 2h per day, you should go all they way for 1h of lessons.

April 5, 2017 at 08:47 PM · I would definitely agree. At 2 hours a day, you want either a one-hour lesson or, better yet, a twice-a-week 30 minute lesson.

April 5, 2017 at 09:11 PM · So about two months ago I started taking 1-hour lessons every two weeks instead of 30m lessons weekly (as I had been prior).

I've played for about 1.5 years, and practice roughly the same amount as you do; I feel like I get a lot more out of lessons structured this way. (I'm also working on 4 - 5 things at a time, so I have plenty to work on for two weeks).

Also, I warm up for ~40 min. before a lesson, to minimize the "keep your wrist straight!" time that Mary mentioned.

April 5, 2017 at 09:58 PM · How would you prefer x2 30 minutes lessons instead a x1 1h lesson?

If you have two lessons weekly, say Monday and Thursday, it may happen a lot of times that you didn't have time neither Tuesday or Wednesday, so the Thursday lesson will be "a waste of time".

I think that 1 day per week, 1h, is way better as you have a whole week to work on the material, intonation, scales, etudes... I also think that you would start to "hate" Tuesdays and Wednesdays because there is "pressure" in your schedule, you must work or feel like you must work a lot on the Monday lesson exercises so your teacher sees some improvement, and you only have 2 days between that. That's what I think from an intermediate point of view.

April 5, 2017 at 10:19 PM · It should be up to the teacher. I seldom allow students one hour unless they earn it.

But then teachers who care more about their revenue stream may feel differently...

April 5, 2017 at 10:26 PM · Tim, I did both one hr/week and two 30-min/week lessons in the past. I can tell the difference was huge. You will have the same total amount of time from the teacher on the same material, but you get more frequent feedback from your teacher this way, so that you'll less likely to build bad habits between lessons and progress faster. We all want to be well-prepared for lessons, but we also can do the wrong things and build bad habits that prevent us from progress and they can take a long time to correct. More frequent lessons result more progress because more prompt needed advices you'll get from the teacher and less time is wasted on correcting problems learned over a longer period of time.

April 5, 2017 at 11:07 PM · Scott, if he's practicing two hours a day, he's probably earned it unless his practice technique is all wrong=)

April 6, 2017 at 12:57 AM · The problem with shorter lessons is edge-effects. Three minutes of how-was-your-vacation (just an example) is 10% of a 30-minute lesson, but only 5% of a one-hour lesson. Likewise, a longer lesson means less of your time is spent driving as a percentage of the total time you have to set aside.

I think it's rather cynical to suggest that people who are giving a lot of one-hour lessons might only be lining their own pockets. I'm a violin student and the parent of a violin student and a cello student. That makes me a triple client, and it makes music lessons a significant budgetary liability. I wouldn't make that commitment if I didn't think I was getting an appropriate value.

April 6, 2017 at 02:20 AM · I'd like to weigh-in from a teacher's perspective. I currently teach at 2 schools, plus privately. One school offers 30 min or 60 min. The other school offers, 30, 45 and 60 min. I understand a school kind of needing to do this but I personally find it artificial, frustrating and constricting. Sometimes in a 30 minute lesson with a young student, they're gassed-out after 20 minutes and I wish we could end there. But I have to give them their "money's worth". With other 30 minute students, I feel like there's no time for either of us to breathe for a moment and I often don't cover everything I want to and often find myself saying "please remind me at the next lesson that we'll start with the material we didn't get to". Sometimes at hour lessons with a beginner (a young adult who requested hour lessons), I find myself padding a bit because at any particular lesson we're really done after about 40 minutes or so.

Privately, I don't charge by the minute but by the LESSON. It's the same fee no matter how long or short it is. Once the lesson starts I rarely look at the clock. With intermediate and advanced students with a lot of material prepared, it has often averaged 90 minutes or so. How do other teachers feel in this regard? I heard that Galamian had a rigid sense of time and each lesson would last 60 minutes on the nose (- or maybe 55 minutes). Dorothy Delay was the opposite - well it was in her name! With Dounis you could spend a whole afternoon. I heard that Max Rostal was like Galamian - only at the 60 minute mark he'd shout "Get out!"

Anyway, to the OP - discuss it with your teacher.

April 6, 2017 at 10:21 AM · For advanced and semi-professional students, it is not effective having two 30-minute lessons, simply because there would be too much material to go over every week. As well, the discussion of techniques and musical expression goes much deeper, I would be surprised any serious teacher would find 30-minute lessons not to be intrusive.

And just remember, with the technology today, you can tape record or video tape your lessons and practice sessions. You can review your recorded lessons while practicing. you can also view your videoed lessons and practice in front of a mirror. These tools are your friend. With these tools, there is no need to visit your teachers twice weekly just to get more feedback. If you are a teenager or an adult, tape recording your own practice and compare your practice with your recorded lessons will teach yourself much more. Self-critiqing is a required skill to become semi-professional and professional. The higher level you play, the more you will find that your teacher most likely will not be available to you at all times.

And Raphael, I admire a teacher like you. I can see that you are enthusiastic when you see your student come well-prepared, and you are ready to teach as much as the student can absorb. I wish my current teacher was like you. She always stops right at 45 minutes, even if I was in the middle of learning a new technique. She doesn't care if I got the technique down or not, she just wants to stop. Really, in my music school days, I had never run into a teacher like this, but now I liVe in the Middle East, and the availability of teacher is limited, so I will have to deal with that for now.

April 6, 2017 at 11:41 AM · Thanks, Anne. Well at least, hopefully your teacher doesn't yell "Get out!" after the 45 minutes are up, as Max Rostal was said to have done! ;-)

April 6, 2017 at 12:02 PM · A few years ago my daughter followed regular private piano lessons with concert pianist Irene Russo. That was also charged by the lesson, not by minutes. Often the lessons would take 2.5 hours. And I know Ms Russo was super super busy so definitely had other things to do than teach my daughter. My daughter every time came back from these lessons super energized and inspired. So, Raphael, you are not alone!

April 6, 2017 at 12:30 PM · I have a 60-minute lesson once a month or so, and we cram a lot into the 60 minutes. Occasionally if my teacher doesn't have anything booked right afterwards we run 10-15 minutes long but normally that's not possible as the next student is waiting.

I'm a grownup (allegedly, at 36 ;)) - I could do with 90 minutes, or more than once a month, but both my teacher and I have difficult schedules. I tend to find that I can make quite a bit of progress between lessons, though for the last 6 months I've been working heavily on improving technical precision and awareness, which has certainly meant for some very tedious practice sessions (ok, let's do 2 octaves of C major for half an hour until it's in tune, then see if it's in tune again tomorrow...)

April 6, 2017 at 02:03 PM · Raphael,

I get the concept, but I doubt many parents/students would. For one thing, you're suggesting a scheduling nightmare. I guess you can give one no-limits lesson on a day when you have nothing else and the student is so fantastic you can run through all sorts of repertoire. But on a regular basis, how can you possibly schedule this kind of lesson?

April 6, 2017 at 02:55 PM · Well, I guess that's why Delay kept getting so delayed! But I never had that many private students that it was a problem. The few times when I had students back-to-back I estimated 90 minutes each. If we were through before that, I got a little break. If not, the next student waited a bit and got the benefit of observing a lesson.

April 6, 2017 at 02:59 PM · Unless you have another full-time job (full-time orchestra, school orchestra director, etc) and can have very few students or charge an arm and a leg, I can't imagine being able to schedule enough time around lessons to make a more flexible schedule work. Sure, students were willing to wait around for a lesson with Dorothy Delay, but most of us don't have that kind of reputation and our students are busy and often over scheduled.

I did have teachers who would occasionally run over by up to 30 mins. but they were college professors who generally have a lighter load in terms of number of students than the average pre-college violin teacher and their students are generally more committed and have more available time in which to schedule lessons.

Back to the original question though, I would recommend that the original poster switch to hour lessons if at all possible. I if you are truly practicing 2+ hours everyday you will want more to work on than is possible to cover in only 30 mins. If students are practicing well (30-45 min. or more daily) I will often recommend switching to 45 min. lessons as early as late Suzuki book 1 or early book 2 level.

April 6, 2017 at 03:11 PM · I think it's both inaccurate and insulting to suggest that teachers encourage longer lessons mainly to enhance their revenue streams. I suggest the length of lesson I think is appropriate for the student. Sometimes that means asking a parent to consider moving up to hour-long lessons but more often it means telling the parent of a middle-schooler that I think one hour is too much and let's start with a shorter lesson and see what happens.

Just last night I had a one-hour student who for several extremely valid reasons was not really prepared for more than thirty minutes, so that's what I gave her (and charged for).

The kind of flexibility Raphael describes would be a scheduling nightmare and logistically impossible in my life, both for me and for my students (and their parents). I have students booked every day of the week with very little slack; I also have family responsibilities to attend to (i.e. picking up my daughter from school or driving her places when my husband isn't available). My students also have other activities and obligations. I will run overtime when I can, but I always check with the student or parent first to be sure I'm not going to make them late for something else. It is much easier to shorten the length of a lesson when the student's preparation or needs dictate, and I do that when appropriate and reduce my fee accordingly. I do not charge an additional fee for running overtime; I am not a parking meter.

April 6, 2017 at 04:09 PM · I've had a couple of teachers who had the "teach until we're done" mentality. (One of my teachers would keep me as much as five and a half hours for a lesson!) In general, they'd schedule students for whom they wanted to keep flexibility for the end of their teaching day, or on a day when they weren't teaching anyone else.

April 6, 2017 at 05:33 PM · It's alright that "constant" feedback, but I don't see, beginner or expert level, how 2 days of practice can make you take bad habits. Once a week, one hour, is enough to show your teacher your progress during the week, so he/she can point out the errors and mistakes, and fix what you're doing wrong, so there's no way you take bad habits unless your teacher don't notice them. Once a week really is constant feedback. What you say may be is applicable to a violinist that is doing one lesson per month. Then that violinist could waste a lot of time (a whole month) doing the wrong way one technique, until the next lesson where the teacher will tell: "Well, you've done it wrong".

Also, 30 minutes is many, many times very little time to learn what the teacher has in mind. Of course I'm talking about someone who's doing at least 1h per day.

As others have said, I also think that the time of a lesson depends too on the student, some need 1h, others more, other after 25 minutes are exhausted and need a break, etc... But for the average student that is working well more or less, 1h is what I think the best option.

April 6, 2017 at 06:14 PM · Having "errors and mistakes, and fix what you're doing wrong", these are the reason we need more frequent lessons to fix them promptly before they become bad habits. That's my point; I'm talking about what is the quickest way to progress. It's my belief that it is the frequency rather than the length of lessons work the best for that purpose.

April 6, 2017 at 06:38 PM · At the local college, the studio lessons are supposed to be 1/2 hour, which I find to be impossible, so I schedule them 45 min. apart, and I must stay on schedule. To keep my calendar sane I don't do make-up lessons or every-other week lessons. 45 min. is about right for most of my people. JQ

April 6, 2017 at 09:53 PM · I go away for work for two weeks at a time and I'm home for two weeks. I have 3 lessons in that two week period at 1.5hrs each and I feel like that's not nearly enough time. I could easily have lessons that were a few hours, if it wasn't insanely expensive.

April 6, 2017 at 09:54 PM ·

April 6, 2017 at 10:57 PM · Do longer lessons necessarily equal more technique (not taking about repertoire) covered?

April 6, 2017 at 11:24 PM · G.A., that's exactly my concern and my answer is not necessarily so. It depends on teacher, of course. I had teachers in the past giving me 2hrs lessons but taught me very little. One teacher for instance, used to ask me to play through the whole piece at least a couple of times before I got any feedback from her. My current teacher, on the other hand, usually give me so much stuff in one hour that could easily be more than I ever got from other teacher in one year.

April 7, 2017 at 11:24 AM · After reading this I'm leaning towards a single one hour lesson per week. Like Yixi points out, two 30 minutes lessons seem cool for frequency and constant feedback but,like Paul says, we do spend about 2-3 minutes between tuning and small talk during every lesson which is more of a waste with shorter sessions. This inefficiency goes double when taking account commute, it takes about 20-30 minutes both ways to my teachers studio.

I'm thinking of improving my self-critique/self guidance if going the once a week route. Aside from the obvious self-awareness while practicing, I record myself like suggested.

As for the money padding thing, no, my teacher seems cool, and don't seem to have the "all about the benjamins" mindset. I was ready to do one hour at first when starting with her but, she was the one who said it wasn't necessary at this level. I like the "we practice till we are done" method but, my teachers seems to be on a tight schedule and doesn't seem realistic. Hopefully I can find that dynamic with her or another professor.

April 7, 2017 at 12:51 PM · In the school where my daughter and I have lessons, studio rules dictate that there is "plus and minus" on lesson time (typically five minutes) so that the teacher can "close out" on a concept if need be.

Regarding being "done with a lesson" after 40 minutes, my feeling is that there is always more that could be done. Check intonation in chromatic scales, or scales in thirds, or whatever. Sight-read through a Mazas duet. With my (one) piano student we just jam on some chord progression together.

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