Let’s talk about private music lessons–the nuts and bolts, the bare bones, the logistics, the length. Before day one of a new student, one of the first things that must be decided: “how long will the lesson be?” The answer to this question is as simple as proclaiming a number, usually no less than 30 and no more than 60. However, the way each music teacher answers this question–a peppering of teaching philosophy here, a toss of parental input over there, and sometimes sales pitchy sprinkles to top it all off. I have my own rationale for student lesson times too. And after deciding lesson length for students from a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds, hindsight has taught me that the ideal numbers are 30 or 60.
30 minute lessons
I like to think of this lesson time commitment as the Pomodoro Lesson–set a timer, stay on task! Parents may prefer this amount of time if you are giving lessons in the family’s home. It allows for a short, dedicated burst of music instruction. It fits nicely into the schedule for parent, teacher, or child either as a once or a twice per week occurrence. The 30 minute lesson requires laser focus on the part of the teacher as they listen and respond to the student’s needs. In my 30 minute lessons, I establish a more abbreviated warm up and then use repertoire to address any weaknesses in technique. In order to inspire practice, I make sure to cover at least 3 pieces in the thirty minute lesson and even set a timer to make sure this goal is achieved.
60 minute lessons
An hour long lesson could as easily be appropriate for a more advanced student as it could be for a younger beginner. This lesson time commitment I refer to as the Philosophical. The key here is balance. This time-frame allows room for establishing excellent practice habits, developing technique, and addressing any challenges within assigned repertoire. There is usually more time to do more–explore music history or music theory topics, practicalities of playing an instrument in the community, and musical games away from the instrument. A weekly hour lesson, similar to a weekly yoga practice, allows the student to play their music, receive feedback, and reflect on the musician they are becoming.
How long are your lessons? Do you choose length of lesson based on Age? Experience? Focus level? Parents’ requests? Your own scheduling needs? Does one factor play a larger role in your decision than another? So what is your hindsight telling you?