Meri’s Musical Musings

Why most teachers don’t like teaching 30 minute lessons

Posted on: May 5, 2009

One reason why it is desirable for most students to take longer lessons weekly is because of the teacher having a comprehensive curriculum. For example, some piano students study with at least 3 books per level, often at least 4. These books may consist of the lesson book, a theory book,  a technique book, and a performance book. It is also very hard for teachers to cram in technique, studies, and pieces in a 30 minute lesson, especially beyond the first level or two in a well recognized exam system.

A second reason 30 minute lessons are a bad idea for most students is because some teachers find that the less a student is given to practice, the less chance they will practice, if they practice at all. Longer lessons allow for a greater number of repetitions, helping improve the chances that a student will practice similar or identical passages the way they are supposed to and have a greater sense of what something sounds like when played correctly.

The last reason it is desirable for most music students to take longer lessons each week is because increasing numbers of teachers are making the 30 min lesson not 50% the cost of a 60 min lesson, but rather 60-70% the cost of the hour lesson. If such a teacher offers  for only a few dollars more per month for the next greater lesson length, the student can get longer lessons and the student will almost always make better progress. I have noticed that the piano  students who take 45 min lessons for two years with me usually get to a about an early intermediate stage of playing, while those who take only 30 min lessons for two years are often still in method books and not doing exams.

Therefore, when teachers say they require longer lessons for all students, it is not merely to give the teacher more money. It’s that they would like to see the students progress better and faster. The only students that should be taking half hour lessons are those who are very young beginners on an instrument (say under 6 years old) and even then should be encouraged to go to the 45 min as soon as there is a clear need for it.

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2 Responses to "Why most teachers don’t like teaching 30 minute lessons"

I’m still at the conservatory myself (clarinet), and I haven’t been teaching that long yet, but I think you are absolutely right. Especially when teaching adults, more than a 30 minute lesson is needed.

One of my adult students (even though she’s just a beginner) practices 1 and a half lesson of her method book each week, but we only get done half a lesson in half an hour. Unfortunately the school where I work doesn’t allow 1 hour lessons.

I would much more prefer to give 45 minute lessons, because, as you say, I also think there’s a faster progression with students that have more than half an hour.

But for beginner students, I think it depends on what instrument they play. My youngest clarinet student (8 years) wouldn’t be able to play much more than half an hour. But the flute student I taught for 3 years was able to play much longer.

Each student is different, and when you teach in a music school, you can’t really choose how long a lesson should take. Any thoughts on how to determine the average lenght of a lesson?

By the way, I really like your blog. It’s very interesting for me to read about music teaching, while I’m still trying to figure out what’s the best sometimes.

For most students, I go by the age rule: 6 and under, 30 minute lessons can work, 7-about 14 years old, 45 min lessons, and over 14, minimum 1 hour. However, I’ve had 6 year olds who required 45 min right away, plus have some fairly young but relatively advanced students who are only 12 but doing RCM Grade 8. (in the latter cae they usually started quite young, and these kids did progress well through te exam system). Although I have a Grade 4 clarinet candidate with who hour lessons are not enough, not only because of his exam, but because of the theory, ear training, special ensembles, and school music program, which he is in one where the student is challenged because of the difficulty of the music played in the school orchestra. With most students, I require 45 min lessons minimum, which is one reason I don’t teach in a music school, and thn at a music school you can’t choose the students you teach, I’ve fired a few students over my teaching career for various reasons.

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