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Q&A - Why are music lessons so expensive?


I came across your website and I like that all the content is free and available but my general question would be why are music lessons so expensive anyway? My daughter is playing the clarinet and her teacher was charging us 15£ for half an hour lesson but now wants to raise it while we agreed for 45min lessons. I understand that everyone needs to earn money but there is not a lot of people who earn 30£ an hour, especially not regular teachers.

I would be very interested in your point of view and sending you warm wishes from Bristol,


Dear Ann,

That is a very fair question and I understand your point of view. I will try to explain the background but firstly I would need to state that my point of view is anything but objective while I am in this profession for awhile now.

Firstly you need to understand what does it take to be a good instrumental or vocal teacher. Even though it may look like that everyone could teach beginners, actually getting that bachelor degree in performance is much more difficult that you may think. If we start from the educational point of view musicians are one of the rare people who need to complete a full 4 year course in order to obtain Bachelor Honorous degree. That Honorous part comes from the fact that in order to obtain it, you need to put in an enormous amount of extra hours (that is a rather simple explanation of the modules and credits but let's leave it like that for awhile). Not to mention that just passing the auditions and getting a place at a good music college or university, is as selective as getting into Cambridge or Oxford (sometimes even more).

In a lot of cases you will also come across teacher who obtained not just bachelor degree but also a masters, which again is very selective and is a big time and money investment.

Well, you could say and so what? What has that to do with how much I'm paying for instrumental lesson?

In Western society we currently arrange our pay scale on a ground rule of education or in other words how many papers have you gathered in the past few years. Now I would not dare to state that this is right or wrong, while I believe this is a very complicated subject.

But bottom line is, classical musicians who hold various degrees are highly educated people, which means their price on the market is higher then the average. In your specific case I would say pricing is even on a lower side while in London you would pay probably between 18£-20£ for a half an hour lesson.

When it comes to paying more for a longer lesson I think there should be no question that the payment goes up when the time goes up (pro-rata I believe is the right expression).

At the end of the day we all want to be paid fairly for the amount of work we do. I would also say that teaching our children, that they need to know their worth but also never lower someone else's worth, is an important life lesson, which in theory looks simple but in practice we are far away from that. We would all like to get paid but majority of people get very inventive when it comes to avoiding paying someone else.

On the other hand I do agree that the cost of the lessons should not be purely relaying on a family budget, while that makes it highly selective (not in a good way), especially in the countries of Western Europe, where music lessons are mostly the part of the private sector.

Music lessons are highly benefitial if done correctly (!!) and high standard music and instrumental lessons should be a part of regular school curriculum. Now, I know that sounds utopic for some, and that a lot of people would not agree with such high importance of music lessons, but when we look at all the researches on the topic, which had been done in the previous years, they will confirm my theory. You don't need to be the next Mozart or Yo-Yo Ma, but developing your brain through music and playing an instrument gives you a big advantage when it comes to other academic or bussiness achievements.

The problem appears when music lessons are not done properly (which happens way too often). If I give a few general examples:

1. The instrumental teacher sits and nods to everything at the lessons. Your child may love him but they will not improve

2. Music class at school is taken as a 'hippy' subject where everyone can chat and have great marks by existing and showing up

3. There is not a clear plan of what is the expected improvement in a certain time frame

4. Teacher is not engaging and acts unprofessional

5. Student/Pupil is not investing the extra time at home for practice and relying too much on a 'natural' talent and half an hour lesson that they get a week.

All of the above things happen. That is a pure fact. And in this case, especially when it comes to instrumental lessons you are throwing the money through the window.

As a conclusion I would say that instrumental lessons are worth every penny ,when you have the right teacher and when you take half of the responsibility for the improvement (or at least a third), but you definitely need both. I do agree that it puts a strain on a family budget and one of the main aims of Squidy is to slowly change the educational system (another utopic idea but a person can dream) which will offer high standard music and instrumental lessons as part of the regular school curriculum. Until that happens my advice would be to keep a fair relationship with your instrumental teacher and keep in mind they are people as well with regular expenses and they are charging you the regular price of their service on a current market (of course always make sure you are familiar with what this prices are, while they vary from town to town and also depend on teacher qualifications).

We wish all the best to you and your family!

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