Lessons – Frequency & Duration
by Mage, NCTM
Last updated April 10, 2022
How often should a student take music lessons?
The traditional approach is to schedule weekly recurring lessons. This works well for most students as it allows for regular meetings with the teacher and keeps the formation of good learning and playing habits in place. Students will be able to retain the information and routine from week to week, and teachers will have a good idea of students’ progress.
Some students may find that taking lessons twice or more per week can help them learn more quickly as they are seeing the teacher more often. This can help if the student is preparing for an exam, audition, performance, competition, or advanced studies. It can also help for students who need more instruction per week but are unable to concentrate for too long at one given time. It can also work for scheduling reasons.
But what if the student is unable to attend once a week and would rather attend their lessons “every two weeks” or “twice a month” instead of weekly? This is usually due to scheduling issues or financial reasons.
At Mage Music instead of taking lessons on alternating weeks it is recommended to choose the Basic plan. The Basic plan allows the student to study asynchronously with a private teacher. This allows efficient use of both parties’ time. Videos are exchanged in MUCH higher quality than during a live stream or videoconferencing session.
Alternating weeks is usually recommended only for adult students as the student must be responsible for remembering what was studied from the last lesson as there could be two or more weeks between each lesson. Young child students who take their lessons twice per month must have a parent or guardian helping in between the lessons. And even then for adults the alternating weeks may end up providing less support for the student’s learning; by meeting weekly or submitting weekly assignments for evaluation we get a more consistent learning experience and develop good habits. *Note that although Mage Music does not offer the option to study “twice per month,” if an “extra lesson” spot becomes available, you may request it.
If you wish to select alternating weeks for a child student then it would be recommended that you combine that with the Basic plan which ensures that the student gets their progress checked regularly by the teacher. This is done through the Tonara app in which the student will be asked to send audio or video recordings of his/her playing for evaluation by the teacher. Students may submit audio/video recordings that that teacher will evaluate in between the live lessons; each lessons tuition plan also has the option to request a live meeting during designated office hours.
It is also possible to purchase a single live lesson on top of the Basic plan only if time is available in the teaching schedule. This can be economic but also highly successful as weekly evaluations can make a huge difference in progress and learning.
And how long should the lesson last?
This depends on the experience level of the the student, the student’s attention span, scheduling, and financial budget.
For young beginners in their first year of study weekly 30-minute lessons usually work well, though as the student progresses and starts doing examinations and more challenging music weekly 45-minute lessons allow for more content and topics to be covered during a single lesson as well as more time to review information, theory, sight reading, ear training, and practice habits. *Please note that effective February 2021 30-minute lessons will no longer be offered. Even young beginners can benefit from 40-45 minutes, and the teacher can use the additional time to discuss with the parent/guardian how to support the child’s practice, or the teacher can be video tutorials for the student to use during practice.
For adults this can definitely vary depending on the learning style of the student. Some adults prefer quick lessons and would like to focus on 1, 2, maybe 3 topics; in that case 30 minutes will do. Others prefer to ease into their lessons and take the time they need in between each topic to fully absorb it, so they would rather do longer lessons of 45-60 minutes weekly (or 60 minutes on alternating weeks either the 1st and 3rd weeks of the month or 2nd and 4th weeks of the month). I have found that 30 minutes is too short for most students, and my conversations with other highly qualified music teachers ended up in agreement.
Voice students will appreciate the 45-minute duration as it allows time for warm-up. Students who have been taking lessons for a while may already know how to warm up their voices before the lessons, but many students (including professional singer students!) actually LIKE to warm up their voice with their teacher because they want their warm-ups to be evaluated and any changes in their voices to be analyzed. In fact even for a young child student who is studying voice for the first time 45-minute lessons are the default as there is much more to cover for voice since these students often need help with their warmups and learning healthy singing habits as well as the language of music and relation between that and their voices.
Any student who studies multiple instruments will want to have a 60-minute (1-hour) lesson in one day or least 2 x 30-minute lessons on different days within the same week.
What about group lessons?
Due to the varying dynamics in a group there are different durations depending on the age and skill level. All very young beginner group classes are 45-60 minutes in duration (if the child students “tire out” we have to end early!), and all intermediate/advanced group classes are 60 minutes (1 hour) in duration. They can be held weekly, on alternating weeks (1st and 3rd weeks OR 2nd & 4th weeks of the month), or monthly. Most of the very young beginner group classes are given for the full hour though as we often talk to the parents/guardians at the end, and these classes are typically held weekly to ensure that consistency in progress is achieved.
- Most students do best with weekly lessons (held once per week). This is the recommended frequency for music lessons especially for child students.
- Lessons held twice per month are best reserved for adult students and child students with parent/guardian helping. Even then it is highly recommended to select the Basic plan to ensure weekly progress.
- 30-minute lessons are best for young beginners in their first year of study only
- 45-minute lessons are the minimum needed for students who are taking examinations. They are also good for all voice students regardless of level including young beginners.
- 60-minute and longer lessons are ideal for intermediate to advanced study and for young students who have a good attention span and would like to progress more. These longer lessons are also needed for students studying more than one instrument and for those who would like a more relaxed pace.