Giving Music Lessons: All You Need To Know

~By Joel

For those of us that are passionate about creating music, providing musical lessons to beginners seems like an ideal way to make some money. After all, you can make your own schedule, have full control over your workload and share your interest with others. However, your enthusiasm alone is not enough to make you a genuinely good teacher. Here are some things to think about to make your lessons as profitable as possible, for yourself and your students.

 Develop a Teaching Style

There are two main style categories for lessons: Creative and Formal. Creative lessons emphasize feeling, composition, and improvisation. The lessons are less rigid and students are encouraged to learn music that moves them, rather than music that is the most technically impressive. This specific style is ideal for younger children who can developmentally benefit from structured self-expression, as well as those who gain from music therapy. Formal lessons focus on theory, fingerings, and dynamics. Typically, formal lessons are driven by the principles of classical music. Your lessons should be a mix of both styles, and for the student’s benefit, you should distinguish one style from the other.

You should also decide if you’d like to market your lessons to children or adults, or if you can handle all ages and experience levels.

 Pick Your Price

  •  You have your teaching style. Now it’s time to pick your price. Here are some things to consider when choosing your price point:

  •  What are your competitors charging?

  • Will you travel to give lessons?

  • If so, how far will you go? How much will travel cost you in gas, train tickets, etc.?

  • Will you need to rent a lesson space?

  • Are you targeting a certain income level?

  • How often do you want to teach?

  • How long do you want your average lesson to be?

  • What are your unique strengths as a teacher?

The ideal situation is to have your clients come to you with little downtime in between lessons, but when this isn’t possible, you’ll need to charge more to make the same amount. Parents of young children will pay for convenience, however. You can charge them 15-25% more than your normal prices for travel compensation.

Lessons are usually billed in half-hour and one-hour increments. It’s also not uncommon to see a rate for 45-minute lessons. Longer lessons don’t work very well for most children under 7, and short lessons tend to not give older people enough time to get comfortable.

 Market Your Lessons

Getting students is arguably the hardest part of giving lessons professionally, but anything’s possible if you promote your lessons in the right places. Here are a few things that will help:

 Word of mouth

Friends of friends will be more likely to take a chance on a new teacher, so make sure that people in your circle know that you’re now offering lessons. Reach out to parents or educators you may know, as they may know of individuals who are seeking music instructors.

 Make an Ad

  •  In your ad text, you’ll need a friendly opening, a statement of your experience, your prices, and a reason why they should contact you (a call to action).
  • Put your ad on a classified site like Craigslist. You can also pay for a newspaper or local magazine ad.
  • Try to become listed on websites that exist solely to help students connect with teachers, like TakeLessons.com.

Make a Flyer

  • Turn your ad text into a flyer using your word processor.
  • To stand out, add a friendly photo of yourself with a student
  • Make sure the text is large enough to read from a distance
  • Display your contact information prominently

Once you have a flyer, post it in the places you know your students (or student’s parents) will see it. Grocery stores, coffee shops and schools are great places to start putting them up. You can also put them directly into the mailboxes of the neighborhoods you want to target.

Make a Website

Even if you’ve never had a student, having a website is a good way to look serious. You should also make yourself a Facebook fan page to further promote your efforts.

 Bonus: Make an email address like jon@musiclessonsbyjon.com and use it for all of your lesson-related mail. You will instantly look like a pro!

Add Testimonials

If you’ve given lessons before, make sure you get testimonials! These make a huge difference because they foster trust in potential students. Put them in your ad text, in your flyers, and on your site.

Be the Best Teacher You Can Be

The final step is all about you: your attitude as a teacher and your commitment to your students. The more effort you put into each lesson, the more students will come back and telling other potential students about you.

 Here are some tips to help you make the most of each lesson:

  1. Plan for your student’s experience level. Make sure that your expectations and usage of jargon matches accordingly. You certainly don’t want to talk down to an advanced student or, reversely, overwhelm a beginner.
  2. Always use music lesson books. They take a lot of pressure off of you to create age-appropriate, experience-appropriate lesson materials.
  3. Provide access to supplementary accessories. Students each have their own personal hurdles to overcome, so make sure you’re providing them with the assistance they need. Do they struggle to keep a steady rhythm? A metronome like this can make a world of difference. Did their ukulele strings break or did they lose their guitar pick? Have music equipment readily available, affordably found here.  
  4. Curb your frustration. Students can sense frustration and it doesn’t feel good. If someone isn’t doing well or progressing as you would like, your visible annoyance might not motivate them to do anything but find a new teacher.
  5. Teach to the student’s desires. If the student wants to effortlessly improvise to a jazz standard, put the scales they’re learning into that context. Don’t lose sight of the fact that music is about having fun and personal expression, so incorporate your students’ interests into the lesson plan.

No one expects you to be perfect when you’re just starting out. Being a great music teacher is just like being a great musician; it takes practice. Find your niche, work out your prices, and make your teaching experience as meaningful as possible for you and your students.