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30-Minute Lessons vs. 1-Hour Lessons

Parents of prospective students, new students, and even long-time students occasionally ask if I recommend thirty minutes or an hour for lessons. Although a half-hour is the standard amount of time for private lessons in this country, hour lessons are more common in many other countries. Some private teachers even offer 45-minute lessons (I do not). Which is the best amount of time in my opinion? Well, that depends on several factors, including 1) the age and attention span of the student, 2) the amount of practice time the student is willing to put in on a regular basis, 3) how much time and money the student or his/her parents have to devote to lessons, 4) the interests and goals of the student – both short-term and long-term, 5) what type of “feel” the student and parents want their lessons to have – i.e. focused and hard-working or relaxed and easy-going, and 6) their philosophy of lessons – whether they prefer to view lessons as a guided practice session, a “checkup” on their progress, an opportunity to review learned concepts, an opportunity to learn new concepts, or any combination of those approaches. Also, for trumpet students, physical strength and endurance, especially in the facial musculature, must be considered, as many beginners and young children will not have the stamina for one-hour lessons.

At the risk of stating the very obvious, I am providing a list here of possible advantages to 30-minute lessons over 1-hour lessons:

1) They cost less money, of course. Although some teachers may offer a discounted rate for hour lessons, I've found that most simply charge double of what their half-hour rates are.

2) They are less of a time commitment, which is an important thing for those with extremely busy schedules to consider.

3) They can provide a good amount of time for those with a short attention span (particularly young children).

4) They can provide a good amount of time for students that don't practice much and aren't all that interested in how much progress they make.

5) They are very practical for beginning trumpet students who lack the strength of embouchure to play for 60 minutes

A couple things to consider about half-hour lessons, which may be thought of as disadvantages: 1) Sometimes thirty minutes is just not enough time to get through all of the assigned lesson materials, especially with advanced and/or highly motivated students that have a lot of things prepared each week, and also does not allow time to get into as much detail with some topics as an hour would, nor does it give students as much of an opportunity to work through practice concepts in the presence of their teacher; 2) a 30-minute time period generally makes for a more rushed feel to the lesson and doesn't usually allow for "extra" activities (such as creative activities), assuming the goal is to cover specific assignments first and foremost.

Based on the above comments about half-hour lessons, the advantages and disadvantages of 1-hour lessons should be quite obvious. So what do I recommend? In most situations, I tell students/parents that it might be a good idea to begin with half-hour lessons and see if that is enough time for them. Of course, new students are welcome to do the opposite and begin with hour lessons to find out if it feels like too much time. However, I can guarantee that I will always be able to come up with plenty of activities for any student, and the time will be very well spent! In fact, the only instance in which I actually do not recommended hour lessons for piano students is when the student is very young, a beginner, and/or has a very short attention span. Of course, I do not usually recommend hour lessons for beginning trumpet students either, due to the physical issues mentioned previously. Although time can conceivably be spent on non-playing activities (such as rhythm training, note identification, ear training, etc.) to allow trumpet students to rest between periods of playing, they and/or their parents may be unsatisfied if they are not spending the entire time directly on their instrument.

Situations when I absolutely recommend one-hour lessons are 1) when students are so advanced that it be becomes impossible to cover all the assigned materials in a half-hour, 2) when students have particular goals (such as preparation for an audition or performance of some kind) that require an extended amount of time, 3) when students have so many different interests that they cannot all be covered regularly in a half-hour, and 4) when students had one-hour lessons previously and are accustomed to that amount of time.


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