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#2133381 - 08/15/13 01:40 PM When should a student start taking longer lessons?  
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eccp19 Offline
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Hi Teachers,

I am beginning to notice that 30 minute lessons with some of my more advanced kids are becoming more and more "squeezed." I especially notice this with the kids who are motivated and are in the level 3-4 range of their method books.

When have you found is a good time to start increasing lesson times to 45 minutes or an hour? And how did you bring this up with their parents?

Thanks.

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#2133388 - 08/15/13 01:52 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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I've learned this strategy with other teachers here in PW: Don't offer 30-minute lessons! Even the youngest beginners can benefit from a 45-minute lesson. This strategy has been working out great for me so far.

My biggest problem is with the parents who transferred their kids from a "music school" to me. Over there, their private lesson is ONLY given at 30 minutes, and the rest of the hour is filled with group theory or "lab time" with computer programs. It's almost impossible to convince them that 30 minutes of private, one-on-one piano lessons is not enough. A lot of them will refuse to pay for anything longer than 30 minutes, especially if they have the mentality that piano is just "for fun."

Further down the line, you'll have problems with advanced students for whom an hour a week is not enough. And very, very few parents are willing to pay for more than one hour of private lessons per week.


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#2133426 - 08/15/13 03:26 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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Start with long lessons. Later you can do much more work on yourself with less risks of doing something wrong.


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#2133433 - 08/15/13 03:47 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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AZN,

I can easily see a diligent and focussed five year old having a successful 45-60 minute lesson. But I can also see a bouncy 8 year old boy driving a teacher nuts, not because he cannot learn, but because his learning style cannot handle such long sessions. Is there any variability in your suggestion?

Of course, the answer may be "don't take bouncy 8 year old kids." smile

#2133443 - 08/15/13 04:13 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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#2133444 - 08/15/13 04:15 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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I teach only 45 minute lessons in the summer, so when parents see how much their students get out of those, it's usually not hard to convince them to stay at 45.


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#2133491 - 08/15/13 05:34 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: Stanny]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Interesting. I only teach 60 min and longer in the summer. Then in the Fall, most students complain when we drop back to 50 minutes, which is my standard, except for 1st year students, who, depending on age, maturity, etc., I may offer 40 min lessons to.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2133674 - 08/16/13 02:59 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Interesting. I only teach 60 min and longer in the summer.

Did you have to convince the parents to cough up more tuition money?

I have several students who are doing competitions in the summer, and they desperately need more than 1 hour of lessons per week. Their parents won't pay for extra lessons--not even two 45-minute lessons per week.


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#2133755 - 08/16/13 08:32 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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We pay for multiple lessons as needed, but for most people of normal means it's an extra hit to the budget.

#2133780 - 08/16/13 09:56 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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Morodiene Offline
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As of this Sept. We are no longer going to offer 30 minute lessons. This was something I had done a while back to my studio in WI. Now I'm in FL and partnered up with another teacher who pretty much only taught 30 min. lessons, and I've convinced her to increase everyone to at least 45 minutes. We may make an exception with a student who simply cannot last for more than a half hour, but that rate is not published on our policy. We can also give extra half hours to students needing extra time in preparation for a performance or audition or something. But 45 minutes per week is the minimum.

This really is so helpful to give us enough time to get through scales/technique and theory plus have the time needed to delve deeper into the repertoire and introducing new concepts. When I had made the switch to only 45 before all of my students improved and became more excited about lessons and their progress.

True, you can't fit as many students in the time you have available to teach, but the quality is better. Also, those not willing to devote more than 30 min. a week to a lesson (and the financial investment therein) are then freed up to go elsewhere to teachers that offer that.

I do not teach students who are necessarily looking for a career in music (most of them won't pursue this field beyond high school I'm sure), but I do have students that understand what a commitment is and how to study a discipline.


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#2133822 - 08/16/13 12:36 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: Morodiene]  
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For cost conscious parents, you can always point out that longer lessons offer more bang for the buck. How so?

Every lesson requires start-up and wrap-up time. This is a constant whether the lesson is 20 min, 30 min, 40 min, or an hour. Assuming the teacher charges the same rate per minute regardless of lesson time, then the time spent in preliminaries and wrap-up decrease as a percentage of the entire lesson. Thus, more bang for you buck.

As a practical matter, students are just getting going in a 30 min lesson when it's time to quit. Such short lessons don't take advantage of young people's ability to learn to concentrate or focus their attention on the subject at hand. If they cannot manage more than 20 min of intense focus during a lesson, then you can be certain that practice at home will never be longer than 20 minutes. A formula for failure?


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2133849 - 08/16/13 01:20 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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If you take that suggestion to the end, John, then a 1 1/2 hours lesson would be more effective than two 45 minute lessons.

#2133857 - 08/16/13 01:33 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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Indeed.

I agree about the startup time, John. But there is also diminishing returns to consider. Most people's attention span does eventually wane, and for kids you can run up against that diminishing marginal benefit earlier than for adults. At what point do diminishing returns kick in significantly? I'm sure there's a lot of variance.

If the startup time issue were the only thing involved, we would have a case of increasing returns. A one hour lesson would be better than a half hour lesson. But a two hour lesson would also be better than a one hour lesson. And a four hour lesson would be better than a two hour lesson. And .....

#2133867 - 08/16/13 01:55 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Oh, I thought we were discussing 30 min vs 45 min primarily, not 2 or 3 hr lessons. I don't think diminishing returns apply much to this situation. I have 2nd graders doing summer hour lessons and only one 4th grader who seems to start losing focus after 40 min. I suspect there may other factors at play in this latter case than the length of the piano lesson.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2133875 - 08/16/13 02:04 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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Right. All I'm suggesting is that diminishing returns can kick in earlier for some students, and the returns could in fact become negative over the course of an hour.

Perhaps that's the kind of student who you might want to show the door, or to refer to a different kind of teacher. But not every student benefits equally from extending the lesson time, and it is conceivable that a student who might benefit from extending the time at age eight, might be driven away if the time were extended at age seven.

#2133921 - 08/16/13 03:47 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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P*D, IMO, a 30 minute lesson is way too short and 40 - 50 is more normal and easily handled for the vast majority of students. I base this on personal observation over the past 30+ years. I suspect that the primary driver for 30 min lessons has absolutely nothing to do with children's attention span and almost 100% to do with families' finances/commitment, etc. A secondary factor might be the teacher's inability to present an interesting lesson to the student, in which case, the teacher will probably not be a long term player in the field.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2134079 - 08/16/13 10:04 PM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
P*D, IMO, a 30 minute lesson is way too short and 40 - 50 is more normal and easily handled for the vast majority of students. I base this on personal observation over the past 30+ years. I suspect that the primary driver for 30 min lessons has absolutely nothing to do with children's attention span and almost 100% to do with families' finances/commitment, etc. A secondary factor might be the teacher's inability to present an interesting lesson to the student, in which case, the teacher will probably not be a long term player in the field.
+1

I have had students where 30 minutes or less were the only option (ADHD, 4 years old, etc), but the vast majority of them benefit from 45-60 min. lessons. I think the driving factor for 30 min. lessons are when a young teacher starts out and they are afraid to ask/require 45 minute lessons, don't think their families can afford them, not sure how to teach for that long, etc. I think that's fine, but at some point, hopefully, the teacher learns to plan better as they gain more experience and then realize that 45 min. is better.

Certainly, not all young/new teachers do this, but I did. I had copied what other teachers in my area were doing, but that wasn't necessarily the best.


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#2134239 - 08/17/13 08:31 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

Every lesson requires start-up and wrap-up time. This is a constant whether the lesson is 20 min, 30 min, 40 min, or an hour. Assuming the teacher charges the same rate per minute regardless of lesson time, then the time spent in preliminaries and wrap-up decrease as a percentage of the entire lesson. Thus, more bang for you buck.



Did someone call for a "devil's advocate?"

As has been pointed out, if one does not review the lesson immediately after, and practice what was learned the same day, then half of it is gone by the next day. An hour lesson is really half an hour of learning, a half hour lesson 15 minutes, etc.

But the startup and wrapup time does not lose any learning. So if it is a higher percentage of the total, as John calculates above, then less is lost from a shorter lesson.

<g>


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#2134243 - 08/17/13 08:37 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR


Did someone call for a "devil's advocate?"

As has been pointed out, if one does not review the lesson immediately after, and practice what was learned the same day, then half of it is gone by the next day. An hour lesson is really half an hour of learning, a half hour lesson 15 minutes, etc.

The review, as it has been pointed out in the past, is done in the car on the way home, and then once you are home. Not in the lesson. So that calculation doesn't work. John has given us the fantastic idea that he uses, of recording his lessons, and having his students take home that recording to study it.

#2134245 - 08/17/13 08:39 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: TimR]  
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Which does nothing to change the amount learned "per hour." The amount taught vs the amount retained are two differing issues. If the student waits six days before reviewing the lesson, then most of the cost of lessons is a total waste anyway.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#2134263 - 08/17/13 09:13 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: eccp19]  
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I was thinking that TimR was seeing the review happening during the lesson, thus a whole hour is actually 30 minutes (30 minutes of lesson, 30 minutes of review). Now I'm not sure if that is what he meant. TimR?

#2134279 - 08/17/13 09:51 AM Re: When should a student start taking longer lessons? [Re: keystring]  
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Good teaching involves subject review in the lesson. That's a given. Total review of the lesson, on the way home, is a way to help students fix in their minds issues they encountered at the lesson.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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