If you are a new student, you may not know how to choose a lesson length. And if you have already taken music lessons, you may want learn when to change your lesson length. Either way, I’ll show you what you need to know to choose the best lesson length for you. In this article you will learn
- Why a shorter lesson might mean more progress.
- The 6 essential factors in choosing a lesson length
- What things outside your lesson will affect your lesson length.
I know you want to choose the right lesson length for yourself or your child. But what you really want to do is make the most progress possible. And your lesson length has an effect on your progress. So we are going to look at lesson length in terms of maximizing your progress. It’s about getting the fastest results and feeling comfortable. There are 6 factors that you’ll need to consider to get the right lesson length. These are your goals, concentration, comfort, teacher, experience and ability, budget, and your practice outside the lesson.
In order to choose the right lesson length, you should know what you want to accomplish. You should have a clear idea of what you want to learn. If you don’t yet have a clear goal, our guidebook on getting started with music lessons will help you choose an appropriate goal. I’d suggest that you start with part one of the guidebook, which is all about goal setting.
Generally speaking, the more ambitious your goal, the longer lesson you will require. If you want to become a professional musician, there will be much work to do. You’ll then need a longer lesson. If you are just looking to play with friends in a social setting, there will be fewer skills to develop and shorter will do.
Part of a successful music lesson is learning to play music accurately. And that requires good concentration. If your concentration breaks, you won’t be able to play accurately. If you are not playing accurately and making mistakes, then you are forming bad habits. This means you are getting worse, not better.
If you find yourself unable to concentrate for a 45 minute or 60 minute lesson, then you should consider taking a shorter lesson. Simply put, the longer you can concentrate, the longer a lesson you can benefit from.
Your ability to concentrate is affected by two other factors: your experience and ability, and your teacher.
Your experience and ability
Study after study has shown that the more skilled you are in an activity the longer you can concentrate. One of the goals of music study is to develop sustained concentration. And your concentration will grow as you progress. Because of this, shorter music lessons are generally recommended for beginners. Longer lesson lengths are recommended for intermediate and advancing students.
This does not mean that there are not exceptions. Some beginners are able to concentrate longer, and some advanced students less.
A good teacher is an important factor in your lessons. A top rate teacher will be able to help you reach your goals no matter the lesson length.
I’ve had more than 15 music teachers in my life, some better and some worse. But I’ve had only one exceptional teacher who gave me 15 minute lessons, literally. And these were the most effective lessons I ever had. Why? Because he knew exactly what I needed, and he gave me that information in a focused, goal oriented way.
A music teacher’s job is to give you enough information to push you, but not so much information that you are overwhelmed. The right amount of information for you does not change based on the lesson length. It’s determined by your concentration, experience and goals. It takes a skilled and well trained teacher to get this right.
Once your teacher has given you the right amount of information, you will then apply it in your lesson. Your teacher, ideally, should then supervise your practice to ensure you are doing things correctly and accurately.
If you have a quality teacher, the main difference between lesson lengths is the amount of supervised practice time that you have. In a shorter lesson you will have less time to repeat things with the teacher. In a longer lesson you will have more. The question to take a longer or shorter lesson thus becomes one of your comfort. (The exception here is for advanced students who are learning a large amount of music during a lesson. In this case, a longer lesson will be required.)
Most students find they are more comfortable with the pacing in a longer lesson. Of course, you can only take that longer lesson if your concentration is good. But a good teacher will know how to help manage your concentration and keep you engaged for maximum progress.
Often students will believe that you get more information and more progress in a longer lesson. This is not true. Many untrained teachers will give too much information in a longer lesson. This leaves students confused or overwhelmed. Sometimes they don’t have a clear goal. For this reason, it’s super important to have a teacher who knows how to give you exactly the right amount of information.
Lastly is your budget. You can only take a lesson that you can afford. Sometimes students are unable to afford a longer lesson length and have to take a shorter lesson. Don’t be discouraged! As long as you have a solid teacher, you’ll get exactly the things you need to make the most progress. And with that information, you’ll then go home to repeat what you’ve learned and form solid habits.
Without practice, you lessons will not be effective. You can have the best teacher in the world, but if you don’t practice at home, you’ll never progress. Your practice at home is one-third of the music learning process and is a necessary component to your success. Make sure that you practice regularly and well to make the most of your lessons.
If you are not practicing consistently, you may do better with a shorter music lesson. Why? Because you need time to develop habits in your practice at home. If you haven’t had that chance, taking on too much new information in a longer lesson will likely frustrate you more than help.
Assuming that you have a professional music teacher, try the following as a general starting place for your music lesson length. If the length doesn’t feel right to you, then you can always change the length. Keep in mind that these are just a starting point, and that you should make your decision based on the six factors above, as well as how you feel with your lesson length.
Beginner music lesson length for children
Since children have shorter attention, beginners do best by starting with a 30 minute lesson. Some children have better concentration and show more interest, and for these kids, 45 minutes may also work. Once a child advances a bit and develops more concentration and skill, then it will be time to consider a longer lesson.
Beginner music lesson length for adults
Adult students generally want more explanation of why they are doing each activity. They want an understanding of the bigger picture. While everything an adult beginner needs can be accomplished in a 30 minute lesson, most often adult beginners feel more comfortable with a 45 minute lesson. This gives more time to practice with the teacher, and understand the bigger picture.
Lesson length for Intermediate and advanced students
You should be able to benefit from either a 45 minute or 60 minute lesson. The exact length for you will depend mostly upon your comfort and the amount of material you are trying to learn.
What if you are an advanced student, but have trouble concentrating?
In this case, you should take two 30 minute lessons in a week instead of a long lesson. This will give you the opportunity to cover more material in a week. It will also allow you to work on less things at once, which will help you maintain accurate repetitions for maximum progress.
What if you are a beginner, who has big, ambitious goals?
Here, too, I’d recommend two shorter lessons a week than one. The multiple lessons per week will help guarantee that you are forming good habits, covering enough material, and working within the limits of your own concentration.
What about voice lessons?
Voice lessons pose a special problem, which is that you cannot see your own instrument. When you play piano, guitar, flute, violin, or any other instrument for that matter, you can see your hands and the instrument working. With the voice, you cannot see the inner workings of your body. And for that reason, there is more experimentation required in a singing lesson.
While you will need to warm up on any instrument before a lesson for best results, the voice takes longer to warm up. For these reasons, its probably a good idea to try at least 45 minutes for a voice lesson to start.