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How to Save Money on Music Lesson Curriculum

Guest post from Rachel from RachelWojo.com

Keeping fresh and interesting music in front of my piano students has been very important to me over the years because it keeps them interested in playing. I believe this is true for any instrument.

As a veteran piano teacher of 20 years, here are three ways I’ve recommended to families to save money on music:

1. Recycle books.

If you have more than one child taking lessons, holding on to books and using them over again is a great way to save money. The average cost for the curriculum I typically use is $20 to $24 per curriculum level. Theory or notespeller books cannot be used over again, but it is a great savings to reuse lesson, performance, recital, or any other extracurricular books.

Another tip for book recycling is to check with other parents and students to see if they have the book you need. Some communities will hold music book swaps in their local libraries and this is a great way to get new music or the lesson books you need.

One more tip in book recycling, perhaps you have two children in the same level at the same time. Instead of marking in the book, use a simple $0.99 notepad to record each student’s lesson assignment. This practice enables two students to use the same book without confusion. The assignment book can also serve as a practice journal.

2. Inquire about any discounts for which you may be eligible.

Many curriculum companies offer discounts to teachers when they purchase music. Also music stores often offer a discount to teachers or parents of students in certain qualifying programs. It is important to ask retail companies about their policies and be sure the cashier knows you are a teacher or parent.

Sometimes publishers offer special programs or incentives — like an 80% discount on Christmas music after Christmas. Be sure that you have entered your name on their mailing list as a teacher or parent so that you can receive up-to-date information.

3. Download free sheet music.

Though copyright laws dictate the freedom of publishing music, many people do not realize that there is some music considered to be “public domain” and therefore, free for distribution.

One of my favorite free level-appropriate piano music websites is Gilbert Benedetti’s site at the University of Pittsburgh. His site also contains free theory lessons and free guitar music.

Another great free easy music site is EasyByte.org, though you will need to have a basic understanding of skill levels for this site as the levels are not marked on the PDF files.

What tips do you have for saving money on instrument lesson music?

Rachel Wojnarowski is a wife, mom to 7, blogger, and piano teacher. She and her husband, Matt, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span 22 months to 21 years and includes a special needs daughter. Rachel leads community ladies’ Bible studies in central Ohio and serves as an event planner and speaker. She enjoys running and she’s a tech geek at heart. Reader, writer, speaker and dreamer, you can find Rachel on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and of course, on her blog!

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  1. says

    Rent to Own Instruments
    If you don’t already own an instrument you’ll have to rent or purchase one. Many shops offer rent to own programs where you pay your monthly rental fee as you usually would. After you’ve rented the instrument for a certain amount of time you are allowed to buy the instrument for a very affordable price, or the instrument just becomes yours.

  2. Anna Ruth says

    Besides running a fantastic teaching resource site called Color in My Piano, Joy Morin added a page with links to all kinds of free sheet music, both for piano and guitar. I ran into her site accidentally, and though I do not teach, I use her printables and links in my practice all the time. The following link takes you to sheet music resources: http://colorinmypiano.com/links/.

    Also, the IMSLP library offers sheet music for almost every work in the public domain: http://imslp.org/wiki/.

      • Anna says

        Intermediate or advanced level, performance pieces (rather than exercise books). When I lived in a different city, there was a music store that carried marimba/xylophone music, but my current city doesn’t have any so online seems to be my only option.

  3. says

    When my sister and I were teenagers, we traded work for our lessons. Our teacher was a homeschooling pastor’s wife who also taught piano 2 days a week. My sister would do a few household chores (dust, clean a bathroom, wipe down kitchen cabinets…) while I had my 45-60min lesson and I would do their ironing in the 30-45min my sister’s lesson took. Our teacher was very grateful for the help and honestly, we were glad to have something to do instead of just sitting through the other lesson.

  4. Mama Murrey says

    My husband and I are piano teachers, too. We buy all the books and rent them to the students for a small fee. We can easily have 7 or more students use the books before they fall apart.

    If more than one child in a family is taking lessons, we put them in separate curricula because we want them to learn to read the music, not just play by ear what they hear their sibling practicing (if they’d share books). They could use the same curriculum if the second sibling used them long enough after the first one and would no longer remember how the songs should sound.

    We love having students or parents who barter for lessons! Cooking, baking, fresh milk, produce, cleaning, babysitting, carpentry, remodeling–bring it on! We have enough other paying students that the bartering is not a financial hardship for us at all, and especially when I was teaching a lot, the help around the house was invaluable. For a half hour lesson, high school students or parents generally work 1.25 hours. Younger students work more, since they’re not as efficient, etc.

    • Kristie says

      We also have chosen to divide our kids into different curricula for piano (5 kids, 3 different study books) so they don’t learn to play by ear. We don’t mind duplicating for our younger ones, since they won’t recognize what their older siblings played several years ago. :)

      Also–maybe I’ve missed it in the other comments, but we have found some our music priced very well at Amazon or ebay. I got an excellent lesson book for a fraction of its retail price by shopping ebay for someone else’s gently-used book. Schaum’s, Albert’s, and other common piano courses show up there.

  5. Sara says

    I searched our library database and found that they have sheet music for flutes (I would assume they would have other instruments too). I thought that was great. I want to start playing again but didn’t want to spend money on the music, so this would give me a cheaper choice.

  6. Courtney says

    I was just wondering if you had any suggestions for learning the piano if taking lessons from someone isn’t a current option. Is there something online, or a maybe a dvd set that you could use to sort of “self teach”?

  7. Jessica says

    My girls’ piano teacher uses this website to print out free arrangements of songs, in different levels.


    It has a variety of easier arrangements of famous classical melodies and folk songs. She’s never had problems downloading from the site, and it is completely free.

    I also use my swagbucks to buy whatever piano books I can on Amazon, and our kids do reuse the lesson/recital books as well as using an assingnment notebook for each child, like Rachel suggested.

  8. Julie says

    I would suggest putting an add up on craigslist for books that you may need.
    There are also different formats for sheet music. For less than it would take to purchase certain pieces, there is a cd you can buy that has many of the master composers on a single cd. You use the cd on your computer and print music out as needed. It is especially good as your child gets to higher levels of music. Here is a link to sheet music plus.
    If you are looking for instruments, I would also suggest, asking a friend whom you trust (and has experience with that instrument), or teachers are often willing as well, to troll craigslist for musical instruments. They can be a real help in telling you whether what you are looking for is worth the money, a really good deal, or something you should pass on.
    Another option: My mother had a friend’s son ask if he might play her cello (that she wasn’t using at the time). He was a responsible boy and she told him that she would let him if he did two things, get an appraisal for the instrument, and insurance. Most people who have had experience with instruments understand that if you let the instrument just sit unplayed, it will only degrade with time. While I wouldn’t suggest asking just an acquaintance, I wouldn’t hesitate asking a friend (depending on your child and how motivated they are) to ask to borrow.
    For families who play stringed instruments. You might be able to trade sizes between families as your children grow.
    I would reiterate exchanging a service (such as babysitting) for lessons. What I would make sure to do is have a set number of service hours that you need to give for a lesson.
    The last thing that I have to offer is, if you child is interested in playing for a junior symphony, but money is a concern, often they will have a position that allows a child to help set the room up prior to rehearsals and concerts. For a little extra time, they can have some money go towards offsetting the cost of participating in a wonderful opportunity. They also very often have need-based scholarships.

    Sorry for the lengthy post. I hope that this helps someone

  9. says

    Great ideas. We also asked our church organist for a copy of an old hymnal (they had boxes and boxes of them in the basement) and he gave us two different ones. My daughter loves this music and was highly motivated to play it. And as a bonus we get to hear these wonderful songs in our home.

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