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5 Ways to Afford Music Lessons

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Guest post from Jamie of From His Presence

You’ve probably heard that playing a musical instrument can do wonders for your child’s education. It’s true, music builds math and reading skills, confidence, and self-discipline; it provides an avenue for your child to make friends with other musicians and it can open doors for college scholarships.

However, music lessons can cost $60-$100 or more each month, and that can be tough on a family’s budget. Here are 5 practical ways afford music lessons, even when money is tight:

1. Group lessons

Stringed instruments in particular (violin, viola, cello, upright bass) are well-suited for group lessons. Popular string method books for beginners contain exercises that all the instruments can play together, so nobody gets bored.

Group lessons are more fun than playing alone, and playing music with others helps a new string player train his ear to hear correct pitch. Combining funds with other parents to pay for one weekly group lesson is a frugal way to grow young musicians.

2. Outreach programs through The Salvation Army (SA)

The SA is renowned for its ability to train musicians—particularly brass players. The SA community center in my city offers an after-school music program to low-income and high-risk students. Students learn brass, guitar, percussion, and piano.

Not every SA chapter offers music programs, but if yours does and you meet the requirements, you’re not likely to find better instructors anywhere. (Note: I am not affiliated with the SA.)

3. Music instruction programs at city-owned recreation centers

Check with your local government to see if the city recreation centers offer music/arts programs. If they do, these programs will usually be affordable or even free. Common programs include drum/percussion instruction, dance instruction, etc.

4. Music outreach non-profits

The Joy of Music School in Knoxville, Tennessee, offers free music lessons to disadvantaged youth. If you have a similar school in your area, you’re likely to find excellent teachers and help obtaining an instrument there.

5. Local churches with mentoring programs

I play in the orchestra at my church, and we have players of all instruments — drums, guitars, bass, strings, brass, woodwinds, and keys — who are ready and willing to mentor.

If you are involved in a local church, ask your worship pastor if he knows any church musicians who would mentor your child. Even if there is no formal program, you still may find someone who is willing to help. Some churches also will have instruments that you child may be able to borrow.

If your child wants to play an instrument, don’t despair! Try one or more of these options and keep your ears open. You may find music lessons are easier to arrange than you dreamed. (Then, you will just have to put up with the noise of practice!)

Do you have any other ideas for how to find affordable music lessons? Leave a comment so everyone can benefit!

Jamie Rohrbaugh is a wife, financial analyst, blogger, musician, and unlikely worship leader from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She plays piano, viola, percussion, and the Amazon Cloud Player. She blogs at From His Presence about how to live ordinary life in God’s manifest presence.

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89 Comments

  • Kimberly S says:

    Trade lessons! As a piano teacher, myself, I would love to swap lessons with another parent who has a skill that I don’t.

    Group lessons really depend on the instrument and child as far as whether or not they will do any good. Some kids just get frustrated because they are not learning much in the group. Personally, I won’t teach piano group lessons because it is just too hard to make progress in a group.

    • Hey Kimberly, great idea. I totally agree that group piano lessons wouldn’t be helpful. But I always loved my group string lessons and learned a lot. 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

    • Trading is a great idea! I’ve often thought of doing this with my friend. We both play piano (though she is far more skilled than I), and our daughters are both 5. Although I certainly plan on teaching my children piano myself (and my hubby will teach them guitar), I think our children would also have fun learning from someone else! A lesson swap here or there would be so fun for the girls!

  • Alison says:

    Prepaying for lessons may help you to negotiate a lower rate for the lessons.

  • Danna says:

    We put mys step daughter through 12 years of piano lessons and my 6 year old son has his second piano lesson this morning. We are paying $7 per 30 minute lesson for my son’s weekly lessons. We are Mormon (LDS) if you ask around your local mormon ward there is almost always someone teaching piano for $7-15 a lesson.

    • Aubrey says:

      What a great deal you’re getting! I’m curious where you live. My daughter is getting to the age where I’d like to start her in some piano lessons and we have a relative nearby who teaches so I asked her recently what she charges. She charges $90 a month for four 30-minute lessons (she said even if there are five of their lesson days in the month, they still only get four lessons) That works out to $45 an hour! YIKES. I haven’t asked around any more – partly because I’m still trying to get over the shock of what she charges. I’m glad to hear that perhaps she’s on the high end of the spectrum and I may be able to find something cheaper. Do you think the Mormon teachers would take non-Mormon students?

      • Danna says:

        I live in the suburbs of Phoenix Arizona. When my step daughter was taking lessons we lived in the Suburbs of Seattle WA. Of course a mormon piano teacher would teach a non-mormon students. Most of these teachers are women who play the piano, and or studied music in college and are now stay at home moms teaching piano lessons for a bit of extra income. My mother in law did it for years. FYI we have 2 music lesson studios less than a mile from my house that charge $21-30 per lesson and the city rec dept charges about the same, but I really couldn’t make that work in my budget.

        Where are you located? To find your closest mormon congregation go to http://www.lds.org, under tools to to Maps, then go to find a meetinghouse. Put in your address and the closest meeting house and the wards (congregations) that meet in it will pop up on the screen (no this will not send missionaries to your house…promise). Typically 2-4 congregations will meet in a building at different times on Sundays. When you find the building, drop in on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, there will probably be a youth activity, boy scouts or at the very least some guys playing basketball in the gym in the building. Ask any adult you see if they can get you the contact info for the Releif Society Pres for a local ward…odds are they can. Call her, explain that a member recommended you call and that you are looking for someone (even a youth meaning teenager) to teach piano lessons to your children and does she know anyone, ask about other wards in the area. It should get you some leads. If you’d like some help contacting someone in your area e-mail me directly and I’d be happy to help. ddlockerby@gmail.com

      • Diana says:

        When you figure out what you think the piano teacher makes ($45 an hour) it looks like a lot, but there are many other factors involved as well. I am a teacher and spend countless hours outside of the 30 minute lesson preparing for the lesson, talking to parents, preparing for events, volunteering at said events, doing all the book keeping, advertising, website upkeep, further education, and also pay taxes out of that money. If I truly made that high of an hourly pay I’d be rich! I don’t charge quite that much, but from the teachers I know, the more you pay, the better the teacher!

  • Marianne says:

    If you personally know your child’s potential teacher, ask about swapping services. I teach private piano lessons and swap lessons for babysitting with one of my students. It ensures that my husband and I get a date night out every month. Another family is willing to help me out with housekeeping chores in exchange for lessons – an hour of work for one half-hour lesson. It’s worth asking!

    • Donna says:

      I agree–have a discussion about what might be helpful. I can think of preparing freezer meals with my ingredients for me as of great value or even bring a meal on the day of lesson. When I used to teach I actually traded fresh eggs, butter and produce for lessons.

    • Mama Murrey says:

      My husband and I are both piano teachers. We have traded lessons for an endless supply of homemade bread, milk from someone’s dairy cow, carpentry, cleaning, babysitting, garden stuff, etc.

      My favorite is the cleaning, since I have three little guys under 3. This summer we had 8 girls taking lessons and bartering, so I had 8 hours a week of mother’s helpers!

  • Robin E says:

    Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher for discounts. I am a piano teacher, and I barter with some of my students. I taught a couple of teenagers from my church, and we exchanged free babysitting (I have 4 little ones.) for free piano lessons. I have been approached by another family who are ranchers and can’t afford the lessons, but we’ve discussed bartering some meat for lessons. I have the students pay for their books, but I have them pay me because if I buy the books I get a teacher’s discount, and I pass that savings on to my students. Not every teacher is going to make it so easy, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

  • Windy says:

    I’m a music educator with 12 years experience. Another creative approach to think about it bartering. 🙂 I have a couple student’s who’s mother is a massage therapist and you better believe there are months where I give lessons in return for some massages! 🙂 I also once traded lessons for a really nice couch that a family was selling to make room for a new nursery in their home! Something to consider…

  • We have piano lessons every other week instead of every week for my oldest, which cuts the cost of lessons in half.

    For my younger daugher, we are doing the same thing, but because she is younger, we are also doing a half lesson (15 minutes instead of 30 minutes). This cuts the cost in half again. She is 6 and wanted it enough to give her birthday money to pay for the first lesson (which she did).

    My mom pays for these lessons. By cutting them like this, it makes it something that she can afford.

    We got our piano for free; we had to pay to have it moved and tuned. It was an older piano without a bench and it was somewhat roughed up, but it sounds beautiful. You can sometimes find one on Craig’s List or ebay (in your area) for $100 or a similar price; I know many other people who have done the same thing. Craig’s List and Ebay are great ways to find an instrument for less. Ask around for brand-names for your instrument so that you will know a good quality one, and look for Ebay stores that sell new instruments.

    • Great ideas on finding a piano. Sometimes it’s worth giving it away just to get rid of one! 🙂

      For other instruments, Craigslist can still be a good option. Decent instruments can even be found in pawn shops. However, if anyone is looking for a wind, brass, or string instrument on Craigslist or a pawn shop, I would recommend that they take an experienced player with them to look at it before they buy. If the pads are worn out, they can be costly to repair. And stringed instruments can have hidden flaws that you wouldn’t think to look for, unless you already play.

      And awesome to hear that your 6-year-old is already taking lessons! 🙂

    • Danna says:

      Our piano is also from Craigs list. It is our second used piano. The first one was from the newspaper classified ads and we bought it for $300 in 1997. When we moved from Seattle to Phoenix we resold it for $300 rather than moving it. Here in Phoenix I watched Craigslist for about 3 months and found a lovely older baby grand piano for $300.

      My step daughter was more than qualified to teach begining piano lessons when she was in high school and would have charged a greatly discounted rate. Looking for a proficient high school student musician to teach beginner lessons is another great option for keeping costs down.

      Also, for begining piano, most of the early piano books (Alford All in 1, or John Thompsons easiest beginner level 1) are so easy and self explanitory that you really could teach a child yourself for a while even if you didn’t play the piano.

    • Krysten says:

      I can’t imagine that your younger daughter could be learning very much in only 15 minutes! For my little students that age, it takes the whole 30 minutes for varying reasons. Some are so smart that we just have a ton of music to cover. Others are very distracted and I have to keep pulling them back to the music out of their little imaginary world. Many children that age take a little longer to grasp concepts, and their hand coordination isn’t as good as my older beginners, so we have to spend more time explaining, demonstrating, and practicing things at the lessons to make sure that they can practice correctly at home.

      • Krysten,

        You would be surprised at how much she has learned just since October when she started! She has learned how to play several hymns, including some Christmas hymns (Silent Night is one). She plays well enough that we can sing with her playing at our nightly devotionals. She pulled my older daughter’s music (Carol of the Bells) after my older daugther learned it at one lesson. She then proceeded to play and memorize as much as she could. She really wants to learn.

        It was our piano teacher who suggested 15 minute lessons.

        • Kimberly S. says:

          I think short lessons are a great idea for that age anyway! I have a really hard time keeping some six year olds attention for a full 30 minute lesson anyway, even when we fill time with games and worksheets.

  • What a great list! I’m a former piano teacher, and I know how hard it is for some families to be able to afford lessons. My kids both took their lessons from an instructor in a nearby city (never a good idea to have Mom give them). At $30 per week with a 40 mile round trip drive, it really added up! The worst part of music lessons is that they don’t have a season, so they are a constant expense (unlike most sports and recreational activities).

    A couple of additional ideas I’d like to add are:

    Look for a local musician/hobbyist. If your child is just starting out, there is no need to search for the most qualified teacher. The basics will remain the same and the personality of the teacher for a beginner is MUCH more important than the skill. If your child starts out on the right foot, they are more likely to stick with it. You always have the option to move to a more qualified musician when their skill necessitates it.

    YouTube videos are a great place to either learn the basics to relay to your child or to let them learn at their own pace. My son self-taught himself on the bass using YouTube videos. While he may not have learned in the traditional way, he actually enjoys playing now and spends his free time learning new music.

    • Hey Alicia, awesome point about the personality of the teacher. My viola teacher always gave me stickers for completing songs well – and I was an adult! But I ate it up! I’ll work for stickers. Now I’m teaching violin to another adult, and she works for stickers too! It’s just whatever makes them tick, right? 🙂

      • Most definitely! I had a ton of teachers when I was growing up- it was hard to get into the more advanced ones and I kept ‘outgrowing’ them. I loved the ones that made it fun- let me play fun songs in addition to the lessons. When I was 11 or 12, I finally got into the best teacher around. She was very goal oriented and we spent a lot of time focusing on recital music. I began to despise playing. I was much happier spending time with a fun teacher and a collection of yard sale sheet music- and I thrived under that.

        Isn’t it funny what small things motivate us?

  • Elise says:

    This is a timely post for me! I’ve been looking for a way to afford music lessons.
    Since we have basically no money, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to kind of trade services. No luck so far… But that’s mostly because I haven’t found a local teacher yet.

    • Hey Elise, if you have any local music stores (that sell sheet music or instruments, either one), you might ask there about a teacher. They often keep bulletin boards for teachers. Also, if your local schools (middle school, high school, even colleges) have a music department, ask the band director or the piano teacher at the school. Music teachers often don’t get paid enough :), and they can be very willing to teach on the side. Good luck! Hope you find someone soon!

      • Elise says:

        Oh, thank you! I never would have thought about checking with the schools!
        Unfortunately, we don’t have any music stores within 30 miles of us, but I will still look at the bulliten boards next time I’m near one.

        Thanks again!

        • Danna says:

          Have you checked craigslist in your area? Also, check your local mormon congregation. There is almost always someone teaching piano (they won’t care if you’re mormon or not) or they can refer to to someone teaching. You’ll want to conntect with the Relief Society President (head of the woman’s auxillary in the church), they’re the person “in the know” on this sort of thing.

  • Monica says:

    Try bartering for lessons. I am a private piano teacher and have taught lessons in exchange for electrical work, a new driveway, yard work, etc. Just ask a teacher if there is something you could do for them in exchange for lessons.

  • Ann says:

    We live in a college town with a good music program. My daughter is currently taking flute lessons for free because her school offered them free with a college student instructor. Even if you cannot get them for free, a student might be willing to charge less or barter – maybe a home cooked meal per lesson?

  • Joanne says:

    A couple more ideas …
    1) Research to see if area music schools/institutes have scholarship programs – my two brothers got high quality string lessons through a scholarship program.
    2) See if a music teacher will teach every other week instead of every week – cuts cost in half and allows for more practice time.
    3) Look into local colleges/universities pedagogy programs – the college students learning to be music teachers get training by teaching in programs like this – kind of like saving money on a haircut by going to a beauty school for the cut (while this has its risks with not very experienced teachers, they are under the supervision of professionals).

    • Meredith says:

      I am a private music instructor. Good suggestions. Also, the local symphony musicians have contacts and students who teach for much cheaper.

    • Joanne, I was reading your reply and it occured to me – I completely agree with your point about university programs. I studied jazz piano at the Cadek Conservatory of Music, which is part of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. I took lessons there from one of the most skillful and famous pianists around (who was an amazing teacher), and it was actually one of the most affordable places I’ve ever taken lessons. (And the best!) Even if I hadn’t already been a student there, it would have been very affordable. Public universities and community colleges have some great options.

  • Meredith says:

    I am a private oboe teacher. Here are my suggestions:

    As per Kimberly, watch out for group lessons. In my humble opinion, they aren’t worth it. You can’t learn correctly that way. I would be weary of that.

    Contact your local symphony musicians. Yes, they are going to be really pricey. However, they have students too (who also have students!) who teach for much cheaper. They are always happy to send out contacts.

    Colleges are also a great way to get a good teacher. There are some freshman musicians out there who could compete with some of the worlds greatest. You could get high class musicians at a rock bottom price.

  • Erin says:

    When I was young, my mom was able to make arrangements with a private music instructor to give my sister and me lessons in exchange for cleaning her house.

  • Jenn says:

    These are good ideas. For us, we’ve tried (and failed) to carve out money in the budget for the last few years for piano lessons for our 4 older children and when a relative, who is musically inclined, told us that lessons aren’t necessary, that you can learn everything you need to know from youtube videos, we decided to try that route. My children have taught themselves two fairly difficult songs each(in 3 months) and love to learn (which I think is the most important thing since I took piano lessons for 9 years growing up and still can hardly play anything at all).

    • Jenn, if your kids are learning on their own, a great way to make progress quickly and keep them motivated is to learn to play jazz-style piano, off of guitar chords. It’s no substitute for reading music, but you can make quick progress learning how to put the chords together. Jamey Abersold at http://www.jazzbooks.com is a gold standard on jazz method. I play piano for my church orchestra in our rehearsals, and I rarely have to read the music (thank goodness). 🙂 You can play the choir numbers, worship songs, etc, strictly from the chords if you learn how and get a nice rhythm going.

      • Danna says:

        We found a product at the Arizona homeschool convention last summer, to teach kids to read music. I’ve been using it with my boys (4 & 6) for about 6 months. It’s called Right Brain Music (they’re on the web and I think based out of Mesa or Gilbert). When my son started Piano lessons last week he already knew all the notes of the grand staff and could read the music. The boys love the Right Brain Music stuff and think it’s really fun.

  • Ashley says:

    Definitely talk to music teachers about bartering. I am a piano teacher and I have bartered for scrapbooking supplies, cloth diapers, babysitting, yard work, and probably something I’m leaving off. Also, you could ask a teacher if he or she would be willing to do partner lessons if the teacher doesn’t offer group lessons. I have taught group classes (yes, on one piano) but I truly love teaching partner lessons where I have 2 students in my class. I normally charge $70 per month for 45 minute private lessons (I don’t teach half hour, there just is hardly enough time to get started), but I charge $50/month for hour long partner classes, and each student is still able to progress on his/her own pace, and progress well. Also, the motivation of having a peer in the class with the student helps to make the student work harder. It also keeps the lessons more fun and exciting, and allows for opportunities that you might not always have, like playing duets and learning improvisation. So that might be another option for you to consider as well.

    • The partner class sounds fun! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Kimberly S. says:

      I could see longer partner lessons working well! I am about to experiment with adding a 30 min group theory lesson at the beginning, for my set of four siblings. I find I can barely fit everything in their 30 min lessons, and I am just repeating myself over and over since they are all at a similar level on the theory part anyway.

  • If you are just wanting some general guidance these are great suggestions, but as a professional musician/teacher and married to a professional musician I have to say, you definitely get what you pay for. Not all teachers are equal. Yes, it’s expensive, but I am incredibly grateful my parents gave me that gift.

    • Johanna, I’m with you on being grateful for the gift of music. 🙂 My parents also had me learn when I was young, then I gave it up, thinking that part of my life was over after I had fallen in with the wrong crowd. And here, years later, God has redeemed music for me and has used it to open incredible doors of opportunity. Whoo hoo… making music one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me. 😉 Gotta love parents!

    • Sharon says:

      I’m married to a professional musician too, Johanna. But, sometimes finding a less expensive option the first few years will allow you to discover whether the child is truly interested or not without spending a ton of money. We’ve done this with my daughter and dance lessons. We chose the cheapest option in town for the first few years – and she still loves it and wants to work at it. But, I also know it’s not the best instruction available. In a few years, we will probably switch to one of the better (more expensive) facilities. In the meantime, our current option is saving us over $1000/year.

      • Sandra says:

        You might be saving money in the short term Sharon, but I wonder what technique and other things your child isn’t getting (or bad habits they are learning) from the “cheapest option” that they will have to unlearn or spend time catching up on when they transfer to a new facility.

        I’ve had a couple transfer piano students come to me from “cheap” teachers who have had appalling note reading and technical skills that we have had to spend a LOT of time working on. In most cases, you get what you pay for, and if you don’t pay much, you won’t get much.

        The best advice I’ve ever heard is to find the most expensive teacher you can afford to get started in the best possible way which will give your child the best possible chance of continuing in music (or dance or whatever) for a long period of time.

    • Andrea says:

      ABSOLUTELY, Johanna! It’s true!! You get what you pay for!

      I’ve been teaching music privately for YEARS. I’ve actually seen the kids who tried learning at home from a YouTube video or only in a group setting…while they are sometimes able to play a song or two that they learned (mostly by rote), they *nearly always* are lacking note-reading and theory skills that would make their playing really useful (as in playing in a church setting or accompanying) and allow them to progress to their potential.

      I’m cringing at some of these suggestions about YouTube videos and group lessons as a substitute for one-on-one instruction. The note about possibly doing an every-other-week lesson with a private teacher is a much better way to cut costs. Group lessons & YouTube are great supplements, but they can’t replace a teacher. Students (and sometimes parents) don’t *know* when they are making mistakes and a teacher can help them correct those before they become permanent. Also, a teacher will provide other benefits such as opportunities to perform publicly and will introduce a student to types of music they may not pick up on their own.

      Musical training is one of the best investments for your children because it yields benefits in so many areas…increased IQ, better capacity for math, general happiness and well-being and a skill to share with the world and serve others.

    • Shannon says:

      This is an interesting list for ideas. As a professional musician who has taught lessons for group, private, outreach programs, and at universities, my word of caution is that you do indeed pay for quality. Yes, lessons are expensive because some teachers are more qualified than others to teach. Someone suggested local universities with music programs as an outlet for lessons and I believe this is the best frugal idea. The student teachers at universities are energetic, willing to try new things, and generally well informed with updated methods. In my experience, there are often discounts or scholarships available.

      I can appreciate the effort to save money but PLEASE remember, this is someone else’s livelihood you’re discussing. Not to mention the investment a (qualified) teacher has made in their own many years of practice, lessons, and higher education. Whatever bartering or discounts you try to pursue, please remember to be respectful. Yes, unfortunately, piano instruction is available on You Tube, but that is one of the more offensive alternatives to a real lesson.

      • Andrea and Shannon–YES, YES, YES!!!!

        • Sandy Ross says:

          Andrea and Shannon,
          I could not agree more! My nephew is having to start piano completely over because of terrible habits he picked up from an inexpensive teacher. It has been very discouraging for him. My kids have played the piano for years, and the teacher makes all the difference in the skills my kids have developed. My kid’s teacher is actually fairly inexpensive, but graduated from a music conservatory. Because of her outstanding teaching, my oldest son was accepted this past fall to a piano performance program at a college that only took 15% of the kids that auditioned. I did not have any aspirations of my son making piano a career , but because he had such a solid piano foundation, it was a possibility for him when he decided that was the road he wanted to choose. My other children will probably not ever pursue music in college, but they are able to serve others with their piano skills–at church, at retirements homes, performing, and accompanying. For our family, it has been worth paying a little more. I also love the trading idea. I have a friend whose son does yardwork in exchange for his piano lessons.

      • Malissa says:

        Another piano teacher here saying “Thank you”.

        Many highly qualified piano teachers are moms trying to stay home with their children too! They deserve to be paid the going rate in their community and aren’t trying to rip anyone off.

      • Kimberly S. says:

        Yes, you do get what you pay for…but cheaper isn’t always a terrible thing. I am a beginner teacher, as I just started teaching regularly last Summer. I only have a small handful of students and I know I am not the best teacher around. BUT I am charging a very low rate while gaining some teaching experience and, if I may say do myself, my students have progressed beautifully in the past eight months! No, they are not getting quite as solid a foundation in music theory, because that is not my strong point. But their moms knew that. At $6/lesson they still have progressed from basically knowing nothing to being able to read and play advanced beginner music…and, most importantly, they now know that they love to play the piano!

    • Laura W says:

      I’m glad to see another music educator has weighed in!!! I just about flipped when I saw the YouTube suggestion. I would like for those of you seeking out lessons to keep in mind that music, like other fine arts, has “basic” skills that can be taught via video, however, like all arts, if it is to be a skill, there MUST be the presence of a consistent teacher/master. A non-music example would be my photography vs. my friend who has a degree in photography from a well-respected art school. We both took pictures of some gourmet cupcakes I had made. Same light, same set up. Hers were well-above mine in composition and quality.

      There are people who have a God-given talent for music and can play notes and songs on any instrument rather quickly. However, the techniques for preventing injury (carpal tunnel, anyone?) and being artistic are also conveyed in lessons. I understand not wanting to make a huge investment in lessons or an instrument before you know if your child will stay with it. But as stated above, you get what you pay for.

      • Yes to everything here. I think those of us that are music teachers have probably had to deal with transfer students that have developed poor habits/injuries/etc.

        The other thing to consider is that parents and students tend to value what they pay for. I have seen this over and over again. When parents are paying, they don’t just “not show up” to lessons, or fail to make their kids practice. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but this is a general trend I have experienced.

      • Kimberly S. says:

        My mom taught herself, then taught me the basics, then I took one year of lessons with a good teacher…and taught myself the rest. I’m not a pro, but I can play the piano. Lessons are nice, but if someone doesn’t have money and can learn something from a YouTube video…then, by golly, learn away!

  • Mandy W. says:

    Great article! I would also add that you might be able to “trade” with a music teacher. One of my friends through church teaches voice lessons, and sometimes will trade voice lessons for babysitting with a few of her students.

  • When our children were 4 and 6 years old we purchased a self teaching piano program called Pianimals for $60. My husband found it online and researched it. My husband is a former guitar teacher and he and the children are all naturally musical. It may be because of their natural ability that this program worked out so well for us. It took the kids about 2-3 years to get through the program. As they got older and had established good practice habits we invested in lessons. I always worried that without a teacher they would develop bad technique, but once they started lessons we found out this wasn’t a problem. Now, 12 years later, they are still involved in music, both vocal and instrumental.

  • Diana says:

    Also, consider whether or not music lessons could substitute for an activity you’re already paying for. As a piano teacher, I hated to see kids who were too busy with gymnastics and Lego to put in the practice time needed. (If the parents want to pay me for a 30 minute guided practice session, I guess that’s their choice, but it’s certainly not an effective way to learn music!) So don’t just add music lessons on, even if you find an easy way to pay for it–make sure you’re going to follow through with the practicing! 🙂 And maybe if your child wants to try music instead of gymnastics, you’d be able to put that money toward a wonderful teacher.

  • Deb says:

    One of my friends would clean house for her daughter’s piano teacher while they were having the lesson. She would just do anything she needed done during that time, which worked out well for both of them. 😉

  • Diana says:

    I teach private voice lessons and I have given voice lessons for housecleaning services, babysitting and piano lessons (actually, I gave voice lessons to her daughter and she -a master piano player- gave me piano lessons). It’s worth asking about! I also gave a limited number of scholarships to really dedicated students who couldn’t afford lessons. Most music teachers will most likely have something like that available and will try to work with you. We love music and we want to share it, but we have to make a living too. But offer us something we need and we will probably find time for your kids! 🙂 Just be creative!

  • Gina says:

    Check with a local college or university that offers a music program. Students are always looking to earn money. We started with my sons’ violin teacher when she was a music education student. She has since graduated and gotten a job… luckily she has agreed to keep teaching the boys!

  • Erica H says:

    My daughter’s elementary school offers music lessons for free for 4-5th grades. We pay the cost of the instrument rental ($20/month) and she gets 3 lessons before school each week.

  • jess says:

    We live in a college town. As part of the colleges music program they have a “music prep school” for the university students to teach youth. The quality is amazing as well as the cost of the program and they also offer scholarships. It may be worth it to see if something like this is available in your town.

  • Monica says:

    This all depends on what you are expecting your child to gain from lessons. Having taught piano for over 30 years, I can say that there is so much more than the cost per lesson involved. If you want your child to know just a bit about music, anyone off the street will do and they may or may not be great at teaching. If you want a concert pianist, you will need to pay and put much time into practicing and music opportunities. I would get the best teacher you can afford. Ask a good music student who they take from.

    The NMTA offers a program called MusicLink for low income students in which music teachers can offer lessons for less. This also includes offers for discounted music, testing, and music camps.

    May I suggest working to pay your teacher well, for most put in work more than the 30 minute lesson. Do all that your teacher suggests, especially practicing. Consider learning along with your child….I have a teacher friend that requires the parent in the lesson until they get their driver’s license to help make the most that they are paying for.

    I could write much more on getting the most out of lessons, which may be worth much more than your thoughts of cost per lesson.

    My best to you in finding an answer!

  • Shannon says:

    This is an interesting list for ideas. As a professional musician who has taught lessons for group, private, outreach programs, and at universities, my word of caution is that you do indeed pay for quality. Yes, lessons are expensive because some teachers are more qualified than others to teach. Someone suggested local universities with music programs as an outlet for lessons and I believe this is the best frugal idea. The student teachers at universities are energetic, willing to try new things, and generally well informed with updated methods. In my experience, there are often discounts or scholarships available.

    I can appreciate the effort to save money but PLEASE remember, this is someone else’s livelihood you’re discussing. Not to mention the investment a (qualified) teacher has made in their own many years of practice, lessons, and higher education. Whatever bartering or discounts you try to pursue, please remember to be respectful. Yes, unfortunately, piano instruction is available on You Tube, but that is one of the more offensive alternatives to a real lesson.

  • Emily says:

    I’d love to start giving lessons. I was given the piano from the church I grew up in (a tiny, tiny United Methodist church) when they consolidated with another UMC in the area. Maybe it’s time I do! 🙂 Thanks for the push, and this was a wonderful guest post! 🙂

    • Wow, Emily, thanks so much for the encouragement! It really means a lot. And you can do it, girl! Where there’s a will! 🙂

    • Betsy says:

      If you are a low-income family (qualifying for free lunch programs), then check out MusicLinkFoundation.org. This foundation links students in all states to teachers willing to teach on scholarship…excellent teachers, I might add. There is sometimes help in acquiring instruments as well. There are benefits for teachers to be a MusicLink teacher as well; I’m just working getting into the program myself!

      Otherwise, contact a respected teacher and talk with them honestly about your financial constraints to see if you can work out some scholarship agreement. That said, you best have real financial need, not just looking for cheap lessons. We’re professional educators that have invested a great deal to build a successful studio; take that into consideration when approaching a potential teacher and you will have better success building a good relationship.

  • Krysten says:

    Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower rate if you have a child who seems musically inclined, but you honestly can’t afford lessons. I’m a piano teacher, and if a parent lets me know up front that they can’t afford my rate, I will often give them a reduction. I’ve come to learn the difference between someone who just wants to “make a deal” (I’m sorry, but you don’t walk into your doctor’s office and strike a deal with him about payment. I’m a professional, too. You don’t just get to pick your own rate.), and someone who is honestly asking for help because they can’t afford lessons.
    I also trade services with one family from my church. They babysit my 3-yr-old one morning a week while I teach lessons at a school, and I give them free lessons for one of their children (they have 3 in lessons).

  • Kimberly says:

    My daughter is in a group piano class. Her teacher has some little ones that need to be cared for while she teaches. I care for the toddlers/babies and part of the lesson cost is covered. Plus, by staying there, I’m not using the gas to come home and go right back. Win win.

  • Susan says:

    Ditto the recommendation to seek out local high school or college music students for instruction.

    I’m so fortunate that our school district has a wonderful music program. My daughter started playing viola in 4th grade. She’s now in her 4th year and plays quite well. The individual schools have orchestra, and there is also a district-wide program that is phenomenal, and it is all free. She also takes private lessons from a qualified instructor whom she adores, which she has certainly benefitted from. But even without private lessons, she’s still be doing well with instruction through the schools and her own dedication.

    She also takes piano lessons at school, again for free. It is a group class, but the kids are on different levels and move at their own pace. In class they use keyboards with headphones so that all can play at the same time, but she also practices on our piano at home so she is learning to play a “real” piano and not just an electronic keyboard. Private lessons may be “better,” but this is a great free resource for us. She is learning a lot and has improved greatly since starting piano at school just last fall.

    So, I wouldnt’ necessarily de-value group lessons over private. If the program is good and the instructor establishes a good relationship with your child, then it can be a wonderful experience for them. Another plus for group lessons is that they have to perform in front the class, but without the pressure of formal recitals. Learning how to handle the pressure of performing is an important music-related skill.

    As for you tube, my daughter and her friends like to find you-tube tutorials for popular songs. My DD is one who can play a song a few times and memorize it, so she has lots of fun with it. But I agree with other commenters that it would not substitute for real music lessons.

    • Awesome!! Another viola player!! (We’re few and far between.) Cool examples, thanks!

    • I learned to play the flute in junior high band class. I played throughout junior high and high school. I never had private lessons, but many in my classes did. I wasn’t first chair, or even fourth, but I had a lot of fun and enjoyed competing in marching band.

      Those who had private lessons were much better than I was.

      However, I had music instruction. My parents could not have afforded more; they bought a house in 1980 when interest rates were 17%. It took my dad 3 weeks of working 6 days a week to make the mortgage each month.

      My parents longed to have me learn piano. They couldn’t afford it. Now they pay for lessons for 2 of my daughters.

      I’m grateful for the in-school group lessons that I had in Junior High and High School.

  • Stephanie says:

    We found a great self teaching set of piano books/cds for our children to learn from (davidsonmusic.com). It might not be as quick or good as paid lessons, but it is what we are able to do. We aren’t expecting them to become concert pianist, just want them to learn mostly for the ability to play at church and such.

  • I am a private music teacher, and these are excellent strategies! Another option would be to ask the teacher if your child can take bi-monthly lessons instead of weekly, or offer to barter a skill that YOU have in exchange for lessons. Some teachers will be more accepting of this than others, but I would LOVE it if someone would teach my oldest daughter horseback riding lessons in exchange for me teaching their daughter harp lessons. Do you babysit? Clean house? Prepare taxes? Own a dry cleaning company? I’m a super busy mom, and my time is worth money as well. Save me time, and I’m happy to teach your kiddo! 🙂

  • Ami says:

    Ask around and don’t give up! When I first looked for lessons, I found someone for $100/month/kid who did lessons about a half-hour from my house. I shelfed the idea and kept my eyes and ears open.

    By word of mouth, I found a great teacher who comes to my house. She does a half-hour lesson with each of my children and the total cost is $15/week. AND SHE COMES TO MY HOUSE!!!

    I think it helps us that we homeschool and can do daytime lessons.

  • Lynn says:

    My daughter is a senior in high school. She has been teaching piano lessons for two years. She has beginning students and it has helped her a lot to learn to be the teacher and the parents of the students benefit as well. They get lessons much cheaper because she doesn’t have the experience like a lot of teachers have. So, a brand new teacher may be more affordable for students just starting out.

  • Mei-Lyn says:

    Schools are also a great place to learn. My middle school offered choir, band, or orchestra. Buying (or renting) an instrument can be a little steep, but it’s so much cheaper than paying for private lessons (though some do that in addition to school instruction). I’m so thankful that my parents allowed my brothers and I to play in band because it laid a solid foundation for music. Several people have mentioned that self-teaching/youtubing won’t teach music literacy or theory, and that’s true, but schools certainly will.

    If your local schools offer music programs, you might consider saving up for an instrument and waiting to take advantage of free, qualified training. And if you have multiple children, you can often use the same instrument for all of them. My brothers shared a trumpet and, even though they were both learning, their classes were at different times, so our band instructor didn’t mind at all.

  • Here’s some information that tells you how you can get free piano lessons online.
    http://www.savingyoudinero.com/2012/12/10/free-online-piano-lessons-giveaway-open-worldwide/

  • Kyle says:

    Also, you can contact your local high school and see if there is a responsible student who would be willing to teach your child. I teach high school and know many students who would be willing to give lessons cheap (or maybe even free, if you are willing to sign off on volunteer hours so the student can list it on his/her resume for college!).

  • Sarah says:

    I second the recommendation to check out group lessons. Not only is it alot cheaper, a good group music program trains your child’s ear and teaches them to play in an ensemble, both valuable musical skills that don’t often come with private lessons.

    I grew up attending a Harmony Road music school and now I teach there. I can’t speak highly enough of this program! It combines note reading, ear training, rhythm, chords, ensemble and regular piano skills in a group atmosphere where PARENTS ARE INVOLVED. You can get 2 for 1 lessons by attending with your child! The skills children learn here can be directly transfered to any other instrument.
    Look for a school near you: http://www.harmonyroadmusic.com/

    When looking for a teacher, do make sure your money is getting your child good teaching. Look for a teacher that has experience actully doing music in the community. Ask for a free trial lesson and don’t be afraid to take a couple trial lessons from different teachers. A big part of getting your child to stick with music is finding a teacher whose personality and teaching style matches your child. Don’t settle for a cheap teacher if your child doesn’t learn well from his/her teaching style.

  • amanda says:

    I would second the ideas on bartering. In the past I traded for new carpet in my bedroom in exchange for a couple months of piano lessons. It would also be a good idea to look for a high school student to teach your child if you are truly not able to afford a regular priced lesson. I began teaching myself at the age of 16 and charged $5/half-hour lesson. 🙂 I had four students who were all beginners until I moved away and went to college. If you have multiple children who would like to take I think it would be fine to ask the teacher for a small sibling discount. I am more than happy to give this myself.

    Growing up my family never had a lot of money but somehow they paid for almost 12 years of lessons! I wouldn’t be bashful to ask grandparents or other relatives to contribute. Words cannot even begin to express what those years of professional lessons mean to me now. I am an accomplished pianist and am able to regularly bless others at my church where I serve as the pianist. Music is something that you will have forever even when you can no longer play sports. 😉 I would think of it as an investment for your child. Oh and have them practice. It is silly to spend $15 a week for a lesson when your child isn’t practicing. 🙂

  • Aimee says:

    In exchange for piano lessons for my sister and I, my mum cleaned the house and prepared a meal for our teacher and her family!
    It is my biggest regret in life that I was so ungrateful and didn’t practice willingly/joyfully.
    For 8 years of cleaning and cooking I should be MUCH more proficient!

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