A Little Mistake That Could Cost You Hundreds Each Year

As piano teachers our priorities usually lie in making the time we spend with our students in lesson each week as enjoyable and as valuable as we possibly can. We plan lessons, we collect resources, we come up with innovative ways to teach, and we encourage, reward and  motivate.

But there are an additional 167.5 hours of the week.


Make the out-of-studio hours count

When taking piano lessons, most of the learning and progress actually happens on your students’ home turf.  Sure, you give them valuable direction and the tools they need to make it happen… but those 167.5 hours are when the real nuts and bolts of learning to play the piano takes place.

But what happens when they don’t practice?

Practice + Progress = Retention

Have you done the math lately?  For every student you don’t retain year to year you lose at least $600 in yearly income (for a teacher who typically makes $60 per student per month).  Lose two or three students… well you see where I’m coming from.

Take a look at the most common reasons parents give you for discontinuing lessons… “We just can’t afford it anymore if she’s not going to be practicing”… “He just seems to have lost interest”… “She’s going to focus more on her ballet”… “We fight all the time about sitting at the piano at home”… “He’s really serious about soccer and we have to let something go”… the list goes on.  And it all comes down to practice at home.

Happy Kids = Happy Parents = Thank Goodness!

The excuses listed above are one reason why a huge portion of my out-of-teaching time is devoted to inspiring my students to practice.  I’ve learned that as long as my students are excited about spending time on the piano at home they will progress.  If they are progressing they feel successful.  If they feel successful they are happy.  If they are happy, so are Mom and Dad… and then they remain invested in piano lessons for the long-term.

The easy-to-make mistake of focusing only on what happens during your teaching time is easily remedied.  You’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money finding your piano students – don’t risk losing them!

Teachers are raving about the difference “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice” has made to their students’ motivation, enjoyment and practice habits.  In fact, they go out of their way to email us to say thank you!  We’ve done all the hard work for you.  Don’t forget about those 167.5 hours; because if your student is spending those hours pumped about the piano you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

19 Responses to A Little Mistake That Could Cost You Hundreds Each Year

  1. says

    When a student begins lessons, I always meet with the student and parents first. As part of the meeting, I warn the parents that there will be times when the student won’t want to practice. I’ve been playing for 35 years, and I work as a professional accompanist, and I still have plenty of days when I really don’t want to practice at all. So, we discuss causes and remedies for this. With the student who is being signed up for lessons because the parent this music study is an important part of their education, or because the parent sees a gift in them that should be developed, I tell them to simply make it non-negotiable. They don’t get a choice with doing math homework or brushing their teeth. Right? So, if it’s really important that they study music, they shouldn’t get a choice whether, or not, to practice. My teenage daughters play french horn and percussion. They are extremely talented. Their lessons are not optional. Their practice time is not optional. The only thing that is negotiable is who pays for the lessons. They don’t get to quit lessons when they are consistently neglecting practice time. They simply have to pay for those lessons themselves. (No, I don’t teach them myself. I only teach piano.)

    That being said, I definitely agree with you that it’s part of my job, as the piano teacher, to provide proper preparation, etc. so that their practice time at home will be successful. And even come up with tools, like your book, that will make it enjoyable.

  2. says

    60 dollars per student a month ? Seems pretty low. I have nearly zero attrition rate. But I charge 160 a month for 45-min lessons. (115 for 30 min lessons, but those are only for kids K-2nd gr.)

    • says

      Tuition fees can vary widely depending on location, experience, education, and other factors. The rate in the South, for example, will be less than in California or New York because of the cost of living in those areas. Also, an independent teacher can charge more than she would receive in a music store or academy which takes a cut. A conservatory teacher will charge more than a college student will.

      • Crystal C says

        I’m with Julie…I cannot imagine anyone teaching for $60 a month. I’m at $150/45 minutes and $125/30 minutes and I do live in the South. The higher charge for 30 minutes is because I discourage them and have very few of those. Priced this way, people will usually opt for the 45 minute lesson because they are getting more for their money.

        • says

          I’m sure many can’t imagine teaching for $150 for 45 minutes (a dream for me!). This means that home practice is even that much more important… significant losses occur if you lose just one student! Thanks for commenting and sharing your perspective!

      • says

        This is very true Diane – the $60 was used as a base point to illustrate the potential losses of even just one student due to lack of home practice (at a “base point” tuition). Thanks for commenting!

  3. Berry O'Rourke says

    Music lessons should be affordable. I charge a reasonable rate and have lots of students. Music is so beneficial, it should be accessible and not the preserve of the rich.

    • Natascia says

      Agreed. I live in a somewhat-struggling Michigan town so I keep prices low, even though I know I’m “worth more.” I’d rather have 15 students that can pay what I charge than only 2 or 3 that could pay more.

      • Berry O'Rourke says

        I’m not sure I am “worth more” than the average hourly rate of a teacher, firefighter, nurse etc – it’s a nice privilege to learn the piano but nothing exactly depends on it. It’s a balance between not pricing out a normal person who has multiple demands on their salary and not wanting to appear cheap, bad quality, unskilled etc as I am none of those. I charge £17.50 / 45 mins and £15/ 30 mins. I give good quality tuition with ear training and theory built in to each aspect of the lesson and some time to feed back to parents too. My students ages range from 6 years to 86 years and they all seem to get a lot of pleasure from learning, as I do from teaching.

    • Amy says

      I completely agree! I charge less than most teachers in my area for piano. I also teach beginning music for 4-6 year old’s and a children’s choir, both of which I charge only $15/month for. I don’t charge such a small amount because I don’t take it seriously, or because I don’t feel I am qualified enough to charge more (both of which are far from true) but because I feel that music is such an invaluable asset for life that I want to make it accessible and available to anyone who would like to participate.

    • Olive says

      I agree that lessons should be affordable, but teachers should make a decent wage commensurate with their education/experience, etc. Things to consider: Self-employed people lose a bigger chunk of their gross to taxes, so it’s not as much as it sounds. I have a master’s degree and believe that my time has value as a professional. Lastly, I believe that doctors and dentists provide an invaluable asset for life, and they charge like they believe it, too.

  4. Val says

    I’m always interested in new ways to motivate kids to practice consistently at home. Here are my top 3…maybe others could share their top 3?

    1) the Prize Box! I keep a small box of trinkets and toys for the kids to choose from if their parents initial their practice calendar (which I provide each month using a simple method) but they have to have 5 initialed days to get their prize. Target has a dollar section where I find packages of at least 4 items so my investment runs about a quarter per prize and the kids love the variety of surprises each week. Bouncy balls are the boys’ favorite and mechanical pencils are the girls’!

    2) the Fun Songs! My students know they have to be prepared to play their assigned scales, exercises, & repertoire before we work on songs they choose for fun. Andrea’s Book of the Month Club has provided them with some great variety!

    3) Parents’ Sit In…when I find a child is coming in unprepared week after week I will require Parents to sit in on lessons for a month. Several parents already do this but their children typically aren’t the ones struggling to practice. I’ve seen an amazing turn around in kids who have parents sit in because they see their parents engaging in the learning process which motivates them to practice more.

  5. Arlene Steffen says

    Students practice when they feel empowered to practice. A good portion of lesson time needs to be spent preparing the student for practice so that when they go home, they know exactly what to practice and how to practice. When they are successful in this, they are motivated because they sound good.


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