Being an independent music teacher is a dream job! Not only do we help students explore their creativity, but we also have the opportunity to create a music studio that we love! There are so many ways to structure your studio to suit your lifestyle, and deciding on the best music lesson format is one of the key pieces.
If you’re new to teaching music, want to try something new in your studio, or need to make a few changes to better fit your current circumstances, then take some time to explore these options and figure out what music lesson format will work for you.
This is the more traditional lesson format, where one student works with the teacher individually. This would have to be the most common lesson type, especially in private music studios. The length of lessons can vary according to age and ability, but are generally between 30 and 60 minutes long.
Benefits of Individual Lessons
- The student is the sole focus of the teacher’s attention
- This format is familiar to teachers, parents, and students
- Generally provides more time to work through material
Drawbacks of Individual Lessons
- Limited number of students per hour, and therefore a limited income
- Doesn’t offer a chance for connections between students
- Can be difficult to find time to include extra activities (like music apps, games, and creative activities such as composing)
Also known as Buddy Lessons, and scheduled so that two students have an overlapping time between their individual lessons. I’ve tried this in my studio with 40 minute lessons, where the first student has a 20 minute individual lesson, the second student arrives and they share the next 20 minutes, then the first student leaves and the second has their 20 minute individual lesson. Check out this post for more information.
Benefits of Partner Lessons
- Students still receive focused attention from the teacher (with no distractions) during the one-on-one portion of their lesson
- Social element helps build community
- Relatively simple to plan both individual and partner time
- Easy to keep two students on task (as opposed to a group!)
Drawbacks of Partner Lessons
- Not as much time to work with each student individually
- Can be harder to schedule
- Still limited number of students per hour (and also limited income)
Sometimes called 20/20/20 Lessons, three students attend the same lesson and rotate between three different stations every 20 minutes. Stations I include in my studio include: one-on-one time with the teacher, independent practice on the digital piano, and music theory lab. For more information check out this post on Getting Started with Rotating Lessons.
Benefits of Rotating Lessons
- Opportunity to teach more students in an hour (and earn more money!)
- Know that students have dedicated music theory and practice time each week
- More time during lessons to fit in extra independent activities (like music history, composing, and theory review)
- Variety keeps the lessons exciting
- Opportunity for group work
Drawbacks of Rotating Lessons
- More distractions (for students and teachers)
- Can be harder to keep students on task
- Not suitable for younger students
- May require more lesson planning
The size of music group lessons can vary greatly depending on age, instrument, and teacher preference. A small group of three to four students is a nice way to ease into teaching group lessons, although some teachers may be confident with a group five (or more!) times the size.
Benefits of Group Lessons
- More students, and potentially more income
- Social aspect to lessons
- Cover material in one go (rather than teaching exactly the same activities in multiple individual lessons each week)
- A cheaper price per student can make music lessons accessible to more families
Drawbacks of Group Lessons
- Can be harder to keep students on task
- Students may progress at different stages
- Less chance for teachers to connect individually with students
- Often requires more energy from the teacher
So Which Format To Pick?
Offer individual lessons in your studio if you:
- Have students working towards exams or competitions
- Are happy to continue with a tried and true lesson format
- Have adult students or older students who prefer working one-on-one
- Have younger students who need more support and attention
You may like to try partner lessons if you:
- Want to offer a social aspect to lessons
- Have younger students who will like the variety in lesson format
- Would like to try a new lesson format, but don’t want anything too different!
- Want to offer a point of difference in your studio
You may want to give rotating lessons a go if you:
- Have older students who are mostly learning for fun
- Want to teach more students and increase your income
- Enjoy lessons that are more active and loud
- Are happy to put in the time to plan different aspects of lessons
- Feel comfortable managing three students at once
Group lessons can work well if you:
- Want to teach more students (and earn more money!)
- Have preschool students who aren’t ready for individual lessons
- Have a few students working at the same level on similar material
- Would like to offer a more social music lesson
- Are confident managing a group of students and keeping them engaged
- Have (or are happy to develop) a curriculum suitable for groups
Remember, there’s nothing stopping you from offering some (or all!) of these lesson formats in your music studio.
One option is for students to start with group lessons, then transfer to rotating lessons if they’re learning for fun, or individual lessons if they’re more serious about their music education. Another option is to provide different lesson formats to students of certain ages or stages.
Ultimately it’s up to you! Try a few different variations and experiment with the best music lesson format for you and your studio.
…there are no constraints.
It’s your studio.
You decide what happens.
– Philip Johnston, The Dynamic Studio