Most of our beginner and very young students start out with short lessons that last just 30 minutes. Why? Because it’s the perfect fit for younger kids with shorter attention spans, and when students start out, they aren’t working on the kind of in-depth material that requires more time each week. Most teachers and parents instinctively feel that 30 minutes is just the right amount of time to start out with.
Eventually, however, as the student gets a little older and reaches a certain point in their development as a musician, they’ll need a full 45-minute or hour long lesson. The question is, how do you know if it’s time for, well, more time? It can be hard to know when to move your student up to a full lesson time. Here are 4 signs that it’s probably time to graduate from the half hour lesson:
1. Your child is 8 years old or older. Right around 7 or 8, students typically start exhibiting greater independence (for example, they start showing the ability to practice on their own without constant reminders from you), and they start developing a much more sophisticated understanding of music and this is a moment when their abilities can really start to take off with the right guidance. (Check out our blog about 7 & 8 year-old students here, to learn more about this).
2. Your student has reached the point where they are using more than just a single lesson book. Maybe your teacher is also using a theory workbook, a technique book, or additional sheet music with the student. Getting the most out of all of these materials can require more time each week! Notice if the teacher is regularly unable to get to everything they are working on with the student in the space of their weekly lesson.
3. Your student wants more! They are interested in more than one genre of music, more than one instrument, or maybe they’re really into music theory and history and it seems they just can’t get enough. This child is a very special type of motivated learner who will benefit greatly from the extra time with their teacher each week, especially if you and/or the student are good at communicating all the things they want to explore.
4. Your teacher is telling you that the student needs more time. Teachers typically get to know their students needs, learning style and development very well. If your teacher has expressed to you that they feel they need more time each week with the student, they’re almost certainly right! A quickly developing student can stall out if they aren’t getting enough time and material from their teacher, and the teacher can usually sense when this happening or about to happen. So, if your teacher says it’s time for more time, take it under serious consideration.
As we often say, each child is unique, and these guidelines may or may not fit yours. Some kids are ready for a longer lesson at a younger age, and for others, it may take a little extra time for them to be ready. If you’re still not sure whether your child is ready to graduate from the 30-minute lesson, ask your teacher! He or she can tell you for sure whether it’s time for your student to move up in the world to a full lesson time.
Sara R. Longwell, M.M.Ed, MT-BC
Community Relations Manager & Music Therapy Specialist