Robert Estrin - piano expert
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Are 30 Minute Music Lessons OK?

Find an answer to a common question in the music teaching world.

Released on March 5, 2014

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Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin here, and with our wonderful show for you -- our thirty minute music lessons, okay? Well, this is a great subject, one that's very important for you. So, I'm going to cover it for you a bit. Now, if you have children, let's say, a lot of people think, oh boy, longer than 30 minutes? Can my child sit still that long? And now, here's the answer to that. If your child can't sit for 30 minutes under the supervision of a teacher, how could they possibly be expected to practice any matter of time at all on their own? That's one issue.

The other question is, oh boy, longer than 30 minutes could be really intense. And you know what? It's exactly the opposite. Why is that? Well, as a teacher, a student may run into a certain snag, an issue. Maybe it's rhythm, or some hand position, or some other problem that takes some time to resolve. And before you know it, the half hour is done and you're frantically trying to get everything done in the lesson, and actually the lesson become more intense. Having at least a 45 minute or an hour lesson is so much better, because you have time to explore different aspects. It's not just a matter of correcting wrong notes, and the signing of material. You want to go through review pieces, technique, music theory, there are countless things.

Not only that, but it's important to develop a rapport with students, to understand their lives. After all, the most important part of the music lesson is not the time that you are with the student. That's right. It's the time they spend during the week. Your job as a teacher is to show the student what to do on a daily basis to be productive at home. If you could achieve that, the student will progress exponentially faster.

Now, there are some exceptions to this -- very young children. If you're starting a child at four or five years old, certainly more than 30 minutes is going to be tough. Even in this type of situation, you would be best off having two 30 minute lessons a week. In a perfect world, you'd have 20 minute lessons every day with a teacher, if you could. In fact, with very young children, it's really necessary to have the involvement of a parent on a daily basis, working with the child, because you can't expect a very young child to work independently. But, once the children are of school age, they're doing homework and they have a certain amount of self-reliance, they certainly can handle a lesson longer than 30 minutes, and you'd be surprised at how much better the progress is.

So, why are 30 minute lessons so popular? It's a simple matter of economics. People look at how much they're spending per week. It's much easier to sell a $25 lesson than a $50 lesson, after all. So, if you're looking for a top notch teacher, you'll find that most of the high quality teachers do teach, or at least offer, longer lessons than 30 minutes. So, consider this when you're studying music, or you're arranging music lessons for a member of your family, 30 minute lessons, most often times are a compromise.

Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at and
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Darwin Sarnoff, A.K.A. Viola-Theodor on August 10, 2016 @6:27 am PST
Dear Robert, I viewed your presentation on 30 minute lessons with a great deal of interest. I have two friends who were musicians in major symphony orchestras whose teacher used a different criterion for a lesson. The lessons were defined as accomplishing a task. Ray and Herb were taught until they accomplished a particular task. They were then sent home to practice that task.
While in Grad school I took a course in industrial education in which workers who had to operate machinery are taught until they learned the task, rather than for a specific period of time. It is my opiniion that the lesson should focus on the task, rather than the clock.
Clearly this is revolutionary and inefficient. On the other hand, it gives the student his / her parents their money's worth.
Thank you for reading my message.
Darwin Sarnoff, A.K.A. Viola-Theodor
Robert Estrin - host, on August 10, 2016 @12:42 pm PST
You bring up an excellent point. I taught private music lessons for many years. It was often very frustrating having some students who had hardly practiced, sometimes for several weeks - yet having to fill up the lesson time. Then others who had prepared extensively for lessons having to fit the lesson in the set amount of time. So, eventually I adopted a system more like how doctor's offices use in which each patient gets the amount of time they need. This was only possible when I reduced my teaching load so I could accommodate only a number of serious students. They would arrange their schedules to allow for the flexibility to teach each student for the amount of time they needed. This is how music instruction would work in a perfect world!
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on March 13, 2014 @2:09 pm PST
You are so right Robert- a great teacher teaches more than just the current lesson-he or she has the ability to include the student in the whole world of music and all the beauty that it offers.
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on March 12, 2014 @3:07 pm PST
As I entered my teens and working, I scheduled violin lessons at the end of the day so my teacher and I could indulge in our favourite piece for a while- the Bach D minor Double violin concerto. Those times were the best, because we thought of this as a reward for a hard-working lesson.
Robert - host, on March 12, 2014 @4:37 pm PST
I was fortunate growing up to study with my father Morton Estrin who is a great teacher and had a phenomenal career performing the piano and has a great recording legacy. I also studied the French horn and was lucky to have a teacher who would spend the afternoon at my home each week exploring literature, listening to recordings and playing duets. Hugh Cowden had played in the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony and provided great inspiration for my musical development.
Fulvia Bowerman * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @11:22 am PST
If the child is truly interested in music, time has no relevance. Mother was a pianist, and I would spend hours standing by the piano listening to her practice! I finally got my first lessons at age 2 and 4 months! She had to say when it was enough for the day, because I would not quit! In fact, I can still remember that she would lock the piano so that I would not sneak in that room later in the day, climb on the stool and reopen it!
Rebeca Moulds * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @6:48 am PST
HI Robert. My Shockwave Flash player isn't working so I couldn't watch your video. I started piano lessons at age 6 and managed to sit through 30-minute lessons with no problem. In fact,as I got older, I could have sat through one hour lessons. I loved my teacher; she was truly amazing. I never missed a lesson in eight years, and didn't have a break for summer either.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 5, 2014 @8:07 am PST
Hi Rebeca, I am sorry you couldn't see the video. You can try to install Flash again on your browser:

Please, let me know if you need any further help.
josh r. on March 5, 2014 @6:34 am PST
very helpful u spend a hour praticing with parent for at least a hour so this video was very helpful
josh r. on March 5, 2014 @6:35 am PST
i mean i spend a hour on my clarinet and oboe
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