What are you paying for music lessons?

What are you paying for music lessons?


norman lebrecht

April 02, 2010

It has been a while since I last booked a teacher but the rates don’t seem to have risen much in recent years.

A survey of 1,100 instrumental and singing members of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) shows rates ranging across Britain from £24 ($35) an hour to £34 ($50). The average rate is £29.

Comparisons are always invidious, but it does strike me that music teachers are seriously underpaid. A science tutor can claim at least fifty percent more, and any kind of therapist, no matter how specious, can expect twice as much.

So, are we underpaying music teachers? And are things better in other countries? Your views, please…


  • Frances Wilson says:

    I pay £50/hour for piano lessons with my teacher who is a prof at Trinity, and an international concert pianist. Some people pull their eyes and wring their hands at what they consider to be an exhorbitant fee for music lessons, but I feel I am paying for my teacher’s wealth of experience, and I always feel I am getting more than value for money when I see her.
    Currently, I am charge £25/hour for piano lessons which I feel is fair, given my experience and expertise. I could probably justify charging more, since I live in an affluent area of leafy suburbia, but I don’t want to put people off.
    What people forget is the amount of time spent in preparation for lessons, the “thinking time” for which we don’t get paid. Also, I think music suffers in this country from being regarded as a “hobby”; indeed, I often get told “oh you’re so lucky to be able to ‘use’ your hobby”. True, I am an amateur musician, but I have an entirely professional attitude to my teaching, and I certainly do not regard it as a hobby!
    I’m afraid I think music teachers probably are underpaid, especially when one considers the years of training and ongoing professional development we undertake.
    And for the purposes of comparison, I pay £40/half hour consultation with my osteopath!

  • Jenny says:

    private piano lesson or violin lesson is about 100rmb/hour in Shanghai, though Conservatory professors or professional orchetra musicians could amount to 200-300 rmb/hour.
    quite a luxury compare to other expenses in China…

  • I heartily agree with you! There seems to be little respect for music teachers in this country. In addition to paying music teachers (who should all be musicians who have ‘studied’ their art for many, many years in order to reach a level whereby they are able to perform and teach) far too little. People tend to overlook other factors in the music teacher’s work as well. i.e. Preparation for students’ external examinations, concerts, taking into account the students’ abilities and understanding, etc. In addition, students frequently ‘forget’ to attend lessons, or forget to bring their music or ‘forget’ to practise and expect the teacher to get them to play their chosen instrument without much input from themselves! Then, there is also the problem that very little can be achieved during a half-hour lesson, but many people feel that it is sufficient to pay lip-service to music lessons and refuse to allow their children (or themselves) a longer lesson as paying for an extra 15 minutes or so will ‘break the bank’. In other countries, such as Australia and South Africa (where I have taught music in the past) music teachers are treated with their deserved respect and paid a fairer amount of money, on a regular basis. I often taught pupils there twice a week, or more advanced pupils for at least an hour a week. The concept of amateurism, which is rife in the U.K. would appear to perpetuate the poor treatment and payment to the expert musician. How sad!

  • Gene says:

    My heart goes out to piano teachers in the US, at least those who aren’t lucky enough to teach at colleges and universities. To earn enough to live on and pay for medical insurance (being an independent teacher doesn’t provide benefits), they have to teach 40 or more students — an exhausting and demoralizing schedule. Those with conservatory degrees certainly deserve to charge more, but here there’s little quality control and there are plenty of mediocre teachers.

  • In Australia the average recommended minimum charge is about $60 per hour as set by most of the state Music Teacher Associations (approx £36. (N.B. these are non-government, non-profit associations). Usually, a member must hold a Music degree with both teaching and performance components and have 3 years teaching experience for full membership. This varies from state to state. Naturally there is considerable variation and many experienced teachers charge much higher rates. Different award rates might apply at Public & Private Schools as teachers are also paid superannuation by schools. In Australia, there is no government body that requires registration, basic standards of training or rates of pay for instrumental teachers, hence there are considerable anomalies for those who teach in schools or run private studios.
    Helen O’Brien

  • Probably about the same here in Ireland – the average would be €40 per lesson!

  • AVI says:

    I’m not convinced.
    In terms of the comparisons you cite:
    – can a science tutor, on average, really obtain 50% more? I would have thought it would be about the same, or less on average.
    – even if a science tutor can earn more, the perceived value is higher, as the resultant higher achievement / grades in a ‘solid’ subject such as one of the sciences can help lay the path to a successful, higher earning career, perhaps in science, perhaps engineering, medicine, etc.. By contrast, what does being good at playing the flute get you in purely financial terms?
    – a therapist has the perceived value of helping or aiding the cure of a specific problem. That’s worth paying for, whereas doubling the cost of learning scales on a trumpet probably isn’t.
    -You are also paying the therapist to do all the work for you, whereas not only do you pay a music tutor for their time, but you have to go away and spend a bunch of your own time practising…
    Should we, then, be comparing the earnings of music tutors with other musicians? That would seem a fairer comparison, but there’s then not much to talk about. It looks like music teachers are paid about the same or more than many rank-and-file orchestral musicians, and may have more free time, flexibility, and other benefits too.
    For example, average £29/hr, x 7(hours per day) x 5(days per week) x 30(weeks per school year) = £30,450.
    By comparison, salaried tutti players in UK orchestras outside London pay £24k – £35k for a full -time job.
    We could argue that we don’t think musicians as a whole are paid enough, but even this may not be true, and the obvious counter is that music is a luxury, not an essential.
    (see the last comment here:
    http://intermezzo.typepad.com/intermezzo/2010/02/how-much-do-orchestral-musicians-earn-part-ii.html )
    I suspect that many here, myself included, would wish to argue that music is more than just a luxury, but that’s how many of the public will view it.

  • RS says:

    I’m a professional musician working in London, and still I disagree with your statement that music instrumental teachers are underpaid. In fact I think an average of £29 per hour is a rather good rate. For someone who is on a 20k salary, the hourly rate would be lower than £10 per hour. So, 2-3 hours work per day already equal someone’s whole day worth of work. Shouldn’t complain.

  • Jonathan Escrit says:

    You mention a survey of ‘1,100 members … of the Incorporated Society of Musicians’, but there is some doubt as to whether it was any such thing. The invitation to participate (anonymously) in the survey appeared on the open public section of the ISM website (not the protected, members’, area) and was left there for several weeks. There is therefore no guarantee that the respondents were actually ISM members, or even musicians at all. In the words of that well-known humorous greetings card: ‘On the internet, nobody knows you are a dog’. In terms of data integrity, it was not so much a case of ‘GEIGE’ as ‘GIGO’.