Thinking about having your kids start music lessons?
I studied piano and violin for a total of some 13 years (formal lessons). Reflecting on my experience, here are some ideas for saving money on your kid’s (or your) music lessons.
1. Look for used music books.
You want to make sure that they’re not too marked up, because you and your teacher may want to write your own notes in there–due dates, difficult passages, and the like. But used music books are a real boon. If you’re lucky, someone might also lend you theirs–say if they want to keep them for younger children’s lessons but don’t need them right now.
2. Pass music books from kid to kid.
Since my sister and I each took 2 years of piano with the same woman (though something like 1 year apart? 2?), she was able to reuse all my books. Very handy. After that, we started studying different instruments and needed different books.
3. Look for student teachers.
My worst (first) violin teacher was a true professional. She was reasonably well known, experienced, in a symphony, and completely wrong for me. I always felt worthless in my lessons and was completely unmotivated to practice.
My next violin teacher was a sophomore in college. She was studying entomology, not music, but she was a great teacher. She was always very encouraging and got me excited about music. Where I hadn’t finished a single book in my 2 years with the first teacher, I finished 3 or 4 with her.
After she graduated and left, I had another lovely student, then two more expensive and excellent teachers along with a decent chap, but Rebekah will always be my favorite. Nothing about a teacher’s experience says that they’ll be right for your kid. So if you can find a less expensive college student they work well with, go for it!
4. Buy their instrument, don’t rent.
Consider very seriously buying the child their own instrument, depending on pricing and growth. I’ll give an example.
Once I reached a “full” size violin, my parents bought me my own for something around $500 (less?). Here’s the thing–that was cheaper than renting. Renting was $50/month coming to $600 for one year.
“Baby” then lasted me for another 4 years or so until I decided to buy my own.
Who knows, depending on rental prices it might not have been a bad idea to buy me one when I was at a half or 3/4 size. That would have depended on how well they thought they could resell it and what they were renting the other for. While renting may be the best option with homeowning, renting an instrument is like leasing a car. You only want to do it when you absolutely have to.
If you don’t have the money up front, some stores will give you financing. (I can’t believe I’m recommending financing.) Even with interest, it may be cheaper than renting…especially if your child is using a full size and plans to play the instrument for at least two more years.
5. But be careful when you buy frugally for your kid’s instrument.
I came to one of my lessons with the second student-teacher (who was also my friend, we’d had some highschool language classes together) to find her really annoyed. Apparently the previous lesson hadn’t gone very well. The mom had come in very excited because she’d found new strings for her daughter’s violin. At the flea market.
I’m sure people at the flea market do sell strings that they bought and just didn’t need. But these were pieces of wire–not calibrated the way strings need to be. It just…it didn’t work. And she had been having a hard time convincing the mom that this wasn’t actually a bargain at all.
Instruments themselves at flea markets might be just fine. But consider asking your child’s teacher to come along if you don’t know much about them. Or ask the seller to hold it for you until the teacher can check it out.
6. And always consider school instruments.
Maybe you’re homeschooled or your school doesn’t offer instruments. I was the former, so this wasn’t an issue. But a lot of people learn to play on school instruments. Disadvantages are that you may not be able to keep them for the summer (probably won’t), won’t be able to keep them if the child changes schools, and you may not be able to get one if they don’t have enough.
But on the plus side they might also be free. Definitely a good alternative to renting one or buying one when your child is using a smaller instrument and/or not positive they’ll stick with it.
I have a lot of great memories of my violin. And I still have my violin, so I can make many more. If you want the same for your kid–I hope you’ll find a way to do it within your budget.
And maybe don’t push them towards the violin…that’s one of the more expensive ones. 😉
photo by frozenchipmunk