Ideal Guitar Lesson Length | Hub Guitar

Ideal Guitar Lesson Length


Prospective new students often come to their first lesson with preconceived notions of how long their guitar lesson should be. There is a strong bias leading people to believe that more time equals more value. However, guitar lesson time does not continue to grow in value as more minutes are added.

The optimal amount of lesson time varies between different people. Those who are young, who are new to guitar, who have relatively limited practice time, or who have a limited attention span are most likely to benefit from shorter lessons. Those who have reached a mature age, who have been playing guitar for some time, who are prepared to invest many hours every week practicing… This group can benefit from more lesson time.

When a new prospective student calls asking for the price for a one hour lesson, one cannot help but confront this fallacy.

A 30-minute lesson may produce hours of “homework”

What the new student may not able to fully appreciate is the fact that guitar progress is primarily a function of how much time one is able to invest in practice. Each 15 minutes of guitar lesson time can easily generate hours of practice. That means that after a one-hour guitar lesson, you may need to practice for many hours at home in order to receive the full benefit of that lesson time.

If you take a 30 minute lesson, then you will have anywhere between 1 to 3 hours of practice material, on average. Even then you are likely to return the following week without having practiced adequately.

If you now ask your teacher to invest an additional 30 minutes each week in teaching you, instead of receiving the benefit of transmitting 30 more minutes of guitar knowledge to you, all you are really doing is asking for more homework than you can handle. Unless you are willing to practice an hour or more per day—and capable of following through on it. Most students simply are not this assiduous.

And if you’re already practicing for one hour per day, then you likely have enough autonomy that you do not want to or need to spend 100% of that time working on material your guitar teacher gave you!

Music education professionals are generally in agreement that the most important variable in your progress will be the amount of time you spend practicing on your own. Lesson time is indeed critical but not for the reasons you may think. It is important because lesson time is when you can get evaluated, receive feedback, and find out what it is that you need to do during your practice time.

If that is true, then isn’t 30 minutes per week too much?

No, because another factor is the consistency and frequency of lessons. Just as you cannot master the content of a lesson in a single practice session, you cannot expect to fully absorb any given lesson within one week. Your memory of the lesson will begin to fade. Seeing a teacher at regular, weekly intervals is the best way to ensure that you continue to make progress.

A rule of thumb

You can benefit from the same weekly lesson time that you are willing to put in as your daily practice time.

If you can practice 30 minutes or less per day, a weekly 30 minute lesson is perfect. If you practice 60 minutes per day or more, 60 minutes might be ideal.

What the Experts Say

We are fortunate to have some data from a survey collected by Teachers Talk, for the now-defunct Guitar Teacher Magazine. A survey of over 350 guitar teachers was published around 2007. Here are what the teachers had to say to the question, “How long are your standard lessons?”

30 minutes (76%)
60 minutes (37%)
45 minutes (18%)
Other (4%)
Don’t teach privately (2%)

A whopping 76% of teachers cited the 30-minute lesson as the standard lesson length.

Idea Lesson Time Lengths:

15 minute lessons

This may suit young children less than about eight years old. But teachers typically charge for a minimum of 30 minutes. Fortunately, if the primary caregiver or parent is in attendance at the lesson, the remainder of the lesson time can be used to review with the parent what was learned during the lesson so that the parents can help reinforce at home.

Children of this age can very rarely succeed in their music studies without substantial participation at home with the rest of the family and that means parental support, reinforcement of practice times, and the like. The most successful learners of this age group will likely have parents who also can help give real feedback about the music, and maybe play along as well.

25 minutes

This amount of time works for the majority of people. While it certainly sounds like a very limited amount of time, this is likely the amount of time you spent with your doctor at your last appointment. If this amount of time is sufficient for screening for serious diseases, then it ought to be sufficient for a weekly lesson with your music teacher. However, with time being so limited, there is none to waste. The lesson will have to follow a smooth and efficient plan in order to deliver the best results. So good teachers are always aware of the clock.

45 minutes

For adult learners who have significant experience in playing music, it begins to make sense to think about investing more than a half-hour for a lesson. 45 minutes allows the lesson to progress in a smooth pace with no feeling of rush. There is time to review the last week’s materials, time to introduce a new concept or two, and plenty of time to play along with your teacher. If you have been playing for several years, and consider yourself near or above the advanced level, then this configuration may make sense for you. It might also make sense if you have extra money to burn.

60 minutes or more

60 minutes is very similar to 45 minutes in terms of lesson format, except the pace is very comfortable and there is plenty of time to answer questions, review, rehash, practice, and the like. This lesson format is not recommended for any but the most serious students.

More than 60 minutes

Few students of any level would require such a high amount of time commitment. Except for marathon sessions or workshops, few lessons will run longer than an hour. And if they do, they will likely not be a weekly event.

A good instructor can evaluate your skills, give you exercises to put you on the right path, and give you a solid shift in the right direction—all within the space of 20 or 30 minutes per week.

The Business Reason

There’s another factor that pushes down on the optimal lesson length. If we have unlimited time available, perhaps everybody could make use of an hour weekly lesson. And perhaps everybody would be able to chat with their doctor on the phone anytime they wanted to, or spend an hour per day with a personal trainer. Or have access to any other expertise whenever they needed it. But by nature expertise is rare, and so it must be distributed carefully.

Most developed countries have just a few doctors per thousand people. There is not a lot of time to spend on each patient. And the same is true for guitar lessons. In order to make a decent living teaching guitar, teachers must maximize the number of students they work with. Many teachers feel that a workload of 30-50 students is alot, and some of the busiest teachers have 70 or more students to see each week. Most students do not have the means or desire to pay for a good guitar teacher at a fair hourly rate for one hour each week. For this reason, lessons are made more affordable and cost-effective by being offered in 30-minute sessions.

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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