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How Much Do Piano Lessons Cost?


Are you in the market for piano lessons and wondering what all the associated costs will be?

Without going into specific dollar amounts, as they can vary widely (and change with time), here is a list of expenses that typically come up while studying piano over the years.

(P.S. Don't get scared by this lengthy list---it represents incremental considerations through the years, not big expenditures every step of the way!) :-)

Before the Lessons Begin

Acquiring your instrument. Unless you have free (and regular) access to a piano not your own, your first expense will be to buy or rent your practice instrument.

There are many types of keyboard instruments. You are probably familiar with acoustic pianos---various sizes of "uprights" (verticals) and grands. But there are also digital pianos and keyboards of varying dimensions, touch-sensitivity (or the lack thereof), and other characteristics.

The type of instrument you purchase, whether it is used or new, and from whom you buy it---dealer or private party---may make quite a difference in the amount of your initial expenditure. Ask people you know who have a piano what their experiences have been like with their instruments.

If you have the option of renting a piano, ask any music dealer if there is a rent-to-buy choice available. Some of your rental payments may be applied to your purchase price if you decide to buy within a certain length of time.

Also, if you have one or more piano teachers in mind with whom you or a family member may study someday, asking those prospective teachers what, if any, instrument requirements or recommendations they have for their students would be helpful information before choosing your piano.

Getting your (acoustic) piano tuned. When you bring home an acoustic upright or a grand, it should be tuned soon afterward. Some piano dealers will offer a free tuning as part of the deal for buying (or perhaps renting) a piano from them.

When Lessons Commence

You're set with your instrument, and ready to begin lessons! What costs are there when first enrolling in lessons?

Tuition may be charged for the first partial or full month, quarter, semester, or whatever term your instructor sets up.

What is tuition, and how is it different from a per-lesson charge? Tuition is a consistent, recurring payment that not only covers teaching time with your student, but many other things:

  • lesson planning (individualized for each student)

  • administrative duties (record-keeping; studio communications)

  • professional development (continuing education; membership dues)

  • studio expenses (piano tuning; studio website fees)

  • and many more

Tuition is generally a set fee that remains the same until the studio changes its rates (sometimes annually, sometimes less often). It is not usually changeable based on number of lessons attended, as the lessons themselves are only one part of the tuition package, as shown above.

Registration fees are sometimes charged when initially enrolling, and often then will be a yearly charge thereafter. These fees may cover, among other things, the teacher's expenses associated with student assignment sheets, other printing costs, recital venue charges, and the like. Sometimes, though, these fees are built into the tuition cost, and no additional fees result.

Print music purchase will be an early expense for new students. Other supplementary educational materials to support one's music study, like flashcards, CDs and the like may also be part of the initial purchase when starting lessons.

Miscellaneous support items may be recommended or required, such as an assignment notebook or binder, and a bag in which to transport music books between home and lessons each week. You may also need equipment like a metronome, CD player, and a computer with internet access at home.

As Lessons Continue

It seems there are many costs associated with getting started with piano lessons, doesn't it? Don't worry, after the initial burst of expenses with acquiring an instrument and beginning lessons, costs will mainly be limited for a while to only tuition (and your instrument payment plan, if applicable).

There are some longer-term budget considerations to keep in mind, though, as your student progresses through the years:

Instrument maintenance will be important to keep your piano in good condition. Acoustic pianos should ideally be tuned twice a year, and once yearly at the minimum. They will also need to be regulated periodically. Ask your tuner/technician for a recommended maintenance schedule for your particular piano.

If you have a keyboard or digital piano, those do not need tuning, but because they are generally less expensive than a good-quality acoustic piano, they will wear out faster and need replacing or upgrading sooner.

Instrument upgrades are important as students advance to greater levels of proficiency. An instrument with fewer than the standard 88 keys of an acoustic or quality digital piano may serve for the first year or two, but will be insufficient for playing a variety of standard repertoire beyond beginning-level literature. Also, a responsive-touch piano will be needed for the student's increasing technical and artistic development.

Old acoustic pianos that are difficult to keep in tune or have sticky keys, poor action, or inferior tone quality are good candidates for replacement, as well. A high-quality instrument goes a long way in enhancing student progress and enjoyment in making music.

Advanced repertoire print music is often published in thicker, more expensive volumes, so expect your music materials to cost more after a few years of study.

Frequently, as well, teachers will ask students to purchase more music than in the beginning years. This is because the piano repertory is extensive, and many collections may be bought to expose students to select repertoire within them. (Not all pieces will be studied, like in beginning levels, so that advancing students can be introduced to a wide variety of music.)

Though it will cost more several years down the piano study road, expect your music library to swell with various and delightful repertoire!

Tuition rates will generally increase through the years, due to these factors:

  • the teacher's expenses increase with inflation

  • the teacher is growing in education and experience through the years, making her/his services more valuable

  • the student will need longer lessons after advancing to new skill levels and lengthier piano works

  • the teacher may expand her music lending library for students and build the cost into tuition

Entry fees may become a more frequent expense if the advancing student chooses to enter many competitions available to him or her.

The Bottom Line

How to embark on piano study and prepare for its costs? Here are my recommendations:

  • start with the best instrument you can afford (and make it an instrument with full-size keys---your teacher will thank you!);

  • regularly set aside funds for maintenance and upgrades;

  • consider starting lessons after you've owned your instrument for a while (the extra piano exploration time before beginning lessons will be good for the future student's musical development, and delaying lessons will spread out your initial start-up expenses more); and finally,

  • remember that quality piano lessons are an investment in the future...

Saving for a good piano while working with your adequate starter instrument---and signing up for piano lessons with an enthusiastic, competent instructor!---are worthwhile investments for potential and current piano players and music-lovers everywhere.

Here's to enjoying the journey, right from the beginning.

Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comment section.

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Holmen, WI

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