Giving piano lessons is something that is, for a private teacher, very gratifying. If your lessons are effective, you'll quickly start receiving direct praise from your students or their parents.
This type of feedback helps fuel a teacher's motivation because it acts as reinforcement, providing reassurance that the instruction being provided is good.
But for pianists who do decide to start teaching the instrument, there's one hurdle to overcome — one that's difficult and full of uncertainty — in the form of setting the rate for a one-hour piano lesson.
It's certainly possible to teach the piano for free, to teach a friend or a family member to play.
However, we'll ignore that scenario in this article in order to focus on private teachers who want to increase their monthly take home amounts or live exclusively off of piano lessons they give.
Giving lessons on an instrument like the piano thus has its commercial side: you need to sell your private lessons on the market, get your piece of the pie by creating a method, an educational approach, something desirable:
- The opportunity to learn about music theory and the scales; classes for beginners; a variety of styles (jazz, clasical, rock, pop)
- Set at a price that isn't prohibitive, but not too absurdly low
- With the ability to adapt to students of any age or level
- And focused on listening to your students needs
Below are some ideas from the Superprof team to help you set your rates for your private piano lessons.
Scout the Competition: the Piano Lesson Market
Before settling on a price for your piano lessons, first you'll need to look into the going rates for private piano lessons.
Without doing this research into your competitors, you risk pricing yourself out of the market.
When we think of giving piano lessons at any age, we often envision private lessons. Whether in a music school or in the student's home, always private. There aren't really alternative jobs for teachers of musical instruments - it's hard to give group harp lessons or find new ways to play a piccolo. The question is not how you teach, but where - in a school, or as a private tutor from home.
But be aware that private piano lessons (similar to violin, guitar, drums, or singing lessons) cost an average of $50 to $60 an hour.
There are disparities according to regions and the level being taught: teaching the piano is a very technical endeavor, and according to the quality of the classes, the rates will change.
Here's a quick look at the average hourly costs of piano lessons in the US:
- New York: $75
- Boston: $70
- Chicago: $60
- Miami: $55
- Houston: $63
- Seattle: $50
- San Francisco: $72
- Los Angeles: $68
- Washington DC: $66
If you give in-home lessons, you perhaps already know that it's not a very standardized business. There are no minimum education qualifications or set prices in place.
Nevertheless, it's best to align your rates with your competitors if you want it to be easier to find your first students.
There's also the question of value for your skills.
Your playing level, the quality of your lessons, your target group — beginner pianists, intermediate, or advanced... these are all factors that are going to determine if you situate your rate at high end or low end of the range of costs in your area.
Setting a Price According to Your Skill Level and the Quality of Your Lessons
It's difficult to estimate a price based on abilities.
Your skill level as a piano player
If you have several years of experience playing the piano and have mastered the techniques, meaning you can give lessons on scales, theory, coordination exercises, right and left hand dexterity, the chords, playing entire songs, across a variety of styles, then you don't need to be shy with your rates.
Accurately assessing your own skills when you want to teach a musical instrument is very important in terms of setting a fair price for your capabilities.
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Like anything good, quality has a price. Don't set the cost high based on principle, just to earn some money. And be willing to be flexible according to a family's budget, but don't set them too low or you'll be underpaid.
Making money from teaching courses on the piano to students is also a way to offset the cost of your own training process.
If you have only five years of experience playing the piano, you can't charge a rate similar to a private teacher who has thirty years of experience on the keyboard.
Your rate depends on the quality of your piano lessons
By the same token, these rates also depend on the method you use to teach piano: establish a proper musical training program, along with supporting materials, that teach:
- fun approaches to the scales
- music theory
- how to read music, the notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and keys, sheet music
- hand (and foot) coordination
- correct posture
- different approaches to different styles (jazz, blues, and classical are harder than pop)
- how to work on harmony, fluidity, and other nuances that pianists must interpret for themselves
Even better: offer your first lesson free.
All of these things can help you get you going in the market, where you can change your prices later.
Find out how to plan your piano lessons in five easy steps!
Take Your Students' Profiles into Account
You won't be paid the same way for beginner students wanting to learn to play the piano from scratch and those who are already musicians.
Your rates will also be higher if a student wants to take intensive lessons to prepare for an audition or entrance exam at a conservatory or university program.
Lastly, if you're giving private lessons in your students' homes, you need to factor the travel costs into your hourly rate.
The level of instruction
According to the type of private piano lesson you give, you'll offer different rates. The higher the level of the student, the more you earn.
For teaching private piano lessons to beginners, set your rate around $40 an hour, maybe less. Clarify that it's for children ages 3 to 10.
This level on instruction is east. Private lesson for beginners are meant to introduce the player to the piano:
- learn the scales
- learn to read notes
- tackle the chords
Any pianist with a few years of playing experience can give introductory classes to young children. Whether you're a jazz piano virtuoso or not, you can still teach those wanting to get started on the piano.
If you give lessons on jazz piano to musicians wanting to take their musical training to a higher level or increase their chances of getting into a conservatory, advise them to take intensive courses.
This will mean more demanding lessons, more effort, and in the end, more costs for the students.
To prepare a student for an audition, we estimate that a reasonable rate, on average, is around $65 an hour: not too low, but not too high.
The importance of travel costs
When you're a private teacher, you have to carry the costs of traveling to your students' homes.
Meaning that if one lives on the other side of town, or further, you'll spend time commuting and money on gas and possibly tolls.
Location obviously factors into the hourly rate of your private lessons, but if you're a great teacher and mobile on top of that, the family should appreciate this fact and you'll be at a competitive advantage.
So calculating the costs of getting yourself to and from your students' homes and raising it accordingly is a key factor in determining your rates, but don't go crazy adding to the fees.
Rates Will Vary Depending on How You Find Your Students
The last factor to consider as you evaluate your hourly fee: the way you meet your students.
As an independent, freelance piano teacher, there are actually quite a few ways you can find and enroll new students (online, through your network, references from music schools, etc). And it's important to remember these ways of finding students as you determine what fees to ask for.
You will likely charge less money to a friend's five year old daughter, for example. You might loose some income, but you'll keep a friend and that friend will be more likely to tell other friends about your skills as a private teacher.
And when teaching supplemental lessons to students at conservatories or music schools, you want to keep your rates in-line with the other private teachers the school refers students to, so you don't price yourself out of the market or ruin the relationship.
Lastly, with platforms like Superprof, you need to understand that you're being put in direct competition with other teachers, and so need to offer fair prices, especially since they're bringing students to you.
But remember, in the end, it's up to you to determine the best rate for your piano lessons — before you start them.
Now discover everything you need to know about being a piano teacher...