Financial Business

Want to multiply your time and your earnings? If so, you might enjoy teaching a group of several students—or a crowd of them—all at once. Instead of teaching one student at a time for eight hours a day, you could teach those eight students for one hour!

This article is part of a series for new teachers. Or for seasoned ones.

In addition to monetary benefits, group classes are a wonderful way to turn an otherwise solitary pastime into a team effort. If you’ve ever felt competition from activities such as dance, soccer or hockey, you realize the draw of groups. So let’s look into it further!

Details to consider


  • What age range will I teach?
  • Will I include children with adults, or keep specific ages grouped together?
  • How many am I willing or able to teach at one time?
  • If students are elementary age, can I handle the wiggles of a group of them? Real Simple offers eleven tips from teachers for managing groups of children, some of which can be adapted to a group guitar setting.
  • If students are teen-aged, will they feel more inhibited in a group?
    • I have found that a mix of ages is desirable—the students help one another, they don’t have as many age-related hang-ups, and appear to relax and have more fun.
    • I love to have adults in the group—especially seniors. It’s a fun dynamic!
    • It seems like most activities are geared for people of roughly the same age. It’s especially noteworthy that group lessons can bring the generations together.

Where to teach

  • How much space do I have?
  • Will I rent a room? How much will it cost? Is it comfortable? Furthermore, is it air-conditioned, ventilated or heated? Also sound-proofed enough? Is there convenient parking? And is there a waiting space for parents or drivers?
  • Can I do this at home? If I do, will it disrupt my family? Or my neighbors?
  • Do I need to be concerned about insurance? Here are one teacher’s thoughts.

Group dynamics

  • How much individual attention can I give in a group setting?
  • If potential and natural abilities vary widely, how can I keep faster-advancing players challenged while not discouraging struggling ones? (Join me next month for ideas on both of these.)


  • What materials accommodate a group?
    • Because it’s difficult for me to find a one-size-fits-all curriculum, I create my own courses. I give students binders and hand out each week’s lesson sheets, 3-hole punched. I include a variety of information, chords, rhythm, and a touch of note reading. Every week there will be new songs on which to practice chords and strums. To make it attractive, I use public-domain clip art and my own graphics so I don’t run into copyright issues.
    • I send each student mp3s of the songs so they can listen and learn them if they don’t already know them. These are good practice tools, too.
    • No matter the time of year, I like to teach them at least one Christmas song. Some have just three or four chords, and what a boost for a student to be able to pull off a beautiful piece come December!

How long and what to charge

  • How long will each class last?
    • I have found that 45-50 minutes is about right. It allows for questions after class, and for one group to leave while the next arrives. Tender fingertips don’t last much longer anyway, at first!
    • I’ve tried thirty minutes. We barely get tuned and play last week’s lesson. Not enough time.
  • Will this be a semester class, or a certain number of weeks?
    • I have tried four, eight and ten-week sessions as well as semesters. Four seems pointless. Even at eight weeks many youngsters are just getting their fingers toughened up enough to enjoy it, and switch chords quickly enough to keep the rhythm going. But ten weeks or a full semester proves successful.
  • What will I charge per student?
    • Since it’s not one-on-one, I don’t charge as much as for private. However, groups take a great deal of planning and energy. Don’t under-charge!
    • Charging too little may encourage less serious students.
    • Find out what other groups charge. Like dance or martial arts.

Policy making

  • What policies will I create?
    • First of all, will I offer makeups?
    • What will I do if the weather is bad and class can’t be held? And what if I must cancel for some reason?
    • Will I teach more than one group class per week and invite students to attend any or all of them? And will that be in lieu of makeups?
    • How will I handle purchase of materials or students needing new strings?
    • Will I allow electric guitars in class, or just acoustic?
      • I only allow acoustics. Dealing with amps or with volume is a headache I can do without in a group setting.
    • Will students be required to pay in advance?
      • In my studio, yes. I hate chasing payments. Also, I don’t want to spend precious class time dealing with money. So they pay the full amount ahead of time.
    • How much time will I expect students to practice?

Questionable lyrics

  • Finally, what if students request songs with inappropriate lyrics?
    • This is a big deal to me. I’m very concerned about the words my students see or sing. Yes, I know they probably hear a lot worse on the radio or in the halls at school. But that does not mean it’s acceptable! In addition to specific words, age-appropriate subjects are important to me, too.
    • Because of my convictions about lyrics, I either use white-out, swap in acceptable words, or say “Sorry, I don’t teach that one. Let’s find another you like.” After all, both my reputation and my conscience are involved.

In next month’s post, I’ll share about the lessons themselves. Planning for how to make the group work. And equally important, what information to cover. Ideas that have worked for me. Join me then!

A group of enthused musicians creates buzz for your studio. Are you ready to give it a try?

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Are you starting up a private music teaching studio? You probably have questions. Beginning teachers often ask the same questions. Usually the first is “How did you get started teaching?”

Let me answer that one before digging into others. I grew up in a family of professional musicians. My sister and I sang and played—and got paid for it—from the time I was five years old. Relatives composed songs and choir cantatas, wrote musicals and played in dance bands. My mother coached countless kids performing vocally and instrumentally, both individually and in groups. I was in on it most of the time, and began to coach others during middle and high school.  By the time I started college, I had sung/played for over three hundred weddings. Yet it never occurred to me to earn a living at it until I discovered how unsuited I was for waiting tables!

So in my hometown, I let it be known I was going to teach beginning piano. I told people at church and put up a couple of small posters, hand-made. I started in the basement of my parents’ home on a 100-year-old piano with three students. I used the books I’d grown up with. I went straight through the books without variance. Somehow those three students stuck with it, thrived, and by word of mouth my studio grew. I was passionate about helping others make music. I added other instruments. And I got bored with the books. That made me take every opportunity, whether at the university or beyond, to educate myself pedagogically and grow as a skilled—and fun—teacher.

There are five questions I am most often asked. However… I will start with

One question no one asks, but should!


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My top tip to any new private teacher would be to get a policy drawn up with your students. Everyone will be much happier for it! Pupils and parents need to know how you run things and your business will benefit from establishing some ground rules.

A feature I love about Music Teacher’s Helper is the “studio policy” web page that is part of the included music teacher website package. This gives us an opportunity to explain to prospective students, who might want to register for lessons, how we run our teaching businesses.

When I first started giving private music lessons I had no contract with my students. Things were casual. Some weeks pupils would turn up and pay for that lesson, other weeks they didn’t. It became very frustrating as I waited to see whether they would attend and pay and as a consequence, my earnings were extremely erratic. I began to quickly realise that I needed a solution otherwise I would simply run out of steam. Enter the contract!

I remember the night before I was planning to present my newly drawn-up contract to my students I was feeling rather anxious. What if they didn’t like the idea of a formal agreement? Would I lose pupils? A couple of parents grumbled but most, to my surprise, were very understanding and agreed that it was a good idea to get things into writing. The improvement was immediate! People were now paying for  [···]

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