Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Starting Your Studio

When I first started teaching, all I had was a piano.  At the time, I had no intention of teaching out of my home.  But people started asking me for private piano lessons.  And so I gave them.  One by one, I added students until I had a schedule that was as full as I liked. Starting a private music teaching studio can seem pretty overwhelming for a beginning teacher, but in my opinion, there is no better business for first time entrepreneurs.   The business aspect will come together pretty easily if you have the knowledge and skill to teach and the determination to make it happen. Here are a few basics you’ll need to get your studio started.

A studio space.  You need someplace to teach.  My first home studio was in the dining room of my house.  Later, I taught in the living room of my apartment.  Now I have a little room right off the front door that is just perfect for a piano studio.  There is no shame in teaching out of your living room, just make sure it is neat and tidy when your students arrive.  You might consider putting up a room divider to help prevent distractions, and think about proximity to a bathroom.  Keep in mind your neighbors tolerance for less than perfect music – if you are in an apartment, you might need to adjust your schedule so that you don’t bother your neighbors.

An instrument.  You need some kind of quality instrument to teach on.  If you’re a piano teacher, you’ll want a good quality piano, but it doesn’t have to be new or expensive.  As long as it is in reasonably good condition and can hold a tune, it’ll work just fine.  For most instruments, the student will bring their own, but you’ll need something to use for demonstrations.  Make the most of what you have.

Basic supplies.  You’ll need teaching materials, such as method books, pencils, a metronome, and any visual aids or games that you like to use.  When you’re just starting out, keep it simple.  A good method book (think John Thompson or Alfred’s if you’re a pianist) and some sheet music paper will work great.  Over time, you can add visual aids (music note pizza from Susan Paradis) or even music bingo.

Policies.  No studio is complete without some safeguards and policies in place.  This will protect you and your student both.  Think about how you want to handle payments, missed lessons, no-shows, illness, recitals, etc.  What will you require of your students?  Make sure to write it down and make it available to the students and parents.   It probably helps to look at the policies of other teachers before you write your own.

Insurance.  A rider on your insurance policy is a good idea to protect you from liability.  Whoever provides your homeowners or renters insurance can walk you through what you’ll need to be covered.  This insurance is pretty inexpensive but is a good safeguard in case someone should trip, fall, or decide to sue. While you’re at it, check with your township as far as rules and regulations for running a business out of your home. You may need to get a permit.

Computer and printer.  While a computer and printer are a great asset to a teaching studio, it’s not required, so be sure you can afford the expense before you run out and buy a system.  The benefits of a computer system are endless- you can download all kinds of worksheets (www.susanparadis.com) teaching materials (www.composecreate.com), music for teaching (www.8notes.com , www.pianomusicforboys.com) or create your own materials.  You can use it to print assignment sheets, keep track of students, lessons, payments, and create a website. Don’t forget technology like electronic composition or YouTube videos. But one of my favorite uses of a computer in lessons is to give students who are early (or whose parents pick them up late) something educational and fun to do.  You can purchase music software or use something like this free Note Trainer for them to practice their note reading.

Music Teacher’s Helper.  As a beginner or seasoned teacher, one of your best assets will be Music Teacher’s Helper.  I love the teaching and the face to face time, but the record keeping and scheduling?  Not so much!  The nice thing about Music Teacher’s Helper is that streamlines the entire process.  It will keep track of my students, their payments, their schedule, and any special events.  I can communicate via website or email.  I can even track my students’ practice time!  You can also record your income and expenses to make tax time super simple.  And of course, post in the forums whenever you need help.

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4 Comments

  1. Nicole

    Nice guide for the beginner teacher. I highly recommend a building a network of fellow teachers to bounce ideas off also.

  2. Ronnie Currey (Editor)

    Very good. I will be posting this on our facebook and Twitter pages in a few days.

  3. Leila Viss

    Nothing created a more professional feeling to my studio as when I began subscribing to Music Teachers Helper, a definite must to any new studio!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Edna Bloom

    Your article is so practical. I’ve been teaching for many years and have loved tryng innovations in our field. Yet with a relatively small clientele and a growing family, I’ve often had to bypass some of the glitzy new things out there. I’ve also had a wide variety of teaching spaces. All this to say that students often surprise me by getting hooked on a piece from an old method book or even…scales! despite my less than ideal locations.

    So while I continue to grow musically and strive to dress the part of a professional educator, I definitely agree with your advice to start out simple. Music Teachers Helper has really helped me not only with recordkeeping and creating a virtual office, but also with seeing at a glance where my lesson budget stands. Having that information helps when I evaluate whether or not to purchase something new for my studio.

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