Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The True Costs of Learning an Instrument

This is an article by Guest Blogger, Elaine Hirsch.

Learning an instrument is a costly endeavor that doesn’t necessarily have that much to do with the actual cost of the instrument itself. Buying any instrument is usually rather expensive even in the case of models designed for children. Students just starting out may have no need to pay for a professional model, but whatever the price of the instrument, it doesn’t include all of the other costs associated with learning to play it, which may add up to as much as a master’s degree. Here are some the unseen costs of learning an instrument:

Buying vs. Renting

Buying or renting an instrument is a decision parents will have to make from the very beginning. Each option has different pros and cons depending on the needs of the student.

Buying an instrument is a good idea if students have made a serious commitment to learn the instrument and plan on playing it in the future. Buying from the beginning is always cheaper compared to renting an instrument over time. However, renting is a good idea for students who’re just trying out the instrument and aren’t sure if they want to pursue it long-term.

Practice Time

Needless to say, learning an instrument properly requires students to spend a sufficient amount of time in daily practice, which usually means 30 minutes to an hour each day at the very least. This is time they must spend practicing rather than doing homework or focusing on some other type of activity. In some cases, parents will also have to dedicate some time to helping their children practice.

Commuting to Lessons

Commuting to private lessons can become an issue. Students just starting out will probably do fine with basic lessons anywhere, but if they become more serious about music it may be necessary to travel even farther to find better instructors. Lessons will usually be at least once a week, and will represent regular travel time and gas costs.

Sheet Music

The cost of sheet music and books can add up rather quickly as students progress. Like textbooks, sheet music and instructional books are really not cheap, and students will need more and more of these materials as they expand their repertoires and develop their abilities and musical interests.


When students make a serious commitment to their music, parents likely must work around recitals, competitions, and other performance events. Just traveling to attend such performances can be expensive depending on where they’re held. As with attending regular lessons, scheduling issues may arise.

Maintenance, Repair, and Accessories

The costs of instrument maintenance, repair, and accessories add up very quickly. All instruments require regular upkeep and repair, whether they need new strings, reeds, or occasional cleanings. Accessories like cases, straps, and cleaning cloths will become necessary as well. Most instrument repair and maintenance procedures are expensive as instrument technicians are skilled workers with relatively high hourly rates depending on their experience, the instrument, and the nature of the procedure.

The true cost of learning an instrument can easily equate to thousands of dollars if it includes the long-term requirements related to time, lessons, repair, accessories, sheet music, books, and travel. Learning an instrument is a significant commitment if made seriously, much more so than the price tag of an instrument itself reveals.

About the Author

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. She is currently a writer for an online master’s degree resource.

About the Author


  1. Kim Lorimier

    Yes, the costs of learning an instrument are high. But in response I would have to ask not only “what are the benefits” but what are the costs of NOT learning an instrument. Music study is a necessary, life-enriching experience that should be a required part of every child’s education. I don’t even need to mention the hundreds of studies showing the effects of music study and the actual brain development that can be stimulated by learning an instrument. I would hate for someone to read this article and think “oh we’ll, I guess music is out of my reach”. Instead let’s focus on providing resources and support for scholarship and main stream, public music education.

  2. Will

    Why is this article posted on a music teachers site that’s supposed to help teachers? How is this helpful to us in any way? An article like this discourages students and parents from taking up an instrument. You’ve made every aspect of the learning music experience sound like a drag.

    Choose your bloggers more carefully please MTH.

  3. Debbie

    Yes, it is expensive to learn an instrument, but what about the cost of learning a sport. In the town that i live in the parents have the option to rent to own an instrument. The parents make a monthly payment that one hundred percent of which is applied to the price of the instrument. The maintenance and repairs are covered until the instrument is paid for.

  4. Ian Cunningham

    Yes, I agree with what the other posts here are saying. I’m currently learning to play and read music with my son teaching me. It’s an excellent hobby which I’m enjoying and look forward to after work. I’m regularly committed to learning in the evening and spend between 30 minutes to 1 hour doing so.

    The expense of learning music has not even entered my head and besides, as their are so many other positive benefits the money is just not important to me. Besides, the cost is granular. You would learn one thing/buy the equipment involved and learn it reguarly until you are bored and you want to move onto another musical challenge. However by that time, the equipment you’ve paid for will have paid itself back tenfold because it take years and years to master an instrument, even if you’re extremely intelligent, how on earth can that be seen as a waste of money?!?

  5. Mailelaulii Pai

    I am not a teacher but I think this site is very helpful to let people know just what a commitment it is to learn an instrument. You want to be prepared and this list of what to expect is a great tool. Learning an instrument is not easy and this short article helps in the fact that it gives you a base of the hard part of this amazing hobby.

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