Class, Lesson, Practice

Connie Sunday said: Sep 15, 2013
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Does this bother anyone else? This is a very small matter but it drives me absolutely crazy because people are not using the language correctly, and I am one of those strange people who think that’s important (and is revealing):

  1. Class: This implies a group lesson with 2 or more likely a good number of people. Please do not refer to your private lessons as a “class.”
  2. Lesson: This is your private lesson; when you come to Ms. Sunday’s house and she works with you on your lesson material, just you and she. Please do not refer to your private lesson as a “class” or a “practice.”
  3. Practice: There are two meanings for this: (1) Practice is what you do at home, working on your private lesson materials and your orchestra and chamber music materials; and (2) Practice when it means “rehearsal,” which is the rehearsing of either orchestra materials with your orchestra, or you could also be rehearsing with a chamber music group. Please do not refer to your private lesson as a “practice.”

A private lesson, in other words, is not a “practice” or a “class.” It’s a LESSON. My daughter has her LESSON every (say) Tuesday at 3:30. She has her Youth Symphony REHEARSAL on Sunday. And she practices every day, at least one hour.

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Martha Morehart said: Sep 15, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
3 posts

They just say these things because they’re new to music study. I give them the correct word. I also tell them that musicians don’t write with pens on music, nor fold their music backwards, nor fling their bows around like swords, etc.

Martha Morehart

Kelly Williamson said: Sep 15, 2013
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
248 posts

It doesn’t really bug me. :) What I think is funny is when I accidentally refer to their soccer tryouts as “auditions”… I think I’ve even referred to a practice as “rehearsal”!


Wendy Caron Zohar said: Sep 15, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Having lived abroad for a number of decades during my life, I am used to variations in English usage and lexicon by those other than native English speakers. I’ve had a number of students from other countries (such as Korea, India, Malaysia, Japan and China), whose parents consistently use the term “class” referring to their violin lesson. The “class” means to them, coming to my studio, and having an individual “class” of violin instruction with me. I haven’t corrected them on this, not having considered it was a problem. I refer to lessons as “individual lessons;” otherwise I actually wonder whether they may understand it to mean, teaching someone a “lesson”, as in, right from wrong, or setting a good example. Language, meaning, lexicon and context; they are interesting things, aren’t’ they.

When I refer to group classes, I call them “group class”, and not “class”, because I don’t want to confuse any parents who because they aren’t native English speakers, habitually use the term “class” to mean an individual “lesson”. I’ve also heard parents refer to orchestra rehearsals as “practice”, and some say “practice” for lessons. When this comes from American parents, yes, this bothers me too. They are clearly not initiated into the music world yet, but it’s time to become familiar with musicians’ terminology for things in our field.

I think it would be very wise and helpful to clearly spell out the meanings of these different terms, perhaps in a note attached to a teacher- or studio-policy letter at the beginning of term, to dispel any possible confusion. Thanks for bringing up this language matter, Connie!

Wendy Caron Zohar

Carrie said: Sep 16, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

It does not bother me. I just model the use of the words. Another thing I distinguish is that I do not give private lessons. I give individual lessons. They are not private because people are allowed to observe. It’s not something that I stress over. I let them know and leave it at that.


Caitlin said: Sep 18, 2013
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

I have to admit, I find the students who use the term “practice” for lessons are often sports people (they to to “soccer practice”). It wouldn’t bug me if it was just a misuse of the term… but they really do sometimes think lesson time is “practice time” and that really bugs me! Practice time is at home, learning time is at the lesson. You shouldn’t be “practicing” what I taught them in the previous lesson.

Lauren said: Sep 19, 2013
Lauren Lamont
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonds, WA
33 posts

I encounter a number of potential new parents who want to sign their child up for the “group class” as opposed to the lessons, thinking of course that this would be the less expensive “option.” I just giggle, my opportunity to explain more about the magic of Suzuki study.

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