lesson duration

Susan Pinto said: May 20, 2014
 5 posts

hi, when would be good time to switch from 30-min to 45 minute lessons? My son is 8.5yrs and has been taking violin lessons for little over 2 years now.


Lamar Blum said: May 20, 2014
Lamar BlumInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Flute, Cello, Viola
7 posts

I find there are several ways to determine lesson length. One is to observe how fast the student is learning the material assigned. Some parents feel that a student will make more progress with a longer lesson. I think it is based on how much the student is practicing at home. Another is book level. A student in late book 2 or in book 3 can have note reading incorporated into the lesson. Then, you need more time for instruction.
You might make a 45 minute lesson plan for the student and decide whether or not it takes that amount of time, or can it be done in a half-hour space. I find it needs to be individually assessed. Does the student want 45 minutes? For some, that is an eternity! Have you talked to the family about this???
This is a great question and needs some thought.

Kirsten said: May 24, 2014
 103 posts

Hi Susan,

I agree with what Lamar said about this needing to be assessed for the individual. I have 2 students the age of your son in book 3. One went into 45 minute lessons this year, when she was still in book 2, and she really enjoys the extra time. I love being able to cover a lot more in one lesson and knowing that she is eager to go home and practice everything I give her.

The other student is also 8.5 years but gets restless after about 20 minutes of instruction and wants to pack up and go home. The last 5 or 10 minutes of his lesson are sometimes a push, but I need to diagnose what he needs to be doing at home so that his mother will know what to work on. He is making wonderful progress too as his mother is a violinist and manages to get a good focused 20 minutes practice in with him each morning, and they do heaps of listening to the CD.

If your son thinks he might want a longer lesson, maybe you can ask your teacher if it is possible to try it out for 2 months and then decide after the trial period what is best.


Anita said: Jun 3, 2014
 40 posts

Hi, Susan,

As a parent, and having just upped my two children's lesson time from 30 to 45 minutes (end of Book 3), I can offer some perspective.

These are lessons you're paying for, so you want to get the most out of them.

First is to make sure the lesson time is for lesson, and not other types of communication. Get recital / tuition & schedule info from your teacher via email, change strings at home, communicate practice questions via email or txt or communicate some other way—so all that "housekeeping" stuff doesn't take up valuable lesson time.

Then, make sure your student comes to lesson prepared every single time, and is ready to start as soon as s/he walks in the door—violin tuned, all the music books available, all the necessary equipment (rosined bow, shoulder rest, etc.).

Third, is to practice sufficiently before lesson, throughout the week. I find that when we run out of lesson time, it's often because my children didn't practice—or didn't practice enough—and precious time is spent explaining or going over things they should / could have done independently at home, during practice.

That being said, they do reach a point when you just can't pack anything else into 30 minutes. If your teacher feels rushed, if s/he just can't seem to get around to everything in each lesson and it's holding your student back, then you probably need more time. :-)



Fabio Dos Santos said: Jun 4, 2014
Fabio Dos SantosTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Campinas, SP, Brazil
11 posts

Hi Anita,

Although I agree with you that the student and the parent should come as prepared to a lesson as they can be, I disagree on the point that time should be "wasted" on anything that is not instruction!

Violin lesson – instrument playing for that matter – can be more than just "instruction". It can, like school work and home discipline, be part of a (humanistic) education. Dr. Suzuki would say "make a beautiful soul". The time that is "wasted" changing strings, answering questions of parents and child, talking about music material, history, composers, things students like or dislike, things that happen in school or at home practice, etc., are all ALSO part of (music) education.

I don't believe one should spend all the lesson only on that. But what is the point of having lessons, if the child is only to stand there and "receive" information much as if one is feeding a program to a computer? Music is about life, and connections, as much as it is discipline and instruction.

To me, the decision of increasing lesson time is – more than a financial – a "technical" question related to how much and how long a child can stay in class. It is definitely a decision that has to be made WITH the parent, in relation to the child's maturity – which the parent is the best person to access – and the quantity and quality of the work the child is bringing – which the teacher is the best person to access. By quantity and quality, I mean bringing consistent work (beautiful tone, accomplishing tasks, solving the week's points, repeating to consolidate, etc..) but also bringing consistent understanding (asking relevant questions to the music work, marking what he was unable to solve, and sharing general music-solving problems, etc.)

Those are my 2 cents on the issue!
All the best!

Anita said: Jun 4, 2014
 40 posts

Hi, Fabio,

I heartily agree with you that lesson time is for my children to come to their teacher with whatever questions they may have about the pieces they are listening to and learning, with their difficulties and triumphs, and seek her guidance and careful instruction. It is for them to learn about composers and new and different pieces of music and learn about expression and phrasing and dynamics and everything you wrote of. You are absolutely right when you said it is very much a part of a humanistic education, right along with homework, chores and team sports.

But they can't do any of that if I'm taking up lesson time asking what days of the week they're going to have lesson? What payment do I need to make? What do I need to bring to the reception after recital? What was the name of that scales book I needed to buy? etc.

It's totally appropriate to dedicate lesson time for all these things, if the relationship with the teacher is new, or the student is a lot younger, or student and parent are still learning the basics of their instruments. It's an educational process, after all. I would never use the term wasted, nor did I imply it. But in general, there are lots of ways for parents to squeeze "more" time out of that 30-minute lesson—and one of them is for us, as parents, to carefully regulate how we spend lesson time.

I want to support my children's time with their teacher to the maximum,
so although I love to chat, I simply must put a lid on it when I walk into the teacher's studio. Five minutes spent chatting, over the course of a semester (once a week lesson, 18 lessons) is 90 minutes taken from my children's lesson time. Spend another 5 minutes on maintenance of the instrument, searching around for the music books, etc. and my child loses the equivalent of 6, 30-minute lessons in one semester!

As a parent, I have to respect that lesson time is not my time; it's time for my children to spend with their teacher, doing whatever they need to do, under her careful guidance and tutelage.

I totally concur that the decision to go from 30 to a 45 minute lesson should be made based on the needs of the student. No doubt there. But there are some fairly simple time management techniques we as parents can employ to see to it that our students get the full, 30-minute lesson, first. :-)



Friederike said: Jun 5, 2014
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
87 posts

There is always a good compromise. I sometimes have to almost interrupt a parent talking to get the lesson started. And yes it's important to keep those "non lessons talks" to a minimum, but it can be done. Sometimes I talk to 2 families at once in their in between time. But we also communicate through e-mail. Though some things are hard to do through e-mail only.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Laura Burgess said: Jun 5, 2014
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
34 posts

Enjoying this discussion. It is funny, the parents that worry about making the lesson the students time are usually the ones who do not need to. A lot can be done through email, but at times there is communication that goes on in person that seems meaningless but may lead to parent, child or teacher understanding the process more deeply. It has happened to me too many times to count. The things I have learned getting to know families have helped me be a better teacher for them. There are also the human relationships which need a little time for tending. We need to leave room for this.

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