If you are new to teaching guitar lessons or you want to stay competitive, it’s important to evaluate your service and decide on an hourly rate that makes sense for you and your students. Business savvy folks will tell you to simply charge as much as you can so your schedule stays full. I encourage you to think about your location, value, and your competition as you calculate your hourly rate for private music lessons.
Deciding on a rate and implementing a new fee structure may seem like a stressful guessing game but when you understand the important factors, you will feel more confident now and you will know how to grow professionally so you can increase your rates in the future.
What’s the Normal Rate?
Since you own your own business, there is no normal. Here’s a place to start: Find your community’s minimum wage, then, study the factors below and raise your rate by considering the things that add value to your teaching business.
Another helpful number is the median household income. In 2017, the median household income for Seattle was about $80,000. My observation is that many guitar teachers consider 20 hours of teaching a full week. So, if you taught 20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you would charge $80/hour to match the median household income in Seattle. (Note that is your gross income, not net.)
If these numbers seem too high or too low, you are probably right because there are so many factors that go into calculating a rate that’s best for you.
On average, guitar teachers in Seattle charge more than teachers in Phoenix, but less than guitar teachers living in New York. Location is one consideration when calculating your rate because general income levels vary from place to place, and the cost of living varies from place to place. The median household income for Seattle in 2011 was about 15% higher than the US median income. I think Seattle now also has the highest minimum wage in the country.
Your specific studio location also plays a part in determining your rate. Are you located in the heart of the city (where parking is impossible), or are you 30 miles away from your students? Adjust your rate by looking at how your studio location benefits your students.
I have met guitar teachers who learned how to play guitar by completing the exercises in a self-instruction book. They don’t have the same experience as someone who has earned a degree in music and/or who has studied with great teachers, and that is usually reflected in their rate. More or better education generally increases your value.
Simply having a college degree allows you to charge a higher rate because a having a degree usually indicates to prospective students that you can think, communicate, and complete your work. That’s one reason why I encourage all of my young students to go to college, even if they know in their heart they want to be professional musicians when they grow up.
Guitar teachers who teach private lessons along with group lessons, jam classes, workshops, summer music camps, and online lessons have many different and useful teaching and organizing skills. Guitar teachers who have developed curriculum, written instruction books, published lesson videos, created content for podcasts developed apps, written articles, taught in schools and created other instruction materials show devotion to the field and have a set of diverse skills to show for their work.
Sometimes these teachers are stretched too thin to be effective, but most of the time their students benefit from their experiences and passion, so those teachers with lots of accomplishments in the field tend to have a higher value.
Colleagues and Competition
You want to know what other people are charging in your area so you can be in the range, or you can decide to be outside the range if that makes sense to you. It’s ok to be higher than other folks if you have the right skills, but if you don’t, that can backfire and you could feel the effects for years to come. If your rate is much lower than other teachers, you are probably either a bad teacher and you shouldn’t be teaching, or you are undercutting other teachers in your area, which will hurt you in the long run.
I know a teacher in Seattle who surveys other local teachers every few years to learn what other teachers are charging. He kindly shares that information with other teachers and I have found it very helpful. I have learned of college and university instructors who charge double or triple what the teachers who work in private studios charge, and I’ve seen online instructors with nothing more than a compelling website charge more than everyone else.
A gentle reminder: You don’t have to be friends with all the other music teachers in your area, but you should be friendly at the least. Yes, we’re all cool guitarists and we’re each running our unique businesses, but we’re also competing to attract the best students. Be careful what you share with other teachers, but also know the ones you can trust and go ahead and build mutually beneficial partnerships with them.
Years of Experience
Some teachers get better the longer they teach, and some decline due to burn out. A young teacher may have lots of energy and enthusiasm, but an older teacher may have more effective learning strategies. Typically, teachers who have been teaching longer charge more, but that doesn’t mean that if you are in your 20s and you are giving your teaching business all of your energy you should charge outside of the range of teachers in your area.
How good of a teacher you are is one of the most significant factors in determining your value. Do you teach the right concepts? Do you have a flexible system in place? Can you cater to different learning styles? Do your students have fun and see progress? Do other teachers respect your work? One way to measure this is to ask your students (if they don’t offer it up on their own). Testimonials will make you feel good and give you confidence in your work and your rate.
It’s uncommon for young teachers to have students who have become professional musicians because they just don’t have as many years in the game, and it can take a decade for that to start happening. But if you tell prospective students that you can help them play professionally, you should be able to back that up with some examples, and you can charge more for that.
I think that good teachers can get along with most people very well, but there are some teacher/student matches that are just not a good fit. It doesn’t help anyone to keep a student who isn’t a good fit because that student will tell others that you are not a good fit. When you realize the situation, be honest and recommend another teacher. Everyone will be happier and better for it. Good and honest teachers who are liked by their students are hard to find, so if you happen to be one of them, you can charge more because your skills are in demand.
Perks for Students
Have you invested in professional recording gear that you use with your students? Do you have instruments in your studio that students can use for lessons so they don’t have to carry their guitars around on lesson days? Do you rent a modern studio with heat, air conditioning, windows, a waiting room, and other amenities? Do you rent a space to offer recitals? Do you travel to folks’ houses? If you are offering more than just lessons, those are expenses and you should calculate them into your rate.
I’ve seen teachers charge more for lessons because they perform and/or tour, and I’ve seen teachers charge less because they also have a performing career. The teachers who charge more usually do so because they are somewhat famous and/or they bring a unique and helpful set of skills to their students. The teachers who charge less do so because they admit that teaching is not their number one priority and they often miss lessons because of tours, recording dates, or rehearsals. Be honest with yourself and reflect that in your rate.
Right now, if someone wants to earn a college degree in music, she/he most likely needs to have had several years of private lessons just to get into a program. That means that only students who can afford music lessons in high school will be able to study music in college. If your rates are too high, you won’t be able to help these folks. And you should also think about whether you want all of your students to be wealthy, or if you want to work folks from a variety of income levels.
General Business Expenses
Remember that to run a small business, you will need to pay for your business licenses, studio rent, taxes, phone, internet, advertising, transportation, equipment, research, office supplies, postage, etc. Don’t forget that these important costs should also be reflected in your tuition.
Ok, So What Should You Charge?
My opinion is that professional guitar teachers in Seattle should be somewhere between $60-$140/hour. Get lots of other opinions, really think hard about your value, and think of how you will sell that value.
My Teaching Rate Considerations:
- Private Lesson Instruction (1999 – present)
- Group Classes (2009 – present)
- Online Lessons: Skype/FaceTime (2010 – present)
- Seattle University Adjunct Professor (2006 – present)
- Creator of The Rock Project Summer Workshop (2010-15)
- Guitar and Ukulele Instructor at Seattle Girls School (2016-17)
- Author of The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series (2006, 2011, 2018)
- Developed 4 year Curriculum for College Guitar Lessons (2006 – present)
- Published Articles (2006 – present)
- Effectiveness and likability shown in Student Testimonials
- I stay up to date with current Guitar Gear and learning materials
- Although I perform jazz standards and original music, students are my first priority
Teaching guitar is not an easy gig, but it’s a very important part of what we do as musicians. While we each have a unique way of prioritizing, explaining, and applying musical concepts, most of us agree there are certain concepts that are important for all guitarists to understand.
“The Guitar Lesson Companion” series is the method specifically designed for students who are taking guitar lessons. It’s got all the fundamental concepts, and it organizes them in a way that makes teaching easier, more effective, and fun.
Do you think this might be a good book for your students? Let’s set up a meeting via Skype or FaceTime so I can help you figure that out. Email me at: LeadCatPress@gmail.com
If You Hate Most Method Books Because
- They don’t have enough exercises
- The exercises are not fun or very effective
- They cut corners and skip or brush over important concepts
You’ll Love “The Guitar Lesson Companion”
- It gives you a flexible, clear, structure that doesn’t tell you how to teach
- It’s got all the important concepts with tons of good sounding exercises
- The spiral binding keeps the book open on your music stand
The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One is a music reading primer, a chord and scale jam guide, and a basic theory workbook. It’s jam-packed with comprehensive exercises that were designed to take an absolute beginner step by step into the intermediate stages of playing.
The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume Two is an advanced theory workbook, a chord tone and mode improvisation guide, and a stylistic chord resource. It is a continuation of volume one and was designed with the serious intermediate and advanced level music student in mind.
Unlike other method books, this method book series takes you and your students seriously!
PURCHASE AT YOUR LOCAL GUITAR SHOP, OR FOR THE SAME AMOUNT, GET THE METHOD BOOKS DELIVERED TO YOU!
FREE SHIPPING (to U.S. Domestic Addresses)
|The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One, Second Edition||$40 Donation|
|The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume Two||$35 Donation|
|Bundle Both Books (Best Value)||$70 Donation|
Each book is 160 8.5″ x 11″ pages, spiral bound. Retail Prices = Volume One: $40, Volume Two: $35 All books are mailed from the United States Post Office in a Priority Mailer, so most people receive their packages in 2-3 business days. You’ll receive an email when your donation has been processed and your package is on its way. Questions on International Donations? Email: LeadCatPress@gmail.com
POPULAR POSTS BY SUSAN PALMER
TEACHER REVIEWS FOR: THE GUITAR LESSON COMPANION, VOLUME ONE, FIRST EDITION (Second Edition Published January 2018):
Steven Kirby, Faculty at Berklee College of Music: Susan Palmer has created a carefully crafted book for guitar students who want to learn to read and also develop fundamental chord and scale vocabulary that prepares them for playing contemporary styles. There are many features in this book that set it apart from traditional guitar method books.
1) It is extremely well paced and designed.
2) It is visually clear and appealing.
3) It reinforces learning of new material with a variety of activities including both the playing and writing of notes and note names.
4) An included CD provides chordal accompaniment for every stage. Simple melodies are thus made to feel more like “real” music right away because of these tracks. They make the learning process more instantly engaging while demonstrating how harmony can enrich even the simplest melody. The student feels like they are making interesting sounding music even when all they can play is three notes.
5) In addition to supporting the student’s learning of standard notation, the book also contains important chord and scale lessons with corresponding play-along tracks.
6) Flexibility of design. The book’s design makes it easy for teachers to assign lessons from different sections simultaneously to suit a student’s level and progress. It’s designed to be used in a very flexible way by different teachers and for students of varying levels.
Overall I rate this the best beginning level, learning-to-read on the guitar book that I’ve encountered not only because it does that so well but also because it offers in a well integrated way additional materials that are vital to preparing guitarists to play contemporary music and develop improvisational skills. I use this book with my students and I highly recommend that other guitar teachers check it out.
Rick Fortenberry, Sandpiper Guitar Studios: Learning to play guitar is the easiest thing in the world to do. It can also be one of the hardest. One can learn to strum a few chords in relatively short order and make some nice sounds. But one can choose to dig a little deeper, to the point where one’s guitar playing becomes an expressions of one’s own inner music–the music of the heart–which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Susan Palmer’s new book/CD “The Guitar Lesson Companion” bridges a major gap in learning to play the guitar. It’s the book I wish *I’d* written, having studied at Berklee College of Music and having taught guitar for 20 years.
This thick, rich and blessedly spiral-bound volume with its accompanying CD, is designed to be used while studying with a private guitar teacher. As the author states right up front, studying with a good teacher will save a lot of time and money and accomplish far more than the do-it-yourself approach, through which so many guitarists–unnecessarily–come to understand the instrument.
A student enters the book at whatever level she is in at the moment: “beginner”, intermediate or advanced. This may mean studying chords and how they work with songs in jazz, rock or folk, or even learning to read notation, the language of music (the musical examples are also in tablature).
The well-known CAGED system of understanding the language of the fretboard is covered, along with a progressive, intelligent blend of reading and rhythm studies, all essential concepts a serious guitar player must master. The main scale types are thoroughly explored, against a musically satisfying backdrop of guitar, bass and drums on the CD.
This ground-breaking book/CD is the one I wish I’d written for my students, but it’s also the one I wish I’d had when first seriously studying guitar. All the fundamentals and more are here. This is a good investment in a guitarist’s education.
Donna Zitzelberger, Guitar Instructor: Last week I downloaded the free lesson sheets for E, F, and G and brought them to my beginning class of seven. The kids are ages 8-12. They have already learned rhythm. This year I tried a new twist on things in which I taught them all the rhythm notation first. We just started the notes on the first string, so I gave them the reading study that goes with the backing track. I turned on the CD and they totally started rocking out.
Like all my classes, though, they did not know the notes really well yet. So, I told them to come back the next week and be ready to rock with the correct notes. Well, today they came back and rocked their hearts out. They were spot on — all of them. I have to say in my 8 years of teaching, this is record time for learning those first notes. The backing tracks for the notes sure makes it easy and fun.
I’m going to spend this summer reviewing the book and may add it into my curriculum as the text we use for learning note reading. I asked the kids if they would like to use the book next year, and I got a huge “YEA!” Today’s class was all about finding the groove. We are just about 6 weeks away from recital and the kids need to groove to a rock song for one of their class songs. It was super cool to go to our note reading section of the class and still be grooving.
Thanks Susan for creating a quality book that should make life easy and fun when it comes to teaching the little ones standard notation!
Jonathan Patterson, Guitar Instructor and Performer: I have taught guitar for almost 20 years, and looked for a book like this too many times to remember. Until now I always gave up and settled for using the Hal Leonard method plus my own hand-written extra sightreading exercises and supplemental materials about scales/theory/improvisation. I’ve wasted a lot of lesson time this way, and my students (and their parents) take hand-written materials less seriously than printed books. But the big problem I’ve had with books is that most students don’t fit nicely into “Level 1″ or “Level 2″ of any available series. You know, you get some students know scale patterns all over the neck but can’t read a single note, or students who can read melodies but don’t understand any theory or chord-scale relationships.
Susan Palmer’s book solves all my materials and organization problems and lets me focus on actually teaching. At about 150 pages this one book can easily replace several “Levels” of the Hal Leonard or any available series I’ve seen. She thoroughly covers the technical and theoretical fundamentals that all guitar styles have in common, and–my favorite part–she ties it all together into a continuous system that is easy to understand and immediately practical. I love it because when a student is stronger in one area than in another, I can approach the area that needs work by showing the student how it relates to what they already do well. Because of these connections I find that ALL of the material in the book is useful for all beginner-intermediate, and even many advanced students.
It’s an easy sell to parents because the sheer amount of material will last a long time (no more “Didn’t we just buy a new book for Timmy last month?”) and looks infinitely better than a crumpled up pile of my handwritten notes. Combine “The Guitar Lesson Companion” with teaching students specific songs that they like, and your students will enjoy what they’re playing while understanding what they’re playing. Since that sums up my whole purpose and philosophy as a teacher this book is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
Paul Wolf, Guitar Instructor: I received Susan’s book today…! One day turnaround, not bad. My early review after skimming it on my lunch hour is that it’s an excellent step by step method for incorporating music theory into your lessons without having to start from scratch…you can supplement her curriculum with song transcriptions and probably have enough raw material to use for a year or two’s worth of lessons.
The book is written for teachers, not for the general public (although the students will be working from it, they would need a teacher’s guidance)
I’m glad I bought it and recommend it highly.
Paul Chasman, Guitar Instructor: Susan Palmer has written a clear, comprehensive, and integrated method for learning the guitar. “The Guitar Lesson Companion” will be an invaluable resource for many students who want a solid musical foundation. The Companion will also provide many teachers with a method that is focused and directed, yet flexible enough to accommodate the individual teaching style. I highly recommend this book to students and teachers alike.
L. Bruck: Music Educator: Having a master’s degree in music pedagogy, I have seen a lot of method books over the years and Susan Palmer’s latest addition to the guitar repertoire series is outstanding! My 11 year old son began guitar lessons last September and has fallen in love with the guitar, thanks in part to this excellent book. His rhythm, melody, and improvisation just took off. But most importantly, I believe he will have a love of music for the rest of his life, which is the major challenge of any music series.
TEACHER REVIEWS FOR: THE GUITAR LESSON COMPANION, VOLUME TWO:
Andrew Nafziger, Guitar Teacher: This book nicely lays out the fundamental theoretical concepts that I am consistently trying to impart to my students. It has ample exercises that are practical, and is written in such a way that I can use it to compliment my own teaching style. A great find that will streamline the process of teaching my students beginning and advanced music theory.
Paul Chasman, Guitar Teacher: In “The Guitar Lesson Companion, Vol. 2,” Susan Palmer has written a comprehensive, systematic method book which will undoubtedly provide a valuable resource to many students and teachers. Susan takes an organized, step-by-step approach as she walks the user through the building blocks of harmony, triads, scales, and their applications. The manual invites participation with fill-in-the-blanks exercises for every concept in every key, and later provides a CD with rhythm tracks to practice improvising with. “The Companion” is an excellent supplement to private guitar instruction.
George Stone, Guitar Teacher: I’ve used Susan Palmer’s Guitar Lesson Companion Volume 1 as the primary teaching tool for all of my students over the past 6 years. Volume 2 has been the perfect follow-up method for advancing students. While Vol 1 gives a comprehensive and logical approach to the fundamentals of music as applied to the guitar, Vol 2 prepares an advancing guitarist with the foundation needed to become a musician.
One of my students who had previously completed Volume 1 and was in the process of working through Volume 2 breezed through a music theory class in school with no effort because of the work he had already completed in the Susan Palmer books. I recommend Volume 2 for any guitar student who has goals of moving forward as a musician.