The more money you have, the more musical you will be?

Jules Addison - Choirmaster

This is a question which has been asked a few times. And where it is not asked, it is often something which is assumed.  Of course, there is a very short answer to this question. The simple answer is of course Yes.  Music lessons cost money; exactly how much and whether that constitutes good value is a topic for another day. But nevertheless like everything in life there is a cost associated to musical education. I have to tread carefully in some respects, having come from a public school background where music lessons were entirely normal, if you showed any musical promise you were expected to learn at least 2 if not 3 instruments.  Along with the rest of my education then, music lessons cost money. How much I probably couldn’t tell you. To me at 13 it didn’t seem relevant. Recently a survey was carried out by Goldsmith’s University into what was claimed to be the biggest musical psychology survey ever.   Over 147,000 people – 94,000 of these from Britain – took part in the BBC’s ‘How musical are you?’ online survey, which included questions about respondents’ experience and tests of their musical ability.  On the face of it, it would appear logical that people with more disposable income are more likely to invest in music lessons.

Interestingly, however, it was the more objective categories such as ‘melodic memory’ and ‘beat perception’ which showed the strongest statistical correlation with wealth.   The average weekly income of participants’ postcode areas grew by £111 for every extra point on the melodic memory test and £99 for beat perception. Unsurprisingly, the most musically trained areas in the UK were places with high incomes: the City of London, Cambridge, York, Cherwell and Oxford.   However, it also identified that Wales and the West Country stood out as places with low income but high levels of musical skill.  Quite what this tells us I’m not entirely sure.

As a music teacher myself now, I try to strike a balance between charging a fair rate to reflect the quality of my teaching, versus being competitive against all the other music teachers out there.   Ive read lots of forums and other posts which suggests my rate of £18 for 30 minutes and £30 for 1 hour is about right in terms of price.  Particularly as unlike a lot of teachers I will travel to my pupils (within reason) without charging travel.  Nowadays, with the internet so readily accessible, customers have a much wider choice than ever before and it’s increasingly the case that when a new pupil (or their parents) contact me to discuss lessons, the first question is “How much do you charge?”.

Of course, this is an entirely reasonable question and one which needs answering. It does, however, make me smile.  Im often tempted to say, well if you want a good quality structured lesson on a properly maintained and tuned grand piano, using my 20+years teaching experience then it’s £30 for an hour. If, however, you just want me to price match someone down the road who is teaching on a cheap electronic keyboard with very little musical training or teaching experience I’m afraid you will have to look elsewhere!

You may be wondering by now, dear reader, if I have wandered away from the main question. But I don’t think I have.  One shouldn’t generalise and say, the more you pay the better the lesson you will receive, because no doubt there are many examples where this is not the case.  But one generalisation about life, and not just music or music lessons, is that quality invariably costs.  My aim as a teacher is to always offer my pupils value for money.  I don’t set out to be either the cheapest or the most expensive. But I do aim to give all my pupils the same quality of teaching in order to help them achieve their goals.

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Jules Addison offers private tuition on piano, organ, singing and theory either from his studio in Corsham or in schools / pupils homes across most of Wiltshire and Somerset.  To find out more, please click here.