Tuition and payment policies

Lesson prices are $35 per half hour, and there’s a one-time registration fee of $25 per family.

Tuition is payable from month to month via electronic debit from a checking or credit card account. Monthly payments are processed on the 24th of the preceding month. Payments may be cancelled through the 15th of that month by email notification.

As a commercial studio, we can’t provide refunds or credits for lessons missed by students. Any lessons canceled by teachers will be  immediately refunded.

When is my child ready for lessons?

Children can enjoy and progress on the piano as young as 4, and both the guitar and the violin can be productively started at around 6. Naturally, all children vary in development, so the only real way to find out is to give it a try. Lessons are paid from month to month so there is no significant commitment necessary to see whether a child is ready. If not, another year or so often works wonders.

I’m an adult. Is it too late to learn?

Not at all. It’s a myth that children learn faster. Most adults progress much more rapidly than children because they have more muscle strength, more coordination and more self-motivation. We routinely see beginners into their 70s find music a delight to learn.

What’s a good instrument to start with?

Nothing is easier than the piano and nothing is more inexpensive than a small keyboard. In terms of popularity and versatility, nothing approaches the guitar. The violin is generally considered a “difficult” instrument. But while it is true that the learning curve is a little longer, it is not physically demanding and most students who try it find they love it and actually enjoy putting in the extra time it can require.

In general, there is no reason for students not to start with whatever instrument they are most attracted to.

What if I need an instrument to learn on?

For guitars, violins, ukuleles, banjos, mandolins and other string instruments, you’ll find a great selection and friendly service at our retail store, the House of Musical Traditions.

For piano students, we recommend an inexpensive digital keyboard to start on. These can be reliably purchased online or at any pawnshop, and are easy to sell when you’re ready to upgrade.

We do NOT recommend Craigslist for students. While there are some great instruments to be found there, buying an instrument is not something you want to attempt without the advice of a trusted professional. The weather here creates too many problems with too many used instruments, and it is hard for a beginner to know what features to look for in a new one.

Any instrument is available in economical beginner models costing a couple hundred dollars or less, and any instrument is also available in collectible models costing tens of thousands. Don’t be discouraged by the cost of high-end professional instruments. Most of our adult students remain happy for years with guitars costing $300 – $800, digital pianos costing $800 – $1,500 and violins costing $800 – $1,500. Our teachers will be happy to talk with you about your options.

I’m left-handed. What should I do?

Ignore it. We have several left-handed teachers and they all play right-handed.

The reason is that there are no left-handed pianos, or violins, or horns, or anything else other than guitars. Only guitars are sold in quantities large enough to have invited the manufacture of left-handed models. The downside to learning guitar left-handed is that you’ll forever be limited to the very small number of left-handed models for sale, and it’ll make it very difficult to go on to learn any other instrument.

Do you rent instruments?

Yes! Call the House of Musical Traditions at (301) 270-9090 and we can arrange to have a rental instrument delivered to your doorstep.

Electric guitar or acoustic?

It depends entirely on what sort of music you’re trying to make.

Our recommendation to parents is always to consider what sort of music their child listens to and wants to play. If you’ve got a daughter infatuated with Taylor Swift who wants to strum chords and sing country music, she’ll want an acoustic guitar. If you’ve got a son into metal or classic rock, there’s absolutely no reason not to start with whatever electric guitar he thinks looks coolest.

Self-motivation is the most important factor in musical success, so shop with an eye for whatever guitar your child seems most excited about spending time with.

In terms of cost, there is very little difference. A small amplifier loud enough for any house can be purchased for less than $100, and both electric and acoustic guitars are available in serviceable models for less than $200.

Finally, be very careful about buying used guitars unless you’re an experienced player. They’re very vulnerable to damage from cold and low humidity, and any guitar that’s been sitting unplayed for awhile is likely to have repair issues that wouldn’t be evident to a beginner. Guitars bought new will often require minor adjustments after a few weeks also, but that’s a service most stores will provide as part of the purchase.

Digital piano or acoustic?

For learning, it’s unnecessary to take on the expense(s) of an acoustic piano. Modern digital pianos sound good, play well, move easily and stay in tune forever.

After you’ve actually learned to play, you’re likely to want the unrivaled expressiveness of a good baby grand. And by that point you’ll know what you’re looking for in terms of tone. Which is a good thing, because you can’t just turn a knob to change it.

Buying a digital piano is easy. For young children, we recommend getting a cheap 61-key model. They’re almost indestructible, and kids love repeating songs in the voices of the various instruments they simulate.

Adults and advancing players will want a full-size 88-key digital piano with weighted keys, a fixed stand and damper pedals. These can be obtained at any local music store starting at around $400. You can easily spend four or five times more, but the inexpensive starter models are generally fine until you’re ready to upgrade to an acoustic piano or a full-featured synthesizer.

At some point, any serious student will want a real piano.

How long does it take to learn an instrument?

You can begin playing recognizable melodies from your first lesson. You won’t be fast, but you’ll be making music. Some students are content to learn to read music and play a couple dozen easy songs, which can take only a few months. Others become motivated to perform at a semi-professional level or to make music an ongoing part of their social life, and many of these students will want lessons for several years.

How much should I practice?

You will improve in direct relation to the amount of time you practice, so the more the better.

Life being as it is, here are some tips:

In general, it’s better to play for just a few minutes several times a week than to wait until Sunday afternoon when you’ve got an hour or so to settle down. Brief daily contact with the instrument is better than one or two longer sessions. If you can find time for both, all the better.

In general, you should spend at least as much time improving (and enjoying) familiar material as you do working through new pieces. You don’t get better by learning new material so much as by becoming more accomplished at what you’ve already learned.

Should I attend my child’s lessons?

You are certainly welcome to. Most young children seem more attentive without a parent present. Others need help maintaining focus. Older children are more likely to be self-conscious working through new material in the presence of an “audience.”

Do I need to wait during my child’s lessons?

You are certainly welcome to. Some young children need help maintaining focus. Many others seem more attentive without a parent present, and older kids are likely to be self-conscious working through new material in the presence of an “audience.” Take your cue from your child.

We have no staff to supervise your children before or after their lessons, so we ask parents of young children to remain in the building during lesson times. And because we share a professional office building, it is important that all children be instructed not to roam the building or wait for rides outside our studio.