Every kid needs a hobby, and as far as many Singaporean parents are concerned, it is better that that hobby be playing a musical instrument than extreme skateboarding or pole dancing. Here are some tips for lowering the cost of music lessons for your budding Mozart.
1. Fortnightly Instead of Weekly Lessons
80% of your child’s progress is going to depend on how hard he or she practises. You can resurrect Beethoven himself to teach your child, but if zero practice takes place in between lessons, your kid will learn more about musicianship by watching MTV.
To be brutally honest, most children don’t practise enough to warrant weekly lessons and would do better with fortnightly lessons instead, which would give them an extra week to master new material taught in class.
If your child is a fast learner, you can request that the teacher cover more material in class, which your child can then practise at home. This also instantly halves the amount you pay for lessons.
2. Consider Hiring Tertiary-level Music Students
There are lots of teachers who will proudly tell you they have a Grade 8 certificate. Do not be impressed by this qualification.
In reality, not all of them are as good as they say—in fact, I have come across Grade 8 teachers who could barely sight-read a Grade 3 piece (to put things in perspective, many 9-year-old kids can play at Grade 3 standard).
On the other hand, a full-fledged music teacher with a music degree or performing experience can be quite costly to hire.
One option is to hire music students studying for degrees or diplomas in music at NAFA, Lasalle or the NUS Conservatory.
They might not be as cheap as your next-door neighbour who’s been learning the violin for four years and now wants to make some extra pocket money, but the quality of their playing will be much higher.
As to whether they’re a good fit personality-wise, you as a parent need to observe lessons and gather feedback from your child.
3. Save Money on New Music Books
Music books and sheet music are way more expensive than your child’s assessment books from Popular. If your child goes to a music school, chances are high that they will try to sell you the books directly.
If you know anyone else whose kids are studying the same instrument at a higher grade than yours, you might be able to get them to pass on their discarded scale or exam piece books once their child has passed the exam.
The Esplanade branch of the National Library also has a wide range of music books and scores, so do a quick search on their website to see if they carry any of the books your child will be using.
4. Choose a Cheaper Instrument
Studying one instrument makes it much easier to pick up another, so don’t fret if you can’t afford the thousands of dollars the piano salesman says you need.
Obviously, some instruments are more expensive than others. Acoustic pianos are huge and you need to factor in the cost of moving the instrument to your home if it’s not already included in the price. You also need to periodically maintain the instrument with the help of a piano tuner.
On the other end of the spectrum, instruments like the harmonica or the recorder can cost just a few dollars, although admittedly your kid might show some resistance to learning the latter after those painfully uninspiring recorder lessons during music period at school.
Anyway, everyone knows the lead guitarists get all the attention in the rock band.
5. Buy Used Instruments
The quality of an instrument often matters more than the age. It’s usually better to get a good, used guitar from a reputable company than a brand new “beginner” model Toys ‘R’ Us is selling, which might later have to be replaced as your child’s skills improve and he needs better control over the sound.
Your best bet is to do some research online and then check websites like Ebay, Gumtree or Craigslist to see if anyone is selling old instruments of reasonable quality at a good price.
Has your child started taking music lessons? Share your experiences with us in the comments!