How to Set Up Your New Piano Studio for Sensational Success

By Nicola Cantan | New Teachers

Nov 20

Are you about to start a new piano studio? Maybe you’ve just graduated from college. Maybe you tried teaching your niece, loved it, and want to see if this career is right for you. Or perhaps you’ve been teaching for a while and have just resolved to start taking it “seriously”.

Whatever your reasons – congratulations! You’re about to become a business owner.

These first few weeks, months and years are your chance to decide what kind of teacher you want to be, and what kind of studio you want to run.

There’s two big questions you need to answer in the beginning:

  • What will your studio look like?
  • How will you run your business?

We’re going to unpack each of these questions in this post.

Make sure to download the workbook and watch the videos (samples from the upcoming Beginner Teacher Blueprint course in the Inner Circle) to get your new piano studio off to the most sensational start possible.

What will your studio look like?

Be intentional about your new piano studio. Remember, this is YOUR business. You get to decide.

Don’t just do whatever your teacher did. 

You might want to take inspiration from your own teacher…but you don’t have to do it the way they did. Take the best and leave the rest.

Lesson Format

Just because you learned piano in individual lessons, or because that’s the way most teachers do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

There are really three piano lesson formats to choose from:

  • Individual: One teacher, one student.
  • Partner/dyad/duet: Two students either together for the whole time, or for some portion of their lesson time.
  • Group: Three or more students, all learning together, normally (but not always) at separate keyboards.

Within these, there are lots of different ways to go. Students at your studio might attend 3 individual and 1 group lesson every month. You could combine duet time with individual lessons immediately before or after the duet lesson.

Try to imagine how each of these scenarios would play out. As you think through the different lesson structures – which one feels right to you? Which do you want for your new piano studio?

There are no wrong answers. This is comes down to your personal teaching style and goals for your students.

Interested in learning more about group piano teaching and other creative teaching practices? Find a whole variety of exclusive piano teaching courses in the Inner Circle, available now. Click here for more information.

Lesson Lengths

Once you’ve chosen a lesson format, it’s time to decide the duration.

Group lessons should generally be longer than individual lessons…but all should probably be longer than you think.

I see so much frustration from teachers at not having enough time in their lessons. I never see teachers complain that they have too much time.

The length of your lessons becomes much harder to change down the road. It’s possible to switch of course, but you may get pushback from parents who are used to things being a certain way. It’s much easier if you set it up this way from the beginning.

That’s why I want to encourage you not to start with 30 minute weekly lessons.

If you’re the kind of teacher who’s reading this blog, then you’re going to have far too many creative and varied plans for your students’ lessons to fit it all into half an hour. There’s just too much fun to be had!

I recommend starting any student over the age of 7 in at least 40 or 45 minute lessons. If you’re going to do partner lessons or groups, 60 minutes is best.

Personally, I still have 30 minute individual lessons in my studio. But they are reserved for preschoolers and students with special needs who may have trouble focussing. That’s it – everyone else needs more time.

Studio Location

Where will you teach? There are pros and cons to each and every studio location. Consider all of these points before deciding on your location.

Home

Benefits:

  • Free (or almost free)
  • No commute/travel expenses
  • Comfortable and easy

Drawbacks:

  • Need to find the space
  • Difficult to find work/life balance
  • Intrudes on family life
  • Commercial space

Commercial Space

Benefits:

  • Separates work and family life
  • May help marketing (if visible in a high traffic area)

Drawbacks:

  • Expensive rent
  • Can’t control the space/decor
  • Commute/travel expenses

Music store

Benefits:

  • Separates work and family life
  • Market to customers of store
  • No instrument/equipment costs

Drawbacks:

  • Pay rent/percentage of fees
  • Can’t control the space/decor
  • Commute/travel expenses

Schools

Benefits:

  • Separates work and family life
  • Market to students
  • Can teach during the day

Drawbacks:

  • Pay rent/percentage of fees
  • Can’t control the space/decor
  • Commute/travel expenses

Travelling

Benefits:

  • Separates work and family life
  • Can be a selling point for parents
  • Can charge a higher rate

Drawbacks:

  • Travel expenses
  • Can’t control the lesson environment
  • Less teaching time available each week

Online

Benefits:

  • Expand teaching hours with timezones
  • Teach from anywhere
  • Wider potential student base (global!)

Drawbacks:

  • May not work for youngest students
  • Need the technology setup
  • Learning curve for you as a teacher

Ages and Levels

You might not have much choice in the students you take when filling your new piano studio. I get that.

But I want you to consider your ideal students anyway.

If you know what types of students you would most like to teach it can affect your marketing and your long-term strategies for your business.

So ask yourself these questions as you begin to teach your first students:

  • Do you enjoy working with beginners or advanced students?  
  • Do you like the active minds of preschoolers?
  • Do you enjoy connecting with teenagers?
  • Are adult students perfect for your teaching style?

Knowing the answers to these questions takes time and experience. Revisit this from time to time to see if the students you’re teaching are the best students for you.

How will you run your business?

If you’re brand new to the business world, this part may be a little bit scary, intimidating or overwhelming.

But it really doesn’t have to be.

There are two essential things to get set up in your new piano studio: policies and money.

Writing Your Policies

Policies is such a BIG word, isn’t it? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your policies need to be written in legal jargon, or that they need to cover every possible circumstance.

Studio policies in my opinion should simply be guidelines for the most common queries that will come up in your studio.

These are the things I advise covering in your studio policies:

  • What will happen if a payment is late? Will there be an extra charge or penalty?
  • Do you give makeup lessons? Under what circumstances?
  • What happens if a student is late? Will you wait the full lesson duration or just a set period of time?
  • What do parents ask me about all the time? This should be addressed in your policies so that you have something to refer them back to.
  • Is there anything that new parents are surprised by when they start taking lessons? Laying out these points of confusion in the policies is a good idea to dispel any possible conflicts before they even arise.

You might also like to cover:

  • Parking: Where they should park and any restrictions.
  • Recitals/events: How many, when and if students are required to participate.
  • Summer lessons: If you expect students to take a certain number of lessons during the summer this should be clearly spelled out.

Don’t get too hung up on your policies. If you’ve covered these things, and you think the language is clear, that’s good enough. You can always revise them next year.

Need help communicating your studio policy? Check out Tim’s Open Letter to Piano Parents.

All That Money Stuff

Now it’s time to really get down to business. We’re going to talk about money.

Setting Your Tuition Fees

There are two important factors when setting your fees:

  • What’s the “going rate” in your area?
  • How much do you want/need to make?

Do not sell yourself short. Yes, you need to take into account your level of experience when setting your rates, but if you set them too low, people will think you’re not any good.

Making yourself the cheapest teacher around will only attract students who are bargain hunting, and – trust me – those are not the students you want.

There are tables for calculating your tuition rates, as well as the monthly fee rate included in the workbook which you can download below.

You can also learn more about monthly billing in this post by Tim.

Payment Options

If at all possible, it’s good to give parents/students a choice of payment options that might be convenient to them. Allowing students to pick the option that suits them means you are more likely to be paid on time.

Think about whether you want to accept:

  • Cash
  • Cheques
  • Bank transfers
  • Online payment options such as PayPal or Stripe

My Music Staff has online payment functionality built in and there’s a special offer available to Inner Circle members who want to try it out. An automatic option like this might be worth it to you (despite the extra fees) as it will mean you don’t have to spend time driving to the bank, or sending reminders to parents that haven’t paid.

Download the Beginner Teacher Blueprint Workbook

Get your free copy of the first two modules of the Beginner Teacher Blueprint Workbook by entering your details below.

If you want more amazing step-by-step content to help you set up your new piano studio for success, you can find the full Beginner Teacher Blueprint course inside the Inner Circle.

Learn more and become a member of the Inner Circle here.

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About the Author

Nicola Cantan is a piano teacher, blogger, author and creator of teaching resources. She loves getting piano students learning through laughter, and exploring the diverse world of music making. You can find lots of creative teaching freebies and ideas on her blog
Colourful Keys, and her book ‘The Piano Practice Physican’s Handbook’ on Amazon and other bookstores.

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