My son wants to play an instrument (the saxophone) and the music school offers yearly courses. I am worried that a yearly course might be too long a commitment for a child of 8years, and that he may dislike playing after, say 6 months.

He tried 3 weeks/lessons as an introduction offered by school. He likes the instrument and he likes the teacher. Still a year is a long time for a child. Is it realistic to commit for a year?

The alternative would be to find another teacher where we could start with 6 months or some other time-frame. The yearly tuition is quite steep (almost 1k euros) so I really do not want to pay for a year and then stop after 3 months.

  • 1
    The ask of the school seems very unreasonable. That would be a red flag to me. Most teachers are paid by the lesson and if you want to stop you just stop. Are there offering something unusual for a 1 year commitment?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 0:00
  • @Hilmar I think a "music school" may well be a bit more organized than that; some have limited number of slots for students, or at least need to plan their staffing, and so want a longer commitment. I've never done one that was this long, but one of the possibilities I looked into for my sons (violin) when we moved was such a school; it was the kind of music school that sent children to Juilliard and similar level - not our level, hence why we went with a more approachable teacher, but it's not unheard of.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 5:51
  • I don't know if the music school is special in any way, I don't play any instrument myself. This may be something we should look into, because if the school expects us to raise a concert saxophone player, they are not the place for us.
    – Ivana
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 10:23
  • When our kid did sax lessons through a music school, we paid by the month. A year is unreasonable financially, unreasonable for an 8-year-old to commit to, but philosophically useful because it takes a looooong time (months) before a new saxophonist stops squeaking spontaneously as they play. It takes time to build the muscles/muscle memory, I think. Also, our kid was closer to 10 when she started. Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


I think a year is a reasonable timeframe, if the child wants it enough - but the child really will determine this.

One of most the challenging things to teach is persistence - instead of flitting from one thing to another each time something is boring or difficult, doing something long enough to become good at it. A common approach is not dissimilar to this: to sign your child up for something for a long period of time (like a year) and then tell them they have to do it the whole year.

This rarely works, if it is an edict from above, because the child is then just doing what they're told to do - not doing what they choose to do. They learn that they have to listen to mom and dad, but nothing else of value.

What works, though, is when the child decides to make the commitment. If the decision is theirs, and it's something they're excited about, they're much more likely to persist - and to learn how to do so.

Music is a very common choice here, because it's something many children really do want to do, and want to get good at! But, it's simply impossible to get good at anything musically in three months - it takes a year before you're really doing anything interesting, for the most part, with nearly every instrument, if it's being taught well.

So the approach here is to sit down with him and lay everything on the table. Tell him he can do this, you can pay for the lessons, but only if he promises to stick with it for the year. Explain why it's so long - because it will be somewhat boring for a while as he learns basic technique, and it may well be close to a year before he's playing the really interesting songs.

Treat this like a contract negotiation - don't just get an "I promise", but set out what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking the rules. Are you okay with bugging him to practice constantly? Or does he need to manage that himself? What's the minimum practice schedule you can tolerate? (Typical 8 year old practice schedule would be maybe 20-30 minutes a day, 7 days a week - but that's very hard to keep up all the time). What happens if he does give up after three or four months? Any contract has to allow for the possibility of breaking - what can you and he agree on here?

If you treat him like an adult here, and let him make the affirmative choice to do this, and then support him - there's a good chance it will go a long way to teaching persistence, and many other things that come with learning music.

  • 2
    That is not just an answer, its a life-lesson, thanks. You say a typical schedule would be 20-30 minutes of practice, we have neighbours who's kids have to practice piano for 10 minutes daily, 15 if they skipped the day before. Is this very instrument dependent?
    – Ivana
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 10:23
  • I would say that 20-30 is what the teacher would want; but 10-15 is okay, too. Just make sure you're on the same page as far as those expectations, either way.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 14:53

When you start a new job, there is usually a three month probation period. Three months where you can quit without any reason if the company is rubbish, and three months where the company can fire you without any reason if you are rubbish. Most people think that is quite sensible.

So check their precise rules. Since you mentioned Euros: I think in Germany you can leave any subscription if you can't get any advantage from it. So a magazine subscription - you are bound to the contract because you can give your monthly fishing magazine to a friend. This one - it's worthless if you don't go to the lessons, so you can cancel. Unless they offer that you send a different kid to the lessons instead. Might be the same in other EU countries.

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