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A question of etiquette..

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cjp3044, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. cjp3044


    Oct 10, 2008
    Clovis, CA
    I have started taking lessons recently from an older gentleman that is a Berklee graduate so that I could improve my knowledge of chord structures and theory, as well as technique - just want to become a better player. So far a lot of what we are going over is nothing new to me, however there are things I am picking up and the direction we are going is exactly what I expected - I am saying that it is a good experience and I like the way he explains things.

    Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that he teaches out of a music store, I pay the store for the lessons, which in my opinion are pretty inexpensive to begin with, but I know he is only getting a piece of what I pay the store. I also know his only source of income is teaching and gigging and he isn't exactly well off. Is it proper etiquette to tip the instructor in a scenario such as this? I really have no idea what the proper thing would be. Is tipping an instructor normal at all? Would this possibly be against some agreement he has with the store? Could it possibly insult him to offer? And if it is proper, how much of a tip should I give him?

    Thanks for the advice!
  2. Swampman Cory

    Swampman Cory

    Nov 9, 2009
    Los Angeles / ex-Michigan
    Endorsing Artist: Reunion Blues, 64 Audio, Mesa Engineering
    I don't have an answer for any of your questions, but you rock for thinking like this. If you do tip him, you could tell him exactly what you said: "...I know [you are] only getting a piece of what I pay the store." I say go for it!
  3. Agreed, I'd have to at least make the effort if I were in your shoes.
  4. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Is there any way you can cut the music store out of the equation and just do the lessons at his place or yours and then he gets the full amount?
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    So do you tip every lesson? what happens if you forget or don't have the extra money? I would just have the guy for private lessons in my home and be done with it unless you live in a small town where everyone knows your business.
  6. fishdreams

    fishdreams Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    Endorsing: Arkham Vacuum Tube Amplification and and Martin Keith Guitars
    Or you can also ask him for an extra lesson every once in a while at home. Then it's just between you and him and you are not cutting in the store's business, if you dont want to do that.
  7. It is difficult to answer your question but here is one idea. I'm
    guessing that you are getting a single 1/2 hour lesson every
    week. If you're happy with the lessons, you think the rates are
    inexpensive and you want to help him out, sign up for a second
    1/2 hour. He makes more money, you get more time with him.
    It's a win-win situation.
  8. cjp3044


    Oct 10, 2008
    Clovis, CA
    I'd actually really like to do that. Unfortunately, the problem is scheduling. The store is only open till 6 and I dont get off work till 5, in fact it's pretty difficult to even leave on time, but the store is only 10 minutes away. As a part time Dad, I won't take time away from my daughter on a Saturday.

    I have seriously been considering approaching him about cutting out the store, it could serve to get me an hour in the evening plus him more money, but would that violate some agreement he has with the store costing him a place to teach? I do need to be careful how I approach it. It's not really a small town situation but I could see it getting back to the store.

    Still not sure the best thing to do. I'm assuming from the lack of a comment that it is not really typical to tip an instructor.
  9. Hawkbone


    Mar 23, 2009
    Just present it to him as a scheduling conflict - you have to give up on the lessons, unless he can do it privately some evening/weekend. Offer him a bit more than you pay the store and make it a long enough lesson to be worth his while.
  10. cjp3044


    Oct 10, 2008
    Clovis, CA
    That's probably the best way to approach it - that gives him the opportunity to simply say no if it's against some policy or something.

    BTW - it's my opinion these lessons are inexpensive, however I don't know what the going rate for private lessons like these are. I'd rather not divulge the price without knowing what the norm is. This guy really has a great approach - you can tell where he is going with what he is telling you. I'm assuming that will hold true as things start to get a little more intense. He could be teaching at a higher level IMO, however we don't really have the market for that here - University town in Central Cal - metro area is about a mil, actual city is just over half mil, BUT we're pretty much between the San Francisco area and Los Angeles - I'm not saying we don't have serious musicians here because we have some superb talent, but I think the really serious instruction is more likely being done in the Bay Area or LA. It also seems to me that what I am paying now is about the same or not much more than I paid for lessons in the early 80s.

  11. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Ask around and get an idea of what lessons cost in San Fran and LA his teaching method sounds good and you like him so I would stick with him and pay him what he's worth but one thing you have to remember this is not a charity you may feel sorry for the guy but we all make life choices that land us where we are in life and this is a professional agreement between two musicians and that's all it is if he suddenly got a major gig somewhere he probably would drop you like a bad habit.
  12. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    I teach out of a store as well...... We don't expect tips and really never even think of it! It is break in my contract to take someone from the store to my home so it actually puts me in an awkward position when a student occasionally suggests it. I've had a mom actually ask me to teach her kids at my home within ear shot of our administrator!!!! Good lord!

    Our teacher cut is very fair as we have decent rooms and a secretary booking us and collecting bling bling!

    If you were to cease going to the store in favor of the teachers house it's going to look like he just lost a student rather quickly.
    Just go to your lessons and enjoy!
  13. Dixon Steele

    Dixon Steele

    Jan 28, 2013
    If you do decide to tip him, make sure that you mention it's because you really appreciate his lessons, rather than because of charity. I would think that would make him more likely to accept it, and less likely to be offended.
  14. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If he teaches you from home and the store finds out he'll probably lose his job. Be careful how you help.
  15. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    You assume too much. You don't know the exact arrangement with the store. Very often instructors pay the store for studio time (ie, they rent the room) and whatever they make is theirs and then they pay the store from the proceeds.

    I think a thoughtful gift or a card and cash for the holidays (or a birthday or other significant event, if you know it) would be appropriate whatever the situation.
  16. blakelock

    blakelock Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    plus, the store isn't a bad guy here. even if they take a cut, he's getting more student by being associated with the store. they help him get students ("my kid just bought a guitar here now he needs lessons...here") and he helps the store by bringing people in that do a little window shopping before/after the lesson.
  17. Some people you tip and some you do not. I've never tipped a music instructor and would be reluctant to start.

    All kinds of ways to show your appreciation beyond tipping. A simple thank you for ........ be specific in your thank you. Most people will say thank you, but, never get around to what specifically they are thanking you for.

    Same thing about praising. That was great is OK, but, it was great how you lead into the chord changes with that chromatic run. Now that is specific and he/she can go build on that.

    Specific thank you.
  18. cjp3044


    Oct 10, 2008
    Clovis, CA
    That is exactly part of it. The store isn't the bad guy here. It's a good local store owned locally with competitive pricing and good service. And they've been established since the early '70s.

    I think that they are able to offer lessons so inexpensively is great, especially for families that don't have a lot of money and want to get their children lessons. I imagine that the vast majority of his lessons are at the beginner level. Mine, however are not - I am getting intermediate to advanced level lessons, and I have the means to pay a little more for the level I am getting.

    I think my main question has been answered - it does not appear that tipping an instructor is the norm. I do think I will approach the "scheduling conflict" angle - no one gets hurt and he can say no and it doesn't look like I'm trying to "steal" him from the store, nor would it look like charity to him, (which it isn't - he's simply worth more than what I'm paying in my mind). Otherwise, maybe the holiday card and a birthday card might work with a benjamin slipped in.
  19. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    Starbucks or for Canadians... Tim hortons gift cards are always nice at xmas
  20. cjp3044


    Oct 10, 2008
    Clovis, CA
    Thanks for everyone's input. I spoke to him and he wouldn't be able to take me outside of the store, however he seems perfectly happy with his arrangement, so I should just be thankful that I feel like I getting a great deal. I'll just take care of him with something every once in a while as a thank you.

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