I’m not much of an entrepreneur, especially in the web space, but I’ve recently gotten a really nice gig due to the entrepreneurship of others who are full-time small business owner / entrepreneur / operators on the web.

A close friend of mine from college is the founder and head honcho of Literate Computing and one of his clients happens to be PianoGroove, a subscription-based on-line jazz piano instruction site. The two of them discussed how PianoGroove would like to expand to include jazz Hammond Organ lessons, and long story short, PianoGroove’s founder Hayden Hill asked me to plan and record the inaugural series of Hammond organ lessons for PianoGroove.

So Hayden and I recently collaborated to write up plans for a series of lessons. We also worked together to rent a Hammond B-3 and Leslie 122, and last week I traveled to his studio in Seattle to record the lessons. We had one partial day for setup and three days for the recording sessions. Hayden did a great job of estimating how much we could get tracked in the time we had, and we hit it pretty much spot on, finishing up the last footage less than an hour before the appointed time to load the organ out of the studio and return it to its owner.

For me, no matter how much experience I gain, recording seems to mean worrying that the session isn’t going to yield anything worthwhile. That’s a source of stress for sure, but I also really deeply love working in any kind of studio and doing recording projects. This project was no exception: I had stress, I had fun, I fear the final product will expose too many of my musical weaknesses, and I also predict the final product will actually be really good. Human brains excel at housing contradictory thoughts, don’t they?

Hayden looking over some of our foot footage in the studio during the sessions

One of the great things about working with Hayden, in addition to his calm and his patience, is his attention to detail. From the lessons already on pianogroove.com, I know he’s going to turn our footage into instructional material we can be proud of, and I’m looking forward to seeing the polished outcome. Here is his teaser forum post about our work on this first series of lessons.

I don’t have much experience teaching private music lessons, and most of the time when folks have asked me to teach music, I’ve referred them to someone else I see as more qualified. I have lots of formal and informal training in music of course, and I have some experience teaching other subjects, but I have no formal training specifically in teaching music and more to the point I have little interest in some of the challenges music teachers often face, like motivating uninterested students. I also don’t have experience creating a curriculum plan that addresses the needs of the typical beginning or intermediate music student. That said, I have been known to teach, yes indeed. This has happened with students advanced enough to have clear goals, self-motivated about working toward those goals, and seeking help in areas where I feel like my own skills and understanding are excellent (example: ear training; counterexample: high-velocity piano technique). Most of my students have been adults.

Working on structured video lessons for PianoGroove is an opportunity to teach with a support system that helps me avoid the obstacles that stood in the way before. Hayden understands his student population really well and uses that understanding to help me target my lesson plans. And of course video lessons mean the student (or their parent(s)) is not looking to me for all the motivation.

A break between takes of a lesson…

I still recommend one-on-one private lessons for any serious student but I can see a variety of reasons why subscription-based, on-line instruction via video can be a great supplement to private work with a teacher, or even the main source of instruction in situations where private lessons might not work well for whatever reason.