In this series of posts I’m telling the story behind Hack the Piano and Piano Couture as a whole. How it came about. How it develops, runs and grows. In my mind and in the world.
It’s a behind-the-scenes.
It’s about ideas, failure, success, do’s and don’ts. It’s about the seemingly improbable path of a musician choosing an unconventional “business” way.
Above all, it’s a story. A true story.
It’s about me. And about my Couture.
I hope it inspires or entertains. Maybe we’re lucky and it’ll do both.
Although I must say that I’m actually a lot more nervous about writing and publishing this than I am about making a video tutorial/lesson or even getting on stage and perform, I’m going to just type it. Right now.
See ya on the other side.
VISIONS AND LETTING GO – THE BACKSTORY
What a ride this has been. And still is, actually.
I must say, building a piano course (or whatever kind of course, as I’d imagine) and building a solid, fully functional framework -website- around it, isn’t as easy as I was stupid enough to believe. At least not when you’re a perfectionist anywhere near the category that I fall into.
Let me start this story by sharing some background info on the why.
Just a little over three years ago, when I finished my Conservatory study I was done (DONE!) with playing live. We had to do and deliver so many projects that actually implied just starting yet another band, writing yet another song, setlist and show on top of the “projects” you were already doing for fun or work (oh MAN! when I jot it down like this it sounds like the dream life come true. As it was. However, trust me, to much of a good thing…). It was just too much for me.
I simply couldn’t take another shithole filled with three chickens and an egg (as we like to say in here in Holland, e.g./translation: no audience except for the drunk regulars) after shipping my 4 keyboards to the other end of the country and setting them all up.
When I got my diploma, I really was done. At least for the moment.
After I made the tough decision to quit all the bands I was in (three “steadies” at that time; it was a phase) however, I thought to myself: “Ok, so much for the life I was used to living, what on earth am I going to do now?”
Ok, ok! Actually that’s not completely accurate. I also had another very good reason to quit -although it wasn’t exactly clear to me at that moment-. There was something lurking in the back of my mind. I had another goal that I felt needed my full attention to realize. A vision.
However, I quit that which was 90% of my life: playing (live) music, without an actual backup plan. Oops.
Although I did have my fair share of experience doing other kinds of work, some of ’em nice (working in a laid back coffee house where the people come because they feel good and are actually kind and fun to small-talk-chat with), some of ’em not so nice (NEVER am I getting on a bike mid-winter delivering a stack of 700 papers again), although playing music had literally broken me down at that moment, I knew my future had to evolve around music. It just had to. I loved it too much. It’s a love-hate kinda thing.
So why not teach, you ask? Well, funny story there, I hated it. Now that I jot it down it is actually quite funny indeed, for it was in fact that “hate” (back then I was a bit strange in the head and thought it was indeed hate. Hate-love going on there again as it appeared later) that actually triggered this whole journey.
You know, as a musician, especially one that’s just starting out, you don’t have all that many options. It’s either playing live (whether that’s playing your own music, or playing in somebody else’s band) playing as a studio musician (recording your own music -which without playing live will never get discovered-, or on somebody else’s record) or teach. Since the “session’” world is REALLY densely packed with about a gazillion super-talented aspiring rock-stars and usually takes some time growing into, that leaves playing live (hated it and on top of that it doesn’t earn dipshit) and teaching (ugh..).
From the experience I had during my Conservatory time, when I always made sure to keep around 5-10 students a week as a side job, I knew though that people tended to like the way I teach and my approach that was (still is) basically a translation of how I’d learned to play myself. No set, conventional theories and and useless rules, but based on shortcuts and insights that I myself had found just before I got accepted into the Conservatory.
I also liked the “helping” side of the teaching story. I love explaining things to people that are interested and I always like to help anyone that might benefit from it in one way or another.
I just didn’t like telling the same story 10 times in a row for 5 hours straight. That tired me a bit. So I figured, what if, in stead of teaching my regular one-on-one 30 minute lessons and tell the same story over and over again, I’d just write it all down? If somebody wants to learn from me, they can just read it. Right?
Writing had always attracted me, as had business (I studied Economics before I got accepted into the Conservatory; figured I could maybe use those skills setting something up to actually bring the thing to some doormats when it was finished). Let’s f’in do this!
And so my journey began. Setting aside some 2 hours a day to write down my thoughts on learning, creating a story out of the mess in my head about how I’d actually learned to play. I knew I wanted to make it different. Not just another one in a dozen books that all teach (or don’t teach, no offense to the good books out there) the same damn things and take way to long to reach the actual goal.
That was it! The goal had to be clear and then I’d just write the shortest path to it.
Two hours a day quickly became three, especially after I figured that some words just weren’t illustrative enough on their own (“I have to make video’s!”), then four, five and before I knew it, I was living off of the 700 bucks I made monthly off the few students that I’d saved as sort of a “back-up,” working 11 hour-days trying to weave together a story about playing. Creating images, reading about building websites, e-commerce, trying dozens of different providers, both for software and services and thinking. A LOT of thinking. The only reason I managed on that budget, is because I practically didn’t exit my house anymore. I ate (healthy, luckily), exercised, slept and built.
Finally, after almost 15 months, my first edition was “finished” (I am REALLY picky and a major perfectionist, so “finished”… well.. just draw the damn line!). It was in Dutch (STUPID!) and nobody knew it existed.