When I started PopJazzOnline.com for a about a year ago, I did it to solve a problem that many people have: Understanding jazz piano and be able to play jazz piano themselves.
As there are thousands of books and videos about playing jazz piano out there, there still seemed to be a lack of a structured program that could take the student from where they are to where they want to be.
Weekly I got in contact with new students that reported they were overwhelmed by the endless stream of information out there, and the lack of structure and direction. And as a passionated jazz piano teacher, I couldn’t sit around anymore when I knew that there had to be a perfect solution to the problem.
I knew that if I’m going to solve the problem, I could not do what was already done by other online jazz piano teachers out there. I found that many online jazz piano teachers either was only teaching through Skype lessons, or they were producing weekly lessons that was not interconnected. To sign up for a “course” with 4000 videos where all the lessons would be accessible instantly would just add to the students overall problem, and not helping the student getting real results. The other problem I found was that Skype was a tool that only would help a handful of people, as time is a very limited resource, even for jazz piano teachers.
Asking the right questions
They say that the quality of your answers will be determined by the quality of the questions that you ask. My question was: How can I contribute the most and materialize my knowledge and skills so that I can help more people finding and developing their own music?
Giving birth to PopJazzOnline.com 1.0.
After asking the questions I instantly knew that the solution would have to be invented as it didn’t exist. My passions are, as you might know: Jazz and teaching music. There is a third passion that I’ve got: Technology and systems. I simply love using my Mac and I am constantly working on inventing new workflows and ways to do things better, smarter and faster.
They say that you should follow your passions, and I found that I could actually find a way to combine all of my three passions, and at the same time being able to help and inspire many people.
I also knew that if I would do this, it would require a lot of trial and error, and overall a lot of work. To be an inventor is hard, and you still have to make a living and provide for your family when you’re inventing. If I was going to go in this direction, I had to go all in. To me it would mean that I had to work long hours, invest thousands of dollars in gear, saying no to multiple other opportunities and giving it 100% of my attention for a very long time before even getting one single student.
I already had a safe job as a piano teacher, musician and composer, so why on earth would I even consider doing this at a very high price? Yes, the price for inventing and creating all this was high! Thousands of hours spent on research, learning how to film, how to make it sound good, how to do marketing, how to manage the complexity of creating a step-by-step program. After all, it is fairly easy to publish a youtube video on any random subject as long as you (the presenter) knows the material.
The price was high, but there was a price that would be even higher if I had chosen to not go all in: The regret of not executing on what I felt in my heart was my unique voice in this noisy world. After all it is true what they say: You don’t want to die with your music still inside. My idea was my music! PopJazzOnline.com is my music, and my expression, and hopefully my contribution to make some peoples lives a little better.
In between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 PopJazzOnline.com was finally alive after several years of trial and error.
The number of students grew rapidly and the feedback from students and youtube followers was amazingly positive.
Things was working, and I was 80% happy with the result.
Looking back – Testing my teaching environment:
Here is a snippet from one of the videos when I was still experimenting on how I wanted this to become in the end:
In the first videos I planned to use a whiteboard with handwritten notes.
Not a very bad idea, but I knew I could do better. The problem with this scene is also that I didn’t stand out from the background. Also, I didn’t like the little microphone on my shirt.
In the released version, I removed the bad background and replaced it with a black and white screen of me together with animated whiteboard at the right side. Now I didn’t blur with the background and you could see the explanations a lot better.
Later I figured out that even this was a good idea, it was a very time consuming thing. I spend about 30 minutes to create a video of 30+ seconds. Still, this was a good solution that I kept, but now I’ve outsourced the animation process.
I also got rid of the microphone, but kept the white shirt for this and all my videos.
This was the first setup for the playing-scenes. Not too bad. I still had the same problem with the background blending in with my face, so I kept the whiteboard for the recordings. Also there was some problems with the angle of the camera filming the keys (bottom right clip).
Here is the result:
Here is the improved version. I changed the background to the better. Now you see me. Also I changed the camera angle to the left side where you see
both of my hands when I teach stuff. I also fixed the color of the videos to the better as well as dramatically improving the sound quality.
The need for a new version.
Sometimes in life we have to compromise a few thing as a short-term sacrifice before we can get the results we want. Although PopJazzOnline.com 1.0 was loved by my students, I knew I had something better in store. The course in itself was something I was extremely happy with. I had spent hundreds of hours creating all those videos, but I was still not 100% happy with the product.
Solving technical issues – so we did.
Problem 1: Emails didn’t get out in time.
Throughout 2016 as we grew PopJazzOnline.com with more and more students, we also had some technical bugs that kept showing up. Sometimes people didn’t get the follow up emails they were promised as we used so called cookies to see if a student had seen a lesson or not. This worked only when the student was viewing the lessons on the same device as before. If there was a change, our systems wouldn’t recognize that he/she was logged into the lesson and the follow up email didn’t go out the day after.
Problem 2: The videos didn’t work on a phone or tablet as they should.
We use an expensive software with our videos that is a brilliant and helpful tool for us and the student.
This video tool runs on top of the videos as an overlay, and it helps us creating interactive lessons with amazing and helpful practicing-together features that never have been seen on the market before. However: More and more people are watching their videos on a device such as a phone or tablet. When the videos was displayed on a tablet or phone, you couldn’t use many of the amazing features that our fancy system provides.
After several emails from students reporting that the play-bar didn’t show up, or the buttons didn’t lead anywhere, I knew that this is something we have to redo and fix for all students – so we did.
Problem 3: The lessons came out too frequently, making the student to feel overwhelmed.
I sincerely believe that if you want to master jazz piano or piano in general, you need to practice. You can’t buy yourself out of the situation. Even if you had the greatest jazz pianist as a teacher, it will still be learning by doing. That’s also why I believe it is a bad idea to give the student 1000 videos at once when he barely can play through one of them.
I solved this in PopJazzOnline.com 1.0 by “dripping” out the lessons every 10 days. I thought that 10 days should do for a student (in average) before he/she moves on to the next lesson. I know that I was right in many cases, but I also experienced that some students reported that they were busy at times or simply had to much going on in their lives.
The truth is that I knew all the time that this could be the case for many of my students. I had a solution all along on how I could solve this problem for people out there. I had only one problem: The tech wouldn’t let me. We run our membership platform on something called Kajabi. That was a good tool for awhile, but they missed many of the features I knew we needed to serve our students the best way possible.
I stopped producing new YouTube videos for a month and went back to the drawing board to solve all of the big issues with PopJazzOnline.com 1.0
If you’re interested: See an image of the new map I used to plan for the new jazz piano step-by-step course:
Introducing PopJazzOnline.com 2.0
With the new PopJazzOnline.com domain we have re-built the whole lesson plattform to the better.
We have fixed all of the issues above:
- Now the emails will go out a day after our students watch the lessons.
- All videos now works on any modern device. (If you’re on iOS, you need iOS10 or above, but it works great).
- The biggest feature update is: The lessons still comes out every 10 days, but now you need to unlock your next lesson yourself. (Only when you are ready). What then will happen is that the next lesson will be available 10 days prior to the day you unlock your current lesson.
For example: When you’re starting the course you’ll access lesson 1. You can unlock lesson 2 in day 10. But here is the gold: You don’t need to! If you want more time, simply wait a few days before you unlock your next lesson. Let’s say you wait until day 16 (in stead of 10) before you open up lesson 2, then lesson 3 will be available in day 16 + 10 = day 26.
The result and intention is that lessons won’t pile up if you’re busy. You will for sure get the time you need to practice well all the exercises before you move on to the next lesson.
On top of the changes above, there is more:
- A brand new membership platform. We bought the domain: mymusicschool.online
- A new design! Yes, I have to admit: I like designing websites too, so the new look and feel of PopJazzOnline.com was my contribution to present the jazz course (and other courses) the best way possible for all of our new students.
- Major improvements in “back-end” of our sites, that will make the experience even better for you who are a student.
- A redesigned bonus section for our students.
- Improved GOLD-membership experience for our GOLD members.
What makes me exited in 2017?
Now as I’m done with the website and can say that I am confident that we have done our best to serve the most (I’m now 100% happy with the solution we have in store), it would be tempting to say that this is what I’m most exited about in 2017. But it is not!
There are two things I’m exited about: My family and my students that are constantly working hard to improve, developing their ideas, sharing them with me and giving me amazing feedback that the techniques I present in my jazz piano course (and the other courses) are actually giving them the results they had hoped for.
It is my honor to be able to work for all of you (students or not), and I promise there will be a lot more YouTube videos, jazz courses and joy coming your way very soon. I love my job, and I want to end this little update with a big THANK YOU for all your great support since I started PopJazzOnline.com.
Thank you, and thank you again!
Ps: Take care of your music!