Started September 2023
Three years ago, at the ripe old age of 25, I set out to try and learn the piano.
As a child, my father had me take piano lessons, which I did on and off—unfortunately, as is often the case, the lessons were wasted on me at that age, as I was otherwise preoccupied playing World of Warcraft and attempting to advance my skills as a script kiddie.
I fondly remember him sharing with me why he wished for me to learn the piano:
“I’ve been to many restaurants and bars with a piano; it’s always the guy who can play them that gets the girls.”
Far from any desire to increase my standing with the opposite sex, my ambitions to learn in my mid 20’s were much simpler: I wanted to feel what I imagined it felt like to be able to play an instrument.
Learning anything as an adult can be somewhat intimidating, having left the safe and constructive confines of a world of educational systems and institutions. None the less, after years of hoping to pick up the piano at some obscure and undefined point in future, I set out to make it so.
My first port of call, like any terminally online nerd, was to post on a piano sub-reddit. By doing so, I connected with a lovely young man in India who was an exceptionally talented musician, and off we went.
The lessons went well in the sense that my teacher was excellent, and as a student, I was keen to learn, but the format of being taught via Zoom was far from ideal, and the timezone related issues were difficult to navigate, too.
Within a month, I was back on my own, but nevertheless determined to continue. I did so by doubling down on YouTube videos and started dabbling in a selection of apps, from the many offered online.
Now a year into embarking on my ivory quest, and frustrated with my slow progress, I started searching for a local teacher. I couldn’t quite find any sites or teachers that stood out, but I decided I’d pick someone and give it a shot.
Unfortunately, these local lessons didn’t go particularly well for me. The teacher was, I have no doubt, very experienced, but the format didn’t work well for me, nor did the curriculum that the teacher started with.
Once again, I found myself on my own. More apps, more YouTube videos. I pressed on.
At some point on this journey, I happened across a beautiful old piano in a charity shop not far from the building where I rent a room to serve as an office, which my friends and I now affectionately call ‘the Skunkworks ↗‘.
I decided then and there to purchase the piano and leave it in the lobby of the office building—I’d spent the summer playing on a public piano, and had fallen deeply in love with the phenomenon of hearing strangers play the piano.
Despite the close proximity of the piano to the target location, getting the piano back to the office building was no small feat given it’s weight. I borrowed a hand trolley and recruited a young art student (for $50) from a nearby park to help me roll it down the road.
Not long after I’d left the piano in the lobby, the residents of the building and I all received an email from management:
Subject: Leaving things in the lobby
Please stop leaving things in the lobby or you will be forced to pay any removal fees.
The piano can stay.
Sometimes, as they say, it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission. The piano was there to stay.
Over the last year and a half or so of the piano being in the lobby, there have been many spectacular days, when, with what joy and jubilation, I have come across total strangers playing on the piano. It’s wonderful, and it never gets old.
Growing increasingly inspired by such moments, I began to flirt with the idea of organizing a community piano night, and a few months ago, I put that plan into action.
The format is quite simple: I make a mulled wine on a portable cooker, and a small but wonderful group of local musicians rock up to jam, sing and have a good time.
Through running the piano nights, I met Ani.
Ani is a local musician and researcher for a New Zealand government organization. While she lives a busy life, she was open to teaching me how to play the piano once a week on a casual basis.
Through our chance encounter via the piano nights, and the subsequent lessons, my musical ability has bloomed. I’ve been able to make more progress in the last 6 weeks under Ani’s guidance than perhaps the last three years in total.
It was at the end of lesson 5 or 6 that I found myself deeply lost in thought.
There must be a better way of connecting with someone like Ani.
In fact, there must be plenty of folks like me out there, who, if there was a better way, would jump at the opportunity to finally pick up an instrument or advance their skills.
Over the following week, I couldn’t shake that thought.
At first, my mind went to trying to map out how I could help Ani connect with more folks locally; she could make some good money on the side doing what she loves, and her students, like me, could race through an exciting musical curriculum.
Not long after that, having taken a look at the current music teacher directories & marketplaces in NZ, the size of the opportunity I saw before me began to grow; it seemed clear that not only could I help Ani, but I could help all current and would-be music teachers in New Zealand by providing a better experience than what was currently available.
Finally, the size of the opportunity grew exponentially when, one night, out of curiosity, I switched my VPN to Los Angeles, San Francisco and London etc., and began searching Google for terms like ‘piano teacher’, ‘guitar teacher’ etc.—there is no platform, global or domestic, that is focused on solving this problem at scale, and I couldn’t believe it.
Thus, Melody was born.
Teaming up with my best friend Brett, a full stack engineer, we’re setting out to create a platform that does what Airbnb did to rentals—takes something archaic and outdated, and breathes new life (and a massive new market) into it.
Follow along as we build Melody live on Twitch ↗, or check back here for updates as we progress.