by Jeff Scheetz, TrueFire’s Director of Education

Do you ever look at something and wonder how it works? Or maybe wonder what it took to get it to the stage it is at now? I do that all the time. In this next series of blogs I want to take you through the making of a TrueFire course, from start to finish. There are always some variants and each course has it’s own unique path, but there are some commonalities that hold them all together.

The initial spark and contact between TrueFire and an artist can come from several ways. Sometimes an artist will contact us interested in doing a course. In that case we follow up depending on whether we know the artist or need to do some research. We may have an artist that we want to work with because we need what they do to fill a void in our catalog of courses, or sometimes we are just fans of that artist!

Fortunately TrueFire has a great reputation as a company that treats artists extremely well; so many times it is a word of mouth introduction from one of our current artists to one of their friends. But regardless of the way, we are always looking to work with artists who are great players and educators, and most importantly good people.

For this example we have reached out to “Zeke” – he is a fictional guitar player who has played for many years, been a teacher off and on, and has several well received CDs out. He was introduced to us by one of our current artists and after we have had internal discussions about him, we think his bluesy funk style will fit right in, so now we begin the process…

Usually I have the first contact with the artist, which happens via email with an introduction and a link to a very cool artist website we have set up where we can send potential new educators. This site gives them a ton of information on the company as well as all the details on planning, shooting, and marketing their course. I will also set up a phone call. This call is often just me, but sometimes if schedules permit will include Brad (TrueFire’s founder) and Tommy (Head of Production). In this case I have a first call with Zeke.

educatorZeke has been to the website and has a few questions about the business side of things. Like many musicians, Zeke has had a couple of bad experiences with publishers. I assure him we are NOT a publisher, don’t want to own any of his intellectual property, and have the most artist friendly “deal” that you will find in any branch of the music business. After looking over all the details, he is now pretty excited.

We talk about what his main “thing” is. I always think an artist will do their best work in their own “wheelhouse”, basically find out what they do best and start from there. One step that takes place before we actually start talking to an artist is to look at our entire catalog and see where we may need their services. We try to fill in any spots that our students want more options in.

Since Zeke is a blues and funk player, we decide on a cool rhythm course. The next step is to look at what kind of a course it might be – it could be a “50 licks” course – or a “1,2,3” – or a “Survival Guide” or a unique course that falls a bit outside of these series. This process involves me asking Zeke to submit an outline of some of the subjects/licks/things he will be teaching. That helps us see where this course will best fit.

After a week of a few more emails Zeke sends in a list of a few different things he could teach on and I talk about the options with the Team at TrueFire. We make the call that the best fit for Zeke on this first outing is a “50 bluesy/funky outrageous licks you MUST know” course.

The good thing about the 50 licks series is that it is fairly straight forward and basically follows a template to organize. So it is sometimes easier for a new educator to get that material down. The tough thing is that while 50 licks might seem easy to format – it can be hard to come up with that many interesting licks!

The next step is usually booking a date in the studio so we can start working on a timeline. The TrueFire studio is operating non-stop and as of this writing on April 3rd, we are booked almost solid through October! There are only a couple of spots in September so I shoot those off to Zeke and let him know that if that doesn’t work we have to go into November.

Zeke is a touring professional so that makes it a little more difficult for him to book a solid date that far in advance. But fortunately he is off in September as his wife is having a baby so as long as it is the beginning of the month he should be good. I confirm with the “Keeper of the master book” (aka Tommy from the studio) that we can do that first week of September and he enters in the dates. (It is really difficult if an artist has to cancel a studio date because we are booked so far in advance in the studio it makes it hard to re-schedule – but sometimes it can’t be helped as that is the nature of them being artists and having to go where and when the work is!).

So now Zeke and I start working on the curriculum…

Read Part 2 >>

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