Teachers Blog

Dir en grey in Toronto - 1 day left!

Tomorrow I am heading to Toronto to see my favourite band of all time, Dir en grey, play their only Canadian tour date on their "Never Free From The Awakening" tour.

(Japanese bands don't come overseas much... I've been a fan since 2005 and they've been together for nearly 20 years, so this could be one of my only chances to see them live!)

I'll be staying with one of my musician friends, Dylan, part of the extensive project "Crankbox". He used to write a song a week for over two years and published them all on YouTube - that's dedication!

More to come! :)

HessFest 2015 - Day 13 (Last Day)

Last day of the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event, and last day of the whole series of events this year. We are all tired and battered, but we can't be happier.

On the morning lessons Tom Hess shows us some strategies to finance a band AFTER a tour has been done (virtually no band has done that). This stuff is super top secret, so that's the only thing you get here :-)

During the afternoon we go through a list of situations, topics, and areas in which the music industry of today is NOT efficient. Tom Hess takes ideas from many other industries and applies them to band managing, record publishing, and the music business in general.

Needless to say, the music industry of today is incredibly inefficient in several areas. Tom Hess takes us through the economy of a "normal" band, and then through the economy of an "innovative", efficient band. The result is impressive. An "efficient" band could afford to give records away FOR FREE and still make more than 10 times the money that a "normal" band will do... and this without working a single minute more!

Yeah, I know, I could not believe it too before seeing it. But the math is there. It's not even difficult.

After dinner we are all running on fumes. Tom Hess takes us through some last important points, and at the end he shares with us some "insider stories". These are both funny and enlightening.

After the end of the event, it's the time for goodbyes. This is always hard for me: I get to stay two weeks with all these positive, high-energy, intelligent people. We feed on each other, we challenge each other, and we push each other up. It's life-changing... it's life-changing every time!

Students: you WANT to experience this! Start planning your next summer now, because I already got my ticket for August 2016 :-)

HessFest 2015 - Day 12

Day 2 of the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event.

While day 1 was focused on how to finance a tour by making money BEFORE a tour (this is when the band is more financially weak), in the second day we attack the problem of selling merchandise (and other things) while on tour.

There are 17 reasons why fans do not buy merchandise at a concert. We take the time to list all of them, analyze why and how they work, and finding creative ways to solve them. It's fun! I love problem-solving, and once identified these problems are easy!

We go deep into the logistics of touring, down to the best way to load the tour truck - because believe it or not, the order in which you load all the gear, and merchandise, and other things in the truck can make the difference between making an extra million dollars on tour.

Yes, A MILLION. No, it's not an exaggeration. Seriously.

In fact a medium-sized band should be able to make a few millions WHILE touring if they did all the right things... needless to say, most bands do not know what to do, and in 99% of the cases they don't even realize that there is something that they need to do.

The beauty of the whole system is that all this extra money is done just by doing things that the fans want. If, say, Dream Theater (one of my favourite bands) was doing a few of these things, I would already be lighter of a few thousand of dollars... and really happy about it.

In fact, thinking at how many great things this or other bands could have done and how much fun I could have had, and how much I could have learned form them if they did these things, I feel quite disappointed. From a fan pony of view, I would have LOVED to buy these additional products or opportunities from my favourite bands.

And you would have liked it too.

After a final two hours analyzing the economy of the album cycle (composing-recording-releasing-touring) we head to bed for a well-deserved rest.

HessFest 2015 - Day 11

Today we start the next event: the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event. In the next days Tom Hess will explain us about the economy of running a band, and how to not lose money when going on tour. Touring is one of the main expenses for a band, and most bands tour at a loss. In fact, an organized and competent band can EASILY recoup all the expenses even before they start the tour.

Now, my old students will remember that this is not the first time I attend this event. In fact I was here for the very same event just a couple of years ago. With minor exceptions, the content of the whole course is the same, so you might wonder why I am paying a pretty penny (for the event itself, the hotel, the food...) to be told the same things again.

This is a very important point so I want my students to pay attention to the following.

Every time you listen to something, you learn something new. Yes, even if you already heard it. In fact it's EVEN MORE important if you heard it already.

First of all, everything worth learning is NEVER something you can completely understand in a single pass. You need to see and hear things more than once to understand all the connections in the things you are learning. That's why I do "repeat" some lessons with my students: so they can deeply understand what they learn. It's never about "doing something new"

Second, it's never about the INFORMATION: it's not about knowing what to do. It's about actually doing it! It's not bookish knowledge we are after: it's about knowing how to implement the things we learn and train yourself to actually doing them. That's why I offer my students the option to take practice classes: so I can help them doing what they need to do: practice in the correct and most efficient and effective way.

Third: the REAL important thing is the MINDSET behind what you learn. This event is useful even to people who are not in a band and are never going to tour. The real value is NOT in the single tactics (even if every tingle one of the tactics that Tom Hess is teaching us can make the difference between bankruptcy and success for a band), the gold is in the mindset that created these ideas.

I personally do not plan to tour in the next 2-3 years: I am here to see an event I have already seen as an exercise in mindset. And I can see how this is working wonderfully for me. I can see the connections between the ideas much clearer, I am coming up with more ideas on my own, and MANY of these ideas are applicable to my own students too (yes, once you have the right mindset you can think about touring or teaching and you get ideas regarding both!)

So, to all my students: when I tell you that you need to listen to the same thing again because you will understand it better, it's not an excuse. I am doing this myself. I am putting my money where my mouth is: I am spending literally thousands of dollars to see an event I already have seen (yes, thousands).

There is also another reason why I am doing this: Tom Hess told me to do it.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? Of course Tom Hess would tell me to pay him a lot of money to come to his event. He has something to gain from it, no?

Well, my philosophy is this: you choose a teacher or a mentor (only one!), and once you made your choice you DO what your teacher tells you to do. No discussions. No second guessing. If your teacher/mentor creates an event, then he has a reason to do that. If he tells you to come to an event the second time, he has a reason for it.

Do you really think that Tom Hess would tell me to come back to this event thinking "I just want Tommaso's money, but he's going to be bored out of his wits?" I know for a fact that he would NEVER do that... because if he did I would not be happy and I would not come to the next events.

Your teacher/mentor (if he's competent) ALWAYS has your best long-term interest at heart. The more results you get, the better it is for you AND for him.

So, you want to get great results in your guitar playing? Once you have chosen me as your teacher JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO. I always have your best interests at heart: I HAVE to because I WANT the best students out there, and I want all of you to improve your playing beyond your expectations.

Again: I am putting my money where my mouth is: you know I am sincere on this one.

HessFest 2015 - Day 10

Last day of the HessFest proper, we are going to start with the next event tomorrow.

I sleep most of the morning (since the event starts after lunch) and the extra sleeps helps. I eat the hotel breakfast as lunch (eggs, cheese, bacon... looks more like a lunch to me anyway)

Tom Hess starts with a masterclass on Frequently Asked Questions that touches on a number of different topics: composition, music theory, mindset, music teaching, music career... there is everything for everybody and we all have fun in listening to it. Tom Hess non-politically-correct delivery style is at its best today :-)

After the masterclass, Tom Hess gives a first round of lessons and then we leave for dinner. We have dinner at Red Robin: Tom Hess favorite place.

Once back, Tom gives another round of lessons, and I get one too (I ask him about how to learn repertoire in a short time), and after that there are a few more performances.

Many people are leaving today as they will not be participating to the next event (I always stay for the whole thing) so we have some goodbyes tonight. We also get a few group photos.

And now to bed early: at the event that starts tomorrow we go back to an early morning schedule!

HessFest 2015 - Day 9

Day 3 of HessFest proper.

I need to sleep more than 4 hours a night :-) Also, the air conditioning is killing me. What is with these people that keep the damn thing on even if outside is cold?

After lunch, Tom Hess gives the first masterclass on composition. He shows us how he composed an acoustic piece, and he guides us through the first idea, the reasoning behind the composition, the possible choices, the different emotions that each choice would have elicited in the listener, how to put together the different sections of the song in a coherent whole... a very very valuable lesson on how a composer actually thinks and work.

After Tom Hess, we have a masterclass on acoustic guitar by Simon Candy. Simon shows us a number of cool licks using open strings in very original ways, and then he walks us through applications to Blues and modal music. I think I have a dozen pages of licks in my notes now... lost of work to do when I'm back home :-)

After dinner we have another round of Tom Hess single lessons, and then another round of performances. There are so many people that want to perform that we stay 2h beyond schedule. My student Rio and I sign up for the performance, and we go up last as if we were the headliners :-)

Rio and I have a blast on stage, and our performance gains a lot of praise from the audience (many attendees come to us even the next day to congratulate us). There are few things in life like performing with your own student in front of an audience of pro musicians (and I'm sure Rio is thinking the same about performing with his teacher).

Students! If you practice enough and you follow what I teach you, you can be the next! These are experiences you do not want to miss. I WANT YOU to become the next one I will bring to HessFest! I WANT YOU to be the next one I bring to know Tom Hess. I WANT YOU to be the next one to perform with me in front of such a great and demanding audience - and win!

Now, go forth and practice!!!

HessFest 2015 - Day 8

HessFest proper day 2. We have a more relaxed schedule now: the event starts at 1pm, so we have the morning free.

This also mean that we are not meting in the morning, and so we have to find a place to eat at lunch without the benefit of some of the other attendees driving cars. The hotel is NOT at walking distance from any eating place... and the hotel restaurant is closed at lunch (they have an 100-people event going on and they keep the restaurant closed... they practically do not want us to give them our money...)

Tom Hess gives a great masterclass on music career and what it takes to move forward in music business. The highlight of the lecture is a detailed 8-weeks plan to start (or boost) your music career lie a champion. And YES, this schedule will be available to any of my students provided they ASK for it. And this post is the only place I will talk about it.

Why? Because if you are one of my student and you are here reading this post, then I know you are a motivated student. This means you deserve to have this schedule. If you are not here reading this post... then you can't hear what I'm saying so why I am talking to you? :-)

So if you are reading this post... ask me about the Tom Hess 8-week schedule. It's already typed and ready to be implemented :-)

After a short rest we have a second masterclass by Anthony Reynaert (Belgium's best guitar teacher) on expression in Blues guitar.

After dinner Tom Hess gives a series of Q&A lessons, and then we have a round of performances. After this we meet in the lobby and the conversation goes on and on until the wee hours in the morning. Would you expect a group of musicians discussing ethics and metaphysics until 3am? Me neither, but this group is awesome that way :-)

HessFest 2015 - Day 7

Day 1 of the HessFest proper. On the first day of HessFest my mentor gave to me... 90m of prime time to give a masterclass to all HessFest attendees :)

Ideally the masterclass was scheduled for 3pm... but as usual in the first day of HessFest, Tom Hess gets excited during his ow masterclass, and goes wayyy beyond time. So I propose that we push my masterclass after dinner.

Little music business lesson here: when thing like this happen, do not be a prima donna or make a fuss out of it: just find a solution. It made no difference for me if I was going before or after dinner, especially since this time in front of all these amazing musicians was basically a gift.

Second little lesson: always say thank whenever it's due :-)

The masterclass goes incredibly well. The audience is really receptive of the message, and I get lots and lots of compliments after it. Many attendees have very interesting insights on what I said. In fact a few also send me some of their songs as example of the concepts I explained and that they used "instinctively" in their compositions.

If you are wondering what I talked about... I explained a system to go from a musical idea to a complete composition. If you are curious... why you were't here? :-)

After my masterclass we have some performances from attendees. My student Rio also performs in front of the whole audience. I am really proud of his performance and how he handled the pressure. Rio is only 16 and to perform in from of an audience of 100 guitar players, most of them being professionals, would be nerve-wracking for everybody. But his performance was great.

After some jamming in the hotel lobby, a few of us go out with Tom Hess for a "breakfast" at midnight. Because, why not?

HessFest 2015 - Day 6

Day 6 of the Guitar Teachers Summit.

The first day I though "well, if Tom Hess keeps going on at this pace, there is going to be a lot of stuff to implement. If I really work hard, I can probably be done by Christmas."

Now I think it's going to take a couple of years. At least.

Tom Hess reserved some of the best bits for the very very end. We have now a series of incredibly detailed systems to teach and train our students. Some of these will be put in practice as soon as I'm back (students, get ready...). Some other require other things being in place before they can be implemented.

Overall you can expect the Edmonton Guitar Music School to roll in new programs, events, and initiatives starting next month and throughout the next couple of years. I can't wait to get started!


This was the last day of the Teacher Summit, now we start the HessFest proper. Some people are leaving, an many others are coming in. In the first day of HessFest (which is today) I will give a 2h masterclass on composition and musical form. I can't wait to be on stage :)

HessFest will have around 100 people in attendance this year, if my estimates are correct. This is going to be a big room to talk to. Fun!

And now off to brush up my masterclass. I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes :)


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