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HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 11

Ok, this blog post was due yesterday... Well it was a VERY busy day. The last day of the Total Guitar Mastery Week, where we pushed students to the limit.

Now, I would have liked to get some pictures of the diploma ceremony, but I didn't calculated that I can't take pictures AND give diplomas at the same time. So you guys will NOT have any pictures of that. 

Instead you are going to get something MUCH better. :-)

You are going to get photos of Mike Walsh' legendary interpretation of Sergeant Shred, the guitar drill sergeant. In the Mastery Week this happens usually during one of the "endurance" sessions. Mike goes around the room, yelling hilarious "insults" like a drill sergeant - while students keep practicing (if they can while laughing that much). Incidentally, this also makes them practice for a longer time... :-)

Sergeant Shred enters the room! This is the pep talk where he reminds all the students that they need to practice more as there is not enough testosterone in the room.


Notice the grenade he is wearing...





Sergeant Shred drilling our student John Loder! "Soldier, I can't hear you above the sound of how much your playing sucks!"







John nearly can't play by how much he's laughing! Sergeant Shred gets ready to get to our teacher Dan Smith while the cameras make sure to not lose any moment of the action!







Getting up close and personal. :-)









Trying the drill sergeant routine with a student who is ACTUALLY a real Colonel. Needless to say he didn't even flinch!







Audience reaction. Personally I had trouble shooting photos as I was shaking so hard from laughter...








This even was really fun to teach from my part. The students were fantastic and were really practicing as much as they could. A few days ago I showed a guitar with missing inlays from too much practice. Today I show you one foot stool:

We really made them to practice untile they or their equipment could not take it any more. If you want the guitar training equivalent of a Navy Seal (complete with drill sergeant...) you only need to sign up for the next Guitar Mastery Week by Tom Hess. 


And tomorrow we start with another 3-days training event: the Elite Force Training, an event reserved for the best of the best. 

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 10

Another exciting day at the Total Guitar Mastery Week. I could stay here and describe session-by-session what we were doing today... but this time I am just going to post a few pictures of the event so that you can have an idea how much fun we are having. (For the record, we are also working pretty hard... but there's no harm in having fun while you are working hard!!)

Let's start with some guitar pictures. You see here on the left a Les Paul guitar that has been practiced so hard that one of the inlays fell off (see that one of them is green? That's what behind the mother-of-pearl inlays on the fretboard). 

Can you imagine practicing so hard that your guitar starts to fall apart? Well, that's what happens here!






And here we have the guitar that one of the students is using... notice anything strange? Check out the color of the strings: they are all different!

(and yes we teased him to no end...)



 Here on the left we have our student John Loder and our teacher Dan Smith both practicing hard.

If I remember correctly, this picture wat taken during the "endurance" training, that consists in playing various legato licks for 1h. Without stopping. Yes, with the right pre-training you can do that... but don't try this at home without supervision!! 









These are a few of the students during the "real-life" practicing session (which is personally one of the most fun sessions) where people play music while walking around or jumping, or in this case using other stage-like positions.

Everybody who tried that knows that this is not as easy as it seems!



... and this is our student Carl in a corner of the room during the real-life practicing session. 

No, not everybody was required to jump that high: Carl is an actual professional dancer and I asked him for an "interesting" pose. Due to my non-existend photographic skills (I am a musician, not a photographer!) the jump does not look as high as it actually was. Believe me, it was impressive. 








And finally, this is a shot of the audience just to give you an idea of how many students we are having here (I was not able to get all of it... there are more outside of the picture).

This picture was taken while Tom Hess was announcing some future events. But these are top secret right now so I can't talk yoiu about them... all I can say is that I am really exciting about the future. These events are bigger and better every year, and I am extremely proud of being a part of it, and being able to bring back to my students what I am learning by teaching at such high-profile international events. 

Stay tuned for the last day of the Mastery week tomorrow!

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 8 and 9

The days are incredibly busy here in Chicago at the Guitar Total Mastery Week.

Here I have 10h of training and teaching a day (hours that I spend mostly running from one student to another to answer all their questions: they are hungry for answers!) and then 2-3h every night of business meeting with other music schools owner from all over the world. We have barely time to eat and sleep!

In the last two days (which are days 3 and 4 of the Mastery week, out of a total of 6 days for this event alone) we have increased the pressure to the students in order to take out of them the best that they can give. And it is indeed incredible how much progress these fuys have made in just a few days! Their playing is so much cleaner and faster and effortless...

I also learned some new techniques to make students improve in a matter of mere seconds (Mike Philippov and me explaing one of these techniques in the photo on the left. Photo by Simon Candy).

In fact, I am kinda angry with myself because I knew some of these things "forever" but I never found a reliable way to communicate them to students. Thanks to a few conversation with Mike and some students at the event we finally came out with ways to explain it. 

Is is effective? Well, what about comments like "I finally feel relaxed by holding a guitar", "I always used to have backache when playing, and now it disappeared", "5 minutes ago I could not play this scale THAT fast... this is incredible". ALL actual quotes - I am not making these up. 

(We have one strudent training here who has focal dystonia. After 4 days of training his hand looks completely different. Now, I am NOT a medical doctor, but I can recognize improvement when I see it)

Another incredible thing is how much of the improvement of the student depends on the student's mindset. While EVERYONE at this event is massively better than when we started (and we are only 66% through the event... there are 2 days more!), the people who are really hungry for becoming better and that trust us intructors (and follow whatever we tell them to practice) are the ones with the most incredibles changes in their playing. 

I wish that programs like taht were available when I started playing guitar. This would have taken a decade out of my practice time. Seriously. 

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 7

I know I keep saying that every day, but today was simply amazing here at the Total Guitar Mastery Week.

After "just" two days of practice (8-10h of practice per day...) I can see so many people making incredible progresses! It is such a pleasure to be able to teach such motivated students that implement immediately all the directions we give them and practice really hard. Many of the participants already managed an impressive transformation of their playing.

As usual, we kick off with one hour of "intelligent" warming up (that also serves as a technique optimizer exercise) and then we divide the class for one hour of "single teacher" sessions. The session I teach is about the biomechanics of Sweep Picking and how to get to incredible speed with very little effort. It is amazing in how little time motivated students can get the basic of sweep picking. It is a lie that it takes years to learn it... it can take as little as 60m. Some of the participants are living proof of this.

We end the morning with a session on playing consistency (how to play difficult passages right all the times) and then we head out for lunch.

Since one of the students is trying to pick up one of the waitresses at the reastaurant, the conversation during lunch becomes quickly a little lecture by Tom Hess on what would be the best strategy to do that... :-) Strategy that promplty works once the students puts it in practice. (In other words... if you want to play guitar at a world-class level AND being able to pick up girls, just come to the next training event!)

In the afternoon we have sessions on legato accuracy, lead/rhythm integration, and motive creation. I also manage a class on how to compose a "Super Badass" solo ("Super Badass" is a technical term)!. A couple of the students manage to write some seriously impressive pieces, and during the short rest between lessons I see them record their solos on an iPhone. I can't wait for them to record the final versions when they get home!

We have a dinner at a steakhouse where the waitresses dance on the song "Footloose" (I love that song). After dinner we have other two hours of VIP training sessions whose content I cannot disclose... but I can say that we had a little playing contest with a very funny prize for the winner (who is going to wear it on his guitar tomorrow. I'll see if I can get a photo)

After lesson I head to bed immediately (I actually got some more practice time for myself). I know that tomorrow I need to be rested - I want to give the maximum to all the participants. It is inspiring to see students so motivated.

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 6

Today we start the Guitar Mastery Week event: a 6-day, 8h/day (or 10h day for the the VIP participants) guitar training event.

YES the participants actually DO train 8-10 hours PER DAY. And YES it is hard. And YES it is TOTALLY worth it (when I attended as a student in a previous edition of this event my physical speed on guitar alone improved 40%. And I was also better in accuracy, fluidity, and ability to integrate different techniques).

As usual, the very first session of the day is dedicated to advanced warming up strategies. We then proceed to a session on fluidity and another on creatives uses of technique before heading for lunch.

In the afternoon I personally manage one session on sweep picking biomechanics and a custom session on fixing specific problems with guitar technique. Other afternoon sessions involve legato mastery and playing endurance. 

At dinner I get a killer plate of barbecued shrimps at the local "australian" restaurant (Outback). 

After dinner we continue with other two hours of training with the VIP participants (I am not at liberty to divulge the kind of training that happens in these hours). 

The last highlight of this long and exciting day is a great conversation with other members of the Elite Guitar Teacher program that gives me SO MANY ideas about possible things I can do for my students that I actually find it difficult to sleep (I am too excited!!)

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 4 and 5

These last two days at HessFest were so intense that I actually did not have time to write about them! 

It is incredible how year after year this event blows my mind off more and more. It's literally better every year. And now that as a trainer I can see some of the "behind the scenes" I am more and more impressed by the level of organization and planning that Tom Hess and his collaborators can pull off. 

And the really scary thing is that the event for next year (that Tom Hess announced in these last two days) promises to be even better: a 6-days, 8h/day workshop for music teachers. Of course, I already booked my place. :-) (Hey, I owe my students the best!!)

In these two days we continued and concluded the Fretboard Domination Mastery and Bootcamp events. We were really pleased at the results and progress of the students who attended it. I am really happy of being the trainer of this course, as fretboard knowledge is one of my areas of expertise. 

Another attractive (for me) of this kind of events is the people who attend. I am sleeping VERY little because we are having the most interesting conversations with all these wonderful people from all countries. I mean how many times you had a conversation with half a dozen people about how to realize your dreams (for real) while eating a double-decker 4-pound Chicago-style pizza in the lobby of a hotel.

(for the record, the pizza was shared among 10 people. One of us bought it for $42 - seriously! -  and insisted that we should all partake for free).

Ok, now I'll go get my 5h of deserved sleep. I guess tomorrow it's double coffee day too...

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 3

This morning Tom Hess and I started the Fretboard Domination Coaching program: a 3-day course where we teach guitarists how to be completely free when playing guitar and not be confined to one or two "favourite" zones of the guitar fretboard. 

Today we used some innovative techniques to teach how to visualize scales and notes, and the response from the students was just great. These guys are hungry for knowledge!

The morning class was 4 hour long, then we take a well-deserved lunch break.

In the afternoon, I keep teaching/training the Fretboard Domination Bootcamp, while Tom Hess gives a masterclass, followed by another lesson by Simon Candy (another great guitar player from Australia! - the HessFest is truly "international")

After teaching for 8h I am quite exhausted, (and the fact that last night I slept 5h did not really help...). After dinner I pass by my room to grab a couple of things, I lie down a moment... and when I open my eyes one hour has passed! I go back to the event to chat a bit (and to see some great musical performances by people attending HessFest), then I head straight into bed. 

Tomorrow is going to be another intense day, we have great ideas for the training sessions. Can't wait to see how much progress the students will make in these days!

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 2

The morning starts off with my search for a mobile phone that I can use in Chicago. There is a T-mobile store close by or at least Google maps says so... even if the indications are to "enter into the Home Depot store". Of course the T-mobile store is not in the Home Depot, but after a while we find it. 

Return to the hotel in a rush, only to discover that the hotel's restaurant is NOT open at lunch. Are you freakin' kidding me? So run out again and get something to eat. 

The HessFest starts at noon, and opens with Tom Hess giving us a masterclass on how to play fast even if you are a beginner. Lots of great ideas there. Electric guitar students, expect lots of good material for your shreadding pleasure :-)

After Tom Hess, it's my turn to give a masterclass on theory and songwriting. I spend a couple of hours explaining the basis of Schenkerian analysis as it applies to composition and songwriting, and the reaction of the public is REALLY good. It's very nice to get this kind of feedback on a masterclass, and I had a lot of fun preparing and giving it!

After a dinner at Red Robin (Tom Hess' favorite restaurant on the face of the planet) we go back to the hotel for some 1-on-1 lessons and performance critiques. After the event a few of us stay in the lobby an we jam out a killer version of Little Wing. 

I will have only a few hours of sleep tonight (I have to be up early to train the guys in the Fretboard Domination program), but today it's been A LOT of fun... and I can always catch some sleep back in the next days.

Or at least, taht's what I'm telling myself now. I know it's not going to happen :-)

HessFest 2014 in Chicago - Part 1

And here I am in Chigago again to be 2 weeks with my teacher Tom Hess and a number of other outstanding guitar player coming from all over the world. And DO I mean "all over". Just to name a few, people here came from: Australia, Belarus, Netherland, UK, US, and of course Canada. 

This year I am coming not as a student of Tom Hess but as one of the teacher/trainers of the event. This means that I will be teaching/training guitar players from all over the world (see above) for 8/10h a day for 14 days. Bring it on!

The flight today has been uneventful, and since I'm such a nerd I spent the whole flight doing counterpoint exercises (well, better this than playing solitaire on an iPad like my seat neighbour did...). What can I say... I love music theory!

I was traveling today with Dan Smith (another guitar teacher at the Edmonton Guitar Music School) and our student John Loder. After we landed we also met at the airpost serendipitously one of my ex-students Adrian who is regularly coming in Chicago every year. And it was a good thing we met him, since the cab company messed up our booking! So Atrian called in the cab company he booked with and told them to bring a var rather than a car. 

Once at the hotel I met a number of friends, old and new. I actually had to force myself to go to sleep... and I do need it because tomorrow I have a masterclass to give! It's going to be fun! 

Shaping The Future Generation... Part 2

My wife and I just spent a few lovely weeks visiting our parents in Italy, and of course our 3-year old daugher came with us. All parents and relatives (and friends, and acquaintances...) were of course thrilled to see how much the little one has grown. And of course all of them were asking her the usual question: "how old are you now?"

My daughter answered to all of them the same way: saying "three" and then holding out her hand with her thumb, index and pinky sticking out.

(Just picture it for a moment....)

Despite appearances, I have nothing to do with that (I swear) - and the little one has resisted every attempt of mine to "correct" her way of counting up to three.


But I can't say I'm not pleased that my daughter naturally does the metal horns.  \m/


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