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HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 10

Today Tom Hess starts cranking actual numbers on the budeting of a tour and on the various strategies that one can use to recoup the costs, or even make a profit. Some of these calculations surprise me. Most bands are spending large amount of money on things that are inconsequential or not relevant, and they are not investing in simple things that would actually produce more revenue AND make the fans happier.

The session is very long, and we end the day with some exercises: Tom is throwing business problems at us and we brainstorm solutions. This was probably the more valuable part of the whole event, as we get to actually generate creative solutions.

After dinner at a mexican place, and a swim in the pool, I rehearse the lecture I have to give tomorrow. My roommate Aldo has some helpful suggestions that I will implement.

Bedtime for me now :-)

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 9

HOLY $#!%.

This is pretty much what I am thinking through the whole day while Tom Hess talks about touring, and how practically all bands are simply NOT seeing absolute obvious oportunities in front of them.

Sure, they are obvious now that I know them. And yet...

Let me just put things in this perspective. Of course I cannot give any details of what I have heard today, but this gives the idea:

Most bands (but in general most people that want to do a show) actually lose money when they go on tour. This is a MAJOR problem for everybody (especially the band, but not only). The tour of course boosts album sales and that is why most bands do it. Oh well, except for the bands who do not have a clue and tour without an album (I warned a number of friends with bands about this).

Well, what Tom is showin is that band can actually make A LOT of money on tour. With a little effort they could break even. WIth a little more, they could actually make a profit while touring. And this is just the beginning, but I can't say more after that.

Or let me put it this way. If there is any bands in Edmonton (or any other show-related enterprise) that has the slihtest intention of actually makin it in the business, they should contact me and hire me as a consulent immediately. I will share with them what I have learned here, they will pay me a pretty penny AND still come out massively better than they could do right now. And all this with NO RISK to them, NO extra work, at NO cost.

It seems difficult to believe? Try me. I'm the guy who started a music school from nothing and in 3 years has hired 3 teachers. The one who left a career in science to become a musician well into his 30's. You pay me only if you profit more than you could before. I'm serious.

And after such a long day, I need to go and take a dive in the pool. See ya tomorrow!

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 8

Today is the first day of the Music Career Money Magnet Live Event. The event is dedicated to explain how to make money while on tour and in general on how to manage a band from an economical point of view.

As usual Tom Hess is not type to wast too much time for the introduction. He states immediately that the most important things are not the examples he will make, but the mindset behind them. I agree: most of what will follow can actually be aplied to any business.

We start examining the situation of a band before leaving for the tour, and we use more than one perspective to analyze it. Then we analyze what events or items can make a band lose money. Tom starts immediately to offer solution to problems that I never even imagined existed.

In fact this is one of the main points of today: most bands do not even realize they have a problem, and so they plunge forward blindly straight into failure. It's a pattern I have seen happening many many times before, and now I start to really understand it.

Of course most of the things we talkd about today are absolutely top secret :-) What I can say is that Tom Hess prepared a binder with ~150 pages of detailed notes for all the examples he's making. And I can say that I haven't seen these ideas anywhere else.

More will come tomorrow :-)

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 7

Sixth and final day of the training week (tomorrow we will start a different event here at HessFest). The operative words for today are "push to the max... and then some".

The morning consists in three session on creativity and forced rotation of concepts. Mike Walsh shows us how to get inspiration from the works of the masters without copying them, with practical examples. I need to study more solos!

At the lunch break I order a pasta Carbonara at Barnelli's. Original Italian recipe: bacon, egg, cheese. What they serve me: chicken, bacon, fresh tomato, basil, and a garlic sauce. Somehow I fail to see the connection between them... Oh well, the salads I got from them in the previous days were great.

The first session of the afternoon targets the specific weaknesses of each of us. Tom Hess delivers an absolutely great explanation on how to obtain significant results even with little practice time.

In the next session Mike Philippov trains our vibrato. I push the whole hour and at the end my fingers are raw, but I feel really inspired. Mike shows us some tricks like the "zig-zag vibrato" that sound incredibly cool. (For my students: you better start workin on your fingertip callouses... because when I'm back I will make you bleed... and you will thank me!)

Folowin that we have one hour of mixed "rotational focus" training, and we end the event with an hour of lecture on how to implement all that we have learned in our practice at home.

Finally, we have the diploma ceremony (I really tried to take some pictures... but the lighting was terrible so they are all blurry). It's a happy moment, but many of us are leaving because they are not participatin at the next event that starts tomorrow.

After a dinner at a pizza place (Chicago style, of course) I head to the pool and then to bed.

The even of tomorrow is supposed to be less intense (but with Tom Hess you never know...) and yet we start even earlier in the morning. I'm really curious of what is going to happen. We are ready, bring it on!

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 6

Today I was talking with Lori (one of the few female participant) and she showed me her fingertips. There were blisters all over them...

The first session is a mind-breaking exercise in which we have to avoid to repeat the same pitch more than once in successive phrases. Imagine somebody in front of you saying "you already played that. You used this note two phrases ago. That's the same note you stopped on before." and so on, and you'll have a good picture of it.

(Photo on the left: our three teachers/coaches. From the left: Sergeant Shred (Mike Walsh), the Black Priest (Tom Hess), and the Siberian Crusher (Mike Phillippov))

Other two sessions, on pitch range and on note choices complete the morning. The note choice session was positively mind-blowing.

We are already mentally exhausted and we go for lunch. I overhear one of us commenting "I never had to think this much in my whole life".

After lunch I follow a session by Mike Walsh on phrasing ornaments, and then we have an hour on Modulating Pitches. Then the afternoon proceeds with a session by Tom Hess on usin motives in a solo that introduces some very useful polyrhythmic ideas. We end the day with an hour on expressing chords with melodic lines.

(Photo on the right: a moment of rest between sessions. Since we haven't found a way to stop the air conditionin, we are all in sweaters)

I see people positively wasted after such an intense day. After a dinner in my room (we did groceries because it is very expensive to eat our every night), Aldo and I go to han out in front of the hotel. New people are coming for the next event that will start the day after tomorrow on music business, so we greet them (I already know them from the Hess forum).

Tomorrow is the last day for the intensive creativity training event. It flew by really fast, and yet I have a much larger trick bag than when I started. My students will have a few surprises when I am back :-)



HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 5

The pressure keeps building. The first exercise of this morning is to thrust your fingers into a bucket of sand. After a while, do it with a bucket of gravel. Then some rocks. Finally with a bucket of glass shards... I'm joking of course, but that's how my fingers are feeling after just the first hour :-)

The morning goes on pretty fast, but that does not mean it's easy. In the last session a few comments from one of us sparkle an interesting discussions on scale visualization that goes on through all lunch, involving a number of people Tom Hess included.

In the afternoon I follow a session with Mike Walsh on how to transcribe music from my mind's ear. Apparently I cannot stop myself from humming when I imaine a melody, so after a while it becomes a running joke: "Ok Tommaso, now without humming" :-)

In the next session on creativity I work on a number of advance phrasing techniques (we have personalized assignments), and in the last session - among other things - Tom Hess shares with us a ridiculously fast lick. We actually laugh out loud when he starts playing it...

We head out for dinner at a Chicago-style pizza place that is "decorated" with an impressive amount of stuffed animals. As every night we visit the swimming pool. A disclaimer warns: "the management is not responsible for suit discoloration" (I find it hilarious... did they had people complaining about that?), and then we head to bed.

We are now in the heat of it. I can already feel the difference from when we started. Time to push even more!

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 4

As I predicted, today was WAY more intense...

For the first time in three days we manae to make the alarm clock work, and we wake up on time. Breakfast, shower and we are ready to go.

We start reviewing a session on dissonant target notes. The basic idea is to associate the dissonance on a chord with a specific emotion. Tom Hess gives us some hilarious and memorable examples for some of them, and then we brainstorm other examples.

The following session is a review of many unconventional ways of being more expressive on guitar, from vibrato on tapped notes or whole chords to alternative ways of using a floating bridge. As is "tradition" in this type of sessions, Tom Hess "incidentally" shows how intense he can be by breaking a string with a bend...

We then go into a training session designed to force you to change pitch range as often as possible (without stopping - for an hour...) and then to a well-deserved lunch break. My fingers are sore again, but it's totally worth it.

In the first hour of the afternoon we are formbidden to touch our guitars, but we have to create music anyway. Lots of ideas sparkle out of this session, and it becomes increasingly harder to resist the temptation to play them on the guitar.

In the next hour Mike Walsh calls us out one by one and have us play a phrase, then everybody else offers suggesions to create a better phrase. The pressure is high, but the results are great. We then have an hour on modulating pitches, and then a final, very intensive hour, on "total improvisation mastery" (my students will learn to tremble in fear when they hear that...). After that we are positively exhausted... I think it's the first time I actually sweat just from playing guitar, and we have air conditioning!

We go to dinner in a tex-mex place and there is a nice animated conversation going. After dinner I et asked to give a private lesson on guitar technique, which I do with pleasure. After a little swim on the hotel pool I crash to bed.

We are halfway through the intensive training part of the event. From now on the pressure will keep increasing. Bring it on!

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 3

Today we start with a genius session on how to "force" creativity. As it turns out, "waiting for inspiration" is pretty much just an excuse, and there are ways to "force" your musical creativity to wake up and start working.

We keep going through the morning with a session on advanced target tones, and then other super secret things I am not supposed to talk about (sorry) :-) My student may be assured that I have some juicy things to show them once I'm back in Edmonton.

Back from lunch the class divides. I follow a class by Mike Philippov on vibrato and how to apply it on bent notes. After one hour of uninterrupted bends and vibratos, my fingertips are raw, and of a pleasant shade of purple. :-)

The skin or my fingertips hurts like hell, so in the next session I decide to play it easy... of course as soon as one of the teachers sees me, he starts advising "you should to this phrases by bending this and this..." and so I end up doing another hour of bending. At this point playing feels like they are skinning my fingers alive. :-) And we still have two session to go.

Luckily the very last session is a Q&A session rather than a playing one. As usual Tom Hess makes his points through some hilarious storytelling, and Mike Walsh is the perfect foil for this show.

We get to dinner and then visit the hotel pool. I spend the rest of the evening chatting with my roommate Aldo and exchanging some musical recommendation. After a few listens to Coltrane and Terje Rypdal, we settle on the first Dire Straits album to relax.

My fingers have been immersed in water and ice for a good half hour, and come back to a normal color.

So, after two days the warm up is done. If my experience with Tom Hess tells me anything, is that tomorrow things will get really serious. Wish me luck.

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 2

I am sorry for the laconic style of this post, but after 8h of playing my fingers are not really keen on typing :-)

First official day of training. After the registration and the greetings to old friends we start really hard with some soloing improvisation exercises. This year Tom is not going to pull any punches! Halfway through the morning the fire alarm gets off: false alarm, but a good occasion for jokes like "one hour of playing and the hotel is already on fire!" Due to the fire alarm and consequent evacuation of the premises, we are late by one hour at lunch.

Back from lunch we start again, with the aim of making up the missed hour at morning. We work hard, and while doing a session on soloin under stress, the fire alarm starts again! We have to evacuate again, and it's again a false alarm.

We keep pushing, and Tom Hess states that he intends to finish all the sessions, but attendance is optional. We are two hours late now, and no one opts out. If we are crazy enouh to play 8h a day, we are also ok to delay our dinner for a couple hours.

The class gets divided in 3 different session, each under a different teacher (Tom Hess is teaching alongside with Mike Walsh and Mike Philippov) for some special work sessions. We get to choose the sessions we want to follow. I follow a cool micro-phrasing session with Tom where he explains us how to make great soloing phrases out of only 2-3 notes. Interesting discussions spark up regarding if different variations of the phrases are actually improving them or making them different.

We finish the afternoon events two hours late, happy and REALLY hungry. I end up with few friends at Squire eating a monstrous chicken sandwich (in US portions are MUCH larger than in Canada...) and drowning it in a couple of beers.

As I'm writing this post, my roommate Aldo collapsed on the bed and fell asleep, still dressed. I'm going to publih this post and follow his example. After all tomorrow we have to be up early. And it's not going to get any easier... the veterans among us (as your truly) know that the first day is just warm up for the next ones. For tomorrow I have in schedule a lesson with Mike Philippov on vibrato on bent notes, and my fingers ache at the very thought. :-)

HessFest 2013 in Chicago - Part 1

In this series of posts I am going to chronicle "live" what is happening in Chicago at this year's HessFest, the annual meeting of Tom Hess students.

The actual event starts tomorrow, but most people actually arrived to Chicago today. I arrived at the hotel with Adrian (fellow student who flew from Calgary) at 7pm, and just at that time Tom Hess was offering an unplanned "welcome" reception in the hall of the hotel.

I got to meet again many old friends, and this year we also have a number of new people.

The event starts tomorrow at 8am, so I better get some sleep before. We are starting hard with 8h of practice a day for the first week.


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