Levi Clay's investigation on Tom Hess

Hey guys,

anybody following Levi Clay’s Youtube channel? He is doing a series on Tom Hess and his Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle, which seems to be a quite dubious group of people and kind of the dark side of online guitar teaching. Also it’s pretty entertaining :wink:

Here some videos:

And here’s the playlist:


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It gives me tremendous joy that @Troy, who genuinely does offer unique value in the world of guitar instruction, does not conduct his business the way Tom Hess does.


I would really like to know what effect this whole thing had and if more people left that inner circlejerk forum. It’s really weird and kind of scary.

Not at all a fan of TH’s teaching style. In the few videos I have seen he seems to take some student and make him/her look bad for 9 minutes, then he gives one snippet of information only in the last minute. Also he makes things look more mysterious than they need to be. Shame because some of the advice is not bad (but some I find questionable).

Oh and obviously even just the free stuff from Troy made many of these “guitar methods” irrelevant :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’ve always had a really bad feeling about Tom Hess. Too much like that “NO BULL MARKETING POWER” book.

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Yeah, I’ve seen those videos. Pretty shocking! Hard to believe anyone would conduct themselves and their business/brand in such a disgusting manner.

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Tom Hess was the first online guitar teacher that I discovered. This must have been 8 or 9 years ago now! I subscribed to his mailing list for a couple years and grabbed some of his free eBook material. Some of the stuff (especially the stuff that he wrote with Fabio Leone regarding band rehearsals and live performance skills) were game-changing for me. I discovered Levi’s channel a couple months ago and I’ve been following his material on Tom Hess. Very chilling stuff, especially the leaked forum posts. Totally messed up. Glad I never paid for anything from Hess.

While you should take everything you see on the internet with a grain of salt, the tone Tom uses even in the marketing emails I’ve received directly from THMC in the past leaves me with no doubt that Clay’s criticisms are valid.

The thing that turned me off Tom Hess (long before Levi Clay entered the picture) was his fear-mongering against anything that was not totally in line with his personal principles. Everything started to read like some sorta pyramid scheme or conspiracy theory wrapped into a sleazy infomercial. Bad vibez.


Tom Hess was just sort of the local guitar teacher where I grew up. He taught me (briefly) and several of my friends.

We all have some stories about batshit crazy things he said or did in lessons. That boy ain’t right.


Hey All- New to the forum but not to Tom or Levi…
I met Levi because of a poor experience with Tom. The best way I can sum up Tom is if his teaching materials was as good as his marketing and SEO work, he would be the Socrates of guitar! After my experience I reached out to Levi for guidance and that is what he delivered- for free. Levi answered my questions and was honest to admit he wasn’t the teacher for me because of the material I want to learn. Hence Levi’s recommendation to reach out to Troy. I can’t speak on Levi as a teacher but as an individual, he is no BS in your face genuine and kind. If I was to learn guitar in Levi’s style I would definitely take a lesson by him. Levi did transcribe something for me and his ear is spot on. Hope this helps- Alex


I was part of the Tom Hess community for 4 years to include the so-called Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle for the last year and a half. I exited a few months before the Levi Clay videos came out. It is as much a cult as everyone suspects, but he’s just as much a poor and toxic leader as he is an emotional abuser of his clients with highly effective manipulation tactics meant to make them feel worthless yet hopeful and thus squarely dependent on him. You were nothing before you met him and all that you have achieved since is because of him…remember that!

You are not allowed to be friends with or 'like"/follow perceived competitors with Tom Hess…that means anyone who teachers online or sells online products (CTC, Steve Vai, JTC, Joey YouTuber). Many of the devote will call you out on the forum if they see that you are doing so (to score ass kissing points with the cult leader). You aren’t allowed to read any books that he hasn’t recommended. Most of, if not all of his recommended books are Ayn Rand, which is an attempt to embed and shape your philosophy (to his) and make you more susciptible to manipulation. There are required book studies of Ayn Rand on the forum to further embed and shape these philosophies. For young kids and unsuspecting guitar players this is pretty dubious. You aren’t allowed to have any other teachers or mentors…its pretty isolating for a reason.

For the guitar teachers, he teaches mostly marketing strategies (many are outdated) via 8 year old phone call recordings that you get in your account to listen to…trickled out one or two per month. That’s it. Learning to actually teach is on your own. CTC video and content blow Tom’s away. Actually, most free YouTube teachers content and video’s blow Toms away. His audio recordings for improv were done in his garage 2 decades ago…and that’s still part of what you get for your $56 correspondence lessons. He’s an extremely lazy entrepreneur. Forum discussions between members is where much of the learning takes place, but Tom is largely absent, if only to pop in to redirect philosophy. Much of what he passes on as his own original thought has been straight up stolen from Tony Robbins and guru’s of marketing, while he then charges you $3000 to hear it at his event or in his monthly recordings. He is deathly afraid of competition and has deep trust issues. For someone who is so worried about his competition stealing from him, he does an awful lot of it himself.

His Geometric Learning model is a term he stole and has made his own but is basically bull$hit. He doesn’t have a plan for you, other than to string you along for as long as he can. Geometric Learning is a way for him to spread out teaching you a broad array of topics over an eternity, disguised as a plan that only he can see. He inundates his clients and students with so many topics that they quickly get overwhelmed to which he then sells you solutions for. What Tom is good at is coming up with flashy names for his programs that sound good…actually they sound like click bait. His HessFest is one big sales pitch into his other programs disguised as MasterClasses. Hard sales tactics ensue on the last day of the event to get you to commit to next years event, pay in full and no refunds. But this doesn’t just include the event, but also locks you in for a year of some sort of member program because you have to be a member to attend the event.

He opened up his own Guitar Teaching School and it has failed already, if that tells you anything about learning from this guy about how to teach guitar? He himself is quite absent from the forum, unless it’s to humiliate a client or discuss Ayn Rand philosophy. The Off-Topic discussion is more active than any other part of his forum. There is a lot of bullying and negativity in the forum and if any of you saw the Levi Clay videos (which he had Levi take down) you’d have seen the disgusting language he used towards one of his female clients and the mob of hostility towards her that ensued. If you want to quit, Tom posts your email saying you want to quit on the forum (or shames you into posting it yourself)…then social pressure takes over from their like wolves. He has guilted more than a few people into staying another two years with that tactic. The bullying that he uses in the phone calls (for all his clients to hear) is down right awful. A recording of him yelling on the phone at a 17 year old kid…and the kid saying “Thank you Tom Hess”. It’s disgusting. Or him yelling at a guy, saying “if you don’t buy my $3000 ticket for next years event by Friday…I will never allow you to come to ANY event EVER.” Brutal.

He offers racketeering-like protection to his teachers from their competitors (many whom are ‘dying to get into his program’). He vows not to allow a competitor to join his teaching program if they are within a certain radius of where your business is. The highest tiered guitar teaching program offered a 10 mile radius of “protection” which cost $300/mo. The only other program that was lower than that was 5-mile radius for $200/mo. Many of the folks there are young, foreign, barely making ends meet, aspiring musicians that want more for their life…and he seems geared to prey on that desperation. Many are barely making enough to pay him, and many are scared to leave because they really believe that their competition is going to join Toms program if they decide to leave and destroy what little business they have built for themself. Such a lie. Despite some being there for nearly a decade with ZERO students, they still follow him. Many have paid far more into the program than they’ve made and yet they still follow him. It’s a case study for a sociologist or psychologist for sure, but not a far stretch for the FBI.

It’s a mess over there in Tom Hess land. I feel sorry for those that are still there. I feel sorry for his kids and wife whom could be likely as manipulated by him as his clients are. I am glad to be out. I would highly recommend avoiding anything to do with Tom Hess.

Tom still uses many of our pictures, videos and reviews that he solicited from us early on in order to promote himself, despite the fact that we would no longer recommend him and have asked that he remove them. He refuses.

A friend and former early member of his program has posted a review of Tom Hess on his webpage. Feel free to pass the word. http://www.guitarlessonsgreenville.com/blog/tom-hess-music-corporation-review/?fbclid=IwAR3ne_uY3Ia__X19InmDDFBelftv8AQXGBZkwPdHEuKh3pbArFErGg_XipI


Wow that is proper scary stuff. Glad you got away from it!


Indeed Tommo. I was an officer and pilot in the Air Force for 20 years, so I am very confident in who I am, but it got to a point where the environment was too toxic to ignore and I did not want to be a part of or be seen as complicit with it. It was literally the worst leadership I have ever seen in my career.

Many of the successful teachers have silently left, but it’s the young, highly influenced and inexperienced folks that are left behind.

His fear of competition permeates the group and his fears become theirs. Therefore, trust and loyalty are the highest compliment Tom can pay back to you. He insists that only the most dedicated, loyal and those hungry for success are right for his programs…and many are eager to prove it to him. He has manufactured a social hierarchy within the community and the level of your status is measured in units of loyalty.

Loyalty of course meaning how long you’ve been with him, how many events you’ve attended, how many programs you’ve bought into, how many times you’ve thanked him publically on the forum, how many times you’ve defended him and his philosophy on the forum, how many UG posts you’ve upvoted for Tommaso Zillio in his and Tom’s pretend CAGED war, how many times you’ve defended Hess against Levi Clay or others on forum boards, whether you were the first to sign up for next years event, whether you immediately bought all the events for next year, and bonus points if you did so without knowing how you were going to pay for it.

Many of these folks long to be looked up to or recognized in a way that has never happened before and he uses that need for status as the bait. Like a gold star sticker next to your name on the board in front of the class. And it works. Results become secondary, status is what people begin to seek. The exclusivity of Tom Hess mentioning your name among those he trusts is the ultimate stroke of the ego.

Unfortunately that trust and loyalty are illusions…one tied firmly to their wallet.


I “took” the so called “Correspondence lessons” for a few months. In reality the correspondence was one-way. You just receive a pack of PDFs and videos once a week. They are general (nothing customized to you, the style you want to learn, etc.) exercises and techniques. For example in one he shows you some photos of the correct way to hold the pick :rofl: So laughable for people familiar with CTC stuff but still he charges you $56 for that!
Reading the stories above I’m grateful that I saw the lack of value early-on and quit without buying any of the expensive “masterclasses” or subscribing for his “Practice Generator” for which you first have to


and then you have an hour (with a timer counting down) to subscribe and if you decide not to you see this:

I think this says enough of the value he delivers…

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I’m not sure I understand why anyone ever gave this guy any money in the first place given the complete absence of any footage of him or any of his students actually playing well.

It’s a no brainer that you would pay money to Troy Grady, or Martin Miller, or Tom Quayle etc etc for a snippet of their knowledge.


He actually does play well and was shortly playing in Rhapsody (Of Fire): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QdZDPyGd9U

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Ehm of course one should make allowances for a live performance - but the solo was pretty bad in the video you posted. Not saying I could do better in front of an audience - but in my bedroom I think I could :wink:

PS: I would normally avoid saying something negative about another player, but this is someone who has built a huge hype around his abilities, and he is charging people big $$$ on the basis of that hype.

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That is all absolutely awful. The manipulation on the young and vulnerable is just completely unacceptable, awful guy. Did he force Levi to remove all those videos? Levi doesn’t seem like the sort of person that’d bow to that kind of pressure, was the a legal issue?

Most likely he’ll have made a copyright claim about some of the content Levi used whether that be video clips or forum posts and Youtube tend to react to these by just taking the videos straight down, Levi would technically be able to make a fair use defence but typically it isn’t worth the time or effort.