Levi Clay's investigation on Tom Hess

I’m not sure why Levi removed the video’s, someone had sent me the links before they got taken down…the comments section was the best though.

Most people have never heard of Rhapsody and the truth is, I was never exposed to CTC or Martin Miller or Rick Graham until recently. Much of what I saw on the internet at the time was bad guitar teachers…any of the good ones, I simply hadn’t found or been exposed to yet. What it came down to was his ability to dominate the search results.

I had been looking for quality guitar lessons and was willing to pay for them and yet could not find a quality teacher. His marketing is geared to hit your pain points and frustrations that many of us have (disjointed YouTube videos, no learning path, poor quality teachers, slow progress etc.). I saw a video of Tom analyzing a player whom appeared better than me and yet watched as he pointed out three things holding him back. One of those things rang true for me and it never occurred to me it was holding me back (it was a collapsing knuckle on my left hand due to using to much pressure). I wanted more of the same type of critique of my playing and thought that’s what I would get because he provided ‘one on one feedback”. Truth about the feedback was that you could send him a video once every 6 lessons (every 6 months) that he (or someone else responding as him) would pick one aspect of your playing and critique it. Lame.

The lesson material was adequate to me for the first few months (at the time I had never had real guitar lessons). I had not been exposed to 3nps or scale sequences, so there was initially a lot of value. I did not like the PDFs and the bonus videos held some value, but soon after joining I had signed up for a 3-day mini-course event, that took place during a large event, of which there was only 4 or 5 of us. We were split up into two groups and It was 8 hours of real 1-on-1 instruction that took place between two other instructors (not Tom). It was tremendously valuable to me at the time (and likely would have been for a player at any level) and was a springboard for my learning. The price was reasonable, about $1000. At $40hr x 24 hrs, I was getting 24 lessons in 3 days! NOTE: This was HIGHLY UNUSUAL and that type of format has never happened before, nor been offered since, but it sucked me further into the marketing funnel.

Tom only holds one event a year. He has 3 event courses that he offers, but they are on a 3 year rotating schedule. This creates demand (scarcity) for an event…if you miss it, you have to wait 3 years before it’s even offered again. I had no exposure to guitar events before…many have nothing to compare it with. For me I thought I was going to get 1-on-1 instruction similar to my first experience and that’s certainly how he sold it, but it wasn’t the case. It was a week of 80 people in a room doing one exercise at a time for an hour, then switching to something else for an hour repeated…for 10 hours x 7 days. Tom would take 5 minutes explaining the exercise or focus and then he and two others would walk around the room bullshitting with people, giving the same bit of advice to us individuality to fulfill his promise of “1-on-1 help”. Far from what he led you to believe, yet technically true.

Was it beneficial to sit in a room for a week, 10 hours a day playing guitar…yes. Could I have done the same at home…yes. Would I have…probably not. Was it worth $3k plus hotel for 10 days…it’s amazing what you will justify to yourself after you’ve paid that kind of money. Would the next course be different…no, it will be even BETTER, because X, Y, and Z are going to be offered…and for the same price! Was it better? In some ways yes, but in many ways it was just more promises and hype that barely got fulfilled in order to say the he didn’t lie…and the stuff you already saw became of diminishing value.

While still at the event, you would commit to the next event while you are all amped up with friends around you (I learned more from the guys around me then Tom). I can not emphasis enough how long It takes to figure out this whole scheme, but it’s a fairly common practice with shady marketers. Why would you commit to next years event? Because of fear of missing out. If you wait to decide later, it may be sold out…and Tom’s stuff always “sold out”. When the window to buy a ticket is only open for 90 seconds it creates panic and demand. Why would anyone trying to sell tickets only allow the window to be open for 90 seconds? So that you can market it as “Sold out in 90 seconds!” and not be lying about it. Of course, no one realizes this until much much later, if at all, that the events sale is manufactured to “sell out”. But wouldn’t they be missing out on potential sales? Not if you had called all the people ahead of time to offer them a chance to buy their ticket before they went on sale…because after all “You are special and I’d hate for you to miss out. If you take your chances and wait til they go on sale and you miss it…I can’t sell you one afterwards…it just wouldn’t be fair."

You see, it’s not until you begin to have other conversations with people that you start to put all of this together and conversation outside of the forum was literally forbidden. All communication between each other had to be on the forum “So that others could benefit from your learning”. So yeah, at the end of the event pay in full, no refunds, lock in your seat for next year (and ass kissing loyalty points to the cult leader)…and oh by the way you have to be a member to go to the event, so then you learn you are locked in for a whole year of one of his programs. It’s a squeeze play. It takes time to learn the traps and pitfalls and that’s only if you’re paying attention…many aren’t paying attention and like I said some just want the status.


In before thread is locked.

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Right it’s time to hand out some credit, the guy is obviously extremely skilled at marketing and at manipulation.


Gotta to give the guy some credit as a guitar player and musician, his two CD’s are well executed slabs of neoclassically flavoured shred/metal.
Zero credit as a teacher…I tried his tailored correspendence lessons a few years ago…nothing but a few sheets of sequences and an etude or two, same stuff that can be found in any one of hundreds of guitar technique books. Jumped ship real fast, never been back and never will!

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ya’ll aint seen nothin’…venture over into the online singing community when u get brave lol

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Tom’s employees have sent push-marketing spam emails to a couple sites I’ve been involved with, and I’ve shared my thoughts elsewhere on this board.

For now, all I’ll say is that while the quality of the CtC videos are second to none, and a paid membership has definitely been beneficial, I think Ive gotten very nearly as much out of the free content Troy makes available as well as from feedback from this (non-paywall-protected) community, some of that from Troy himself and some from some other really bright players around here, and that the main reason I have zero qualms about giving Troy money is because I feel like he’s already earned it.

That’s a far cry from what I’ve seen from Tom Hess. Also, go google his guitar sex class. No joke.



The other guitar player on those is Mike Walsh. Beastly guitar player, one of the best teachers I’ve ever encountered, and a nice guy.

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Mike Walsh is a great guy and a fantastic player and teacher. He was one of the instructors I was with one-on-one for 3 days straight. He had an account on the forum, but was not active and although Hess paid him to instruct at the events, Mike was not a minion for Hess. I have a high respect for Mike Walsh.

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When I first started teaching (I took over Tom’s teaching slots at a guitar shop), Mike was the teacher in the next room over and I learned a ton just listening to him interact with his students. They always seemed to show up prepared and excited and advanced faster than other students.

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I discovered Tom Hess because:

I can’t play clean… at the moment i plug my guitare: the mess… the sloppy party… and i feel to stop everyting.

Impossible to play clean also if i mute all the strings under the string i’m playing with my index finger, and if i mute at same time all the strings above with my palm (picking hand). Still MEGA sloppy …

So, after MANY reserches, and no other trick later,
i found Ton Hess video with a new trick !!!

《 The thumbs muting 》
I’m so desesperated, i’m trying to getting good with this technique actualy.

Any comment about this technique ?
Someone use it ?


Oh god, there’s actually been some talk about that recently around here, and let’s just say it’s an extemely limited solution that simply doesn’t allow for certain things to be done:

Palm muting, or pretty much any non-economy pick technique that relies on a pronounced escape stroke.

Also poke around a bit for some discussion here about muting technique, and that some world class players simply don’t mute with their picking hand at all - it might give you a couple fresh ideas.

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Not really ! Like i said …
I’ll stop anyway… i can’t be sure of nothing. My guitare and amply are good for garbage… i just tried by myself since 8 month, because the covid scrap my job …
and the primer is too expensive when you dont work… a new guitare too…

It was a 8 month easier to support at least.

When i try to plug my guitare i realise it was 8 month wasted

My english is not perfect buddy, i’m not sure what that mean ? …

Anyway, one day maybe i’ll be a real member, with a real guitare.

End of story

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I think it would be more useful if you could post some clips of the stuff you are struggling with, also about your fastest tremolo picking motion.


You should share with us some clips of thecnical difficulties you’re going through, so we can help you!

Don’t worry about the primer - spend some time exploring this forum, there’s a TON of good insight here, shared freely by other members. The primer is pretty awesome, but honestly I’ve learned as much from this discussion board as I have from any of the “official” content.

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@Ben_Scott, like others have said: Make a new thread and post some clips. It may be counterproductive to try to give advice without seeing and hearing what’s going on. Read all the free material too. There’s so much good stuff there.

I know playing on a bad guitar can be uninspiring, hope you can get to a decent instrument soon. But I doubt your guitar or amp are really causing the trouble. I maybe wouldn’t even worry about string noise before your basic tremolo picking motion itself is smooth and fast. But like said, do post some videos.

Edit: I accidentally replied to @Pjbirchenough on the Hess discussion with this post, but just wanna say thanks for shedding light on that stuff. It’s disturbing and I’m glad it gets called out publicly.

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Thank you all for these good advice.

i read and applied a lot for 8 months.
when I plug in my guitar that’s the problem. for 1 month, I focus on all that is muting! (with both hands): Nothing changes …

I will try to make a video (cheap).

The Hondo formula guitar (1985) is in plywood, the frets are completely flat everywhere, big electrical problems, ground mess, the strings are 2mm high at the 22 fret, and more…
Yes ! the guitar is a problem.

Amp = Peavy studio pro 112 (1985) at low revs (no choice) horrible, disgusting even if I only play a string …
Yes, Amp is a problem too …

Plus ME , who is necessarily part of the problem, it becomes too difficult to know if I am progressing or not.
Even slowly, only one simple note, you dont wont to ear the sound.

Bad timming, i discovered everyting today…
2 years ago would have been wonderful.