From Herbie Hancock's MasterClass

A Human Approach to Music

For Herbie, music is more than the notes you play. Learn how to open your mind—and ears—to the real story.

Topics include: Herbie’s Epiphany • Music Is a Story About Life


For Herbie, music is more than the notes you play. Learn how to open your mind—and ears—to the real story.

Topics include: Herbie’s Epiphany • Music Is a Story About Life

Herbie Hancock

Teaches Jazz

Learn More


In my view, jazz is the greatest of all human expressions. The reason I say that is, because, in jazz, we're constantly in the moment, creating in the moment, just like conversation is in a moment. As matter of fact, jazz is a communication. It is a conversation between the musicians. But it's not just between the musicians. It's a conversation that we have with the audience. They are part of our creative, process because their feelings come across onto the stage. Their feelings affect the musicians that are playing, so all of that life energy that's there is being dealt with on the spot, in the present moment. The musicians are sharing their feelings with each other. They're trusting each other. They're exploring together, like astronauts. They're challenging each other too. You get a chance to really express your feelings. You get a chance to explore your guts, explore your difficulties-- all the elements of the human experience. I really feel it's important not to put a box around myself that says, I'm a musician. Actually, through the Buddhism I practice, I had an epiphany. That happens a lot when you do this practice. But I had a particular epiphany about how I perceive myself. And it occurred to me, at this particular time, that I've always said-- you know, because I've been playing piano since I was seven years old, I've always thought of myself as being a musician. Most people define themselves by something that they're pretty good at or that they're known for. It occurred to me that I have a daughter. And my daughter-- to my daughter, I'm her father. Not just a musician, right? Then it occurred to me, I'm a husband and I'm also a son. My parents have passed away, but I'm their son. And I'm a neighbor, and I'm a friend. So, all of those different aspects of myself-- the thing that connects them is that I'm a human being. So when that occurred to me at this moment-- you know, maybe it was close to 20 years ago, 20 or more years ago. It was like removing any kind of box. And now, I'm able to listen to music from the standpoint of being a human being and not just from being a musician. So it just opened up a whole extended territory for me to draw upon. And I can take that extended territory and use that to tell my story at any given time through music. When I listen to music as a musician-- you know, as a jazz musician-- or depending on the context of the music, I may be listening for the structure, the chord structure, some technical details. The human being, who is not a musician, doesn't have all those details. For me, it's nice to know-- as a musician, it's nice to have an idea of actually what's going on, technically in order for it to be able to sound the way it sounds. But some things cannot be explained, because it's the story that's coming out of the performer or out of the composition that is ...

Find Your Sound

Herbie Hancock's jazz career started in his family's living room, listening to his favorite records and trying to play along. Now, he's one of the most celebrated musicians in the world. Join Herbie at the piano as he shares his approach to improvisation, composition, and harmony. Gain access to 10+ original piano transcriptions, including 5 exclusive solo performances.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It was a pleasure listening to Herbie. I enjoyed his words about music, his advice, and above all, his humanity...

I felt inspired to open myself up and think more like a human rather than a particular "thing". I admit I wanted to do some playing.

Herbie was a insightful instructor who more than anything else contributed the most through his wisdom.

Great tips for realistic and honest approach to music!!! Humble and straightforward personality Hancock!! Enlightened coach!!! Thank you.


Neal S.

Loved your description of what music is, that it's life itself, not just a gorgeous or even and dissonant sound, but a reflection of the human experience. Bravo Herbie for taking this humanistic approach to music.

Sully J.

Hancock speaks of the importance of human aspects. Well it is. But one can not understand him well, without the deep comprehension of Miles. and his music heritage. The legendary Miles quintet was a real a master class for all of them - formulated the highest level of music theory of jazz while connected and united their minds and hearts as never happened before in stage performance. If a musician whish to learn from Hancock today one has to learn properly what they achieved in past. Only this is the very cornerstone of Hancock's mind, as musically as spiritually. Yes Miles has gone but it is impossible to grow up for us without the clear knowledge of his the musical and spiritual ,, Footprints" Now Hancock seems to be far of this footprints in measures of years . But his real master class was the Miles Quintet with Shorter, Tony Williams and Ron Carter Now he , Hancock can smiles and change and can play what he wants, without Miles.. So yes, do your homework to prove yourself understanding of the past to get the right to step into your present As for me, more then 30 years ago some music I wrote ( as a model ) helped much, like this . Now I can play differently. But the knowledge I had learned in such a models is very basic.

Ken H.

Wow, being a fellow buddhist its enlightening to hear Herbie also practices. Bitches Brew has been such an inspiration to me musically!

Vivian H.

Beautiful and for me personally, so very true. A few years ago I picked up a drum set. At the time I had been going through so many hardships on my hero’s journey through life. So many changes and so much frustration in not only trying to control, and at the same time channel such intense, unresolved and dramatic energy. Needless to say, I felt both an internal and external struggle to communicate my feelings...such confusion... Drumming became that safe place. Behind my kit no one could touch me and at the same time, it became this raging expressing, engaging extension of my heart. Again, a safe and very personal musical journal or sorts. My kit at the time, a small elementary electronic set, allowed me to express, create, explore, challenge, release and finally accept things I either could not, or felt I could not accomplish. There were times each night that I would zone out in the tones, chi and patterns and enter an almost meditative trans, where glimpses of understanding from a higher self within, would begin to shine through. Perhaps it was the releasing of anger and grief, the realization that in truth I was okay, and all I needed to do was to just keep going with faith, courage and persistence, and somehow one day it would begin to make sense and I could not only begin to heal, but add/share my own healing loving chi to all life everywhere. Music transcends all time and space and touches each soul in a unique, therapeutic and very creative way. I feel I must also add that I am a chi dancer and that music touches every fiber of my being in a way that cannot fully be expressed in words.

Vivian H.

I cannot upload my assignments. For some reason none of the classes I am enrolled in will accept any of my documents. It states that it will only accept picture files...Okay, not sure how to proceed with my pc, so as with my other class, going to post assignmet here. I chose Day for Night by Spock’s Beard. I have been driven to playing, improvising and practicing this song for almost two months almost every night….Change, challenge, hope, sadness, hope, struggle, faith, rising like a phoenix, hope, strength, joy, humility, stillness, love, faith, growth, new beginning, faith, hope….

Suzanne S.

This is so true. I agree with Mr. Hancock. Its the ability to truly communicate your compassion about something that makes music bring people together. The universal connector is love and if you include love in your music, it will attract others.

Victor F.

I am a jazz singer interested in expanding and creating. Herbie says music is more than music. It is life. As a practicing Buddhist I get it. We are being encouraged to go beyond the craft and find our authentic selves. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Ricki T.

I entered this lesson months ago not sure what to make of the idea. Maybe too general, too simplistic, to right in front of me at the time. What i receive now is the idea that we be able to connect to the same 99% of what makes all things real, connect to how relationship, friendship, money, love, everything comes from the same place, we mearly need to stay connected.

A fellow student

I have a lot of feelings. I think I love music so much because of the way it makes me feel. Herbie's point that music is not about music is deep. Music is about human's about sharing human emotions and creating an experience that helps tell/share your story. Excited to hear more.

Kenny M.

I have truly felt the emotional side of music since I first began my musical journey. When Herbie said, “Music is Life” I literally got goose bumps. If it doesn’t move you one way or another it’s just noise.