Arts & Entertainment, Music

A Human Approach to Music

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 07:21 min

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

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

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


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Herbie Hancock

Learn to improvise, compose, and develop your own sound across 25 video lessons.

Explore the Class
Sign Up