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Arts & Entertainment

A Musical Life

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 13:33 min

Herbie followed an unlikely path to jazz, and it’s been a wild ride ever since. His story serves as an inspiration and a testament to what you can accomplish when you let passion be your guide.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
Learn to improvise, compose, and develop your own sound across 25 video lessons.
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You know, for some of you, your biggest obstacle may be your ego. You have to watch out for that. As soon as you start putting yourself on some kind of pedestal against other people, you're in big trouble. So this idea of creating a hierarchy is very destructive to your creativity, and to your being as a human being. There's also a tendency, many times, for people in the arts to put arts on a pedestal, and everything else is kind of lower level, or any other job is lower level. That's wrong. That's not true. Every human being has value, and there is no hierarchy about this job is better than that one, or this is more high level. Forget that. We're talking about human beings manifesting themselves in ways that they can contribute to the happiness of others. That's everybody's responsibility, including yours. I like to work with people that have open minds, open hearts. I like to work with people that do listen. I like to work with people that don't let ego get in their way, people that are willing to try anything to make things happen, to move things forward. I like to work with the best musicians I can find because I want to learn. No matter how old I get, I want to continually be a student. In many, many ways, making the record I'm making now, I am a student. I'm listening to a lot of people who are much younger than I am and opening myself up to ideas that they are giving me, because I'm learning a lot, you know? You know who's winning because of this? Me. And hopefully I'm sharing some experiences with them that I've had from my own life. And the feedback they're giving me is that they're learning some things, too. So what I always like is a win-win situation. Just because you win at something doesn't mean someone else has to lose. I don't like that idea at all. And I don't believe in it at all. What I believe in is in every case, there are two winners, at least two winners. That's what I look for. That's what I try to create. That's the kind of world I want to live in, and I think that's the kind of world you want to live in too. When I have the opportunity to write a song with another musician, trust is one of the most important elements involved. But first is listening to what they have to say, even if the idea that they're saying sounds to me like, oh, that's not going to work. The next thing that happens in my mind is that if this idea came from this person, what kind of context could I put down that would make that idea work? I think-- well, certainly for me, that kind of attitude--it's the attitude that makes a huge difference, and that really works for me. It's the same idea. Wait, ponder, you know, try to find another way of looking at it. Try to find a way that's more inclusive, where even something that might be considered trash, you might be able to find another way to look at the trash and find a way to try to use it. The...

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.

Glad to learn from this Legend. Just grateful.

It was a wonderful introduction to Jazz piano by a very passionate and generous soul. I wasn't able to fully appreciate the lessons as I am not a Jazz pianist, but as a musical hack, it expanded my musical consciousness.

This class was amazing. It let me think about thinks i hadn't even thought about before. It also taught me things about jazz and music that my real life teachers might not ever teach me. I will most likely re-watch some of the episodes, so I could better absorb what was in them.

i really loved what i have learned from Herbie .. thank you for that .. and please continue with artists like that !


A fellow student

Maybe I'll start by not putting others onto a pedestal - I've done that. Even my partner who is a musician was once to me above me because of all the accomplishments he has had. But after watching this module, I'm thinking a little slower, a little more relaxed that hey, maybe we're all just trying to make others happy, as Herbie talked about in this class. When I think about special musical moments in my life, it's true that I enjoy the win-win experiences the most - I play a song for some people, and they are happier and smiling. Yah, that's a great feeling. For me, I really love the experiences when I can see and feel the response from others whether small or large. Even if they are just there, sitting there, in the audience, looking towards the music, it's all good. This video is helping me come to peace with music being a big part of my life in my heart without it being a big chunk of my day. I wake up thinking about music, and I fall asleep thinking about music too. I play every day in some way or another, piano or uke. I take opportunities to play for others when the time comes naturally... like the other day when my family came to visit and we hung out in the car (because of social distancing), we sang and played the uke. That was sweet and intimate. The driver's seat wasn't the most comfortable to sit in while playing the uke, but it made it kinda funny and definitely memorable in our family. Then I realized, that all the hours I put into practicing, without any specific date or place to perform, is okay. I heard from a jazz documentary about practicing - practice as if I am always preparing for the Olympics. Yah... if I do that, then when I get together with friends and were like having fun and feeling good, win-winning, then like I said, that's a happy day for me. I'd love more happy days to come for sure! Kind of going back to the pedestal lesson - I agree... and I think this can apply to performance too. If I play for family and close friends, when an opportunity comes to play for my colleagues or people I haven't gotten to know too much of yet, is that like putting family and close friends on the pedestal, meaning I'm putting myself above the others like my colleagues? Yah maybe... see, in the past two weeks, since working from home remotely, my colleagues and I have been doing happy hour on Zoom, and the idea came up that I play a little song for entertainment. I was a little shy at first and kind of over thinking if the sound will sound warped, and worried if they would like my song choice. But when I played, there were 10 people, and 1 person really expressed their appreciation which made a big difference. She was so happy and was even singing along. I didn't know she was singing along until after I finished the song because my zoom view coudn't see their faces and instant reactions which maybe I will change next time so that we can really see each other and connect more. I want to encourage others to try piano too if they've thought about it before and not sure where to begin. Maybe when I do encourage my colleagues if they're interested in picking up an instrument or singing, it'd be good to pass on some of the wisdom from here. I love the part of being open-minded and being a student... learning a new instrument and continuing to learn in any subject means being that open-minded student self, and that's exciting because then it feels like there are infinite possibilities. Maybe that is the wisdom I will share with my colleagues this Thursday at our happy hour. Thanks so much HERBIE!!! Eri

William T.

GREAT LESSONS! I had to come back to this series. Herbie lays out some useful information.

Gretchen T.

I love that he highlighted music or arts shouldn't be on a higher level. I have met so many classical musicians who think they are better than others because they think they are "artists" when they gaslight other musicians as being less than.

Joel S.

Such a gracious & thoughtful man. Thanks for sharing your life's work with us!


This is pristine wisdom, about life. Herbie is wise n full of possitive vives n love. 100% agree with all he teaches here. Thnaks Masterclass, thanks Herbie, love 2 everybody!!!

Steve B.

That is something Miles Davis did over the years working with young musicians to hear new ideas and approaches then he'd put himself into it keep creating. Herbie is still doing it hanging out with Robert Glasper and having Terrace Martin in his band. Always exploring new sounds.

Marcus M.

Always be a student. I read somewhere if you are over 40 and you don't have a mentor that is 30 and under, you are missing out on some new things (new ways of thinking, new technology, etc)

Roland B.

Wow! I wish someone had told me this 30 years ago. And i wish i had actually listened to them, back then ;) Thank you very much for this!

David W.

Thank you, Herbie! Though we've never met, I feel as though I've made a friend.

Lena T.

This is the ultimate struggle... :) finding work for musicians... Thank you for this.