Music & 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.

I am learning to be more open-minded about music and nurturing my improvisational instincts. Mr. Hancock is such an inspiring teacher and I hope you guys can bring him back to share even more of his gems. Thanks

It's a good class. Lots of inspiration in it. I would have liked more technical stuff--I'm already inspired--but still, Herbie is absolutely wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of the course.

Very good, glad it had practical lesson on starting piano...

First, i was worried about how it would help me, as jazz pianist, but the way you can see Herbie´s hands almost whole the time is very useful! The lessons are short, but every of them has its own depth. I can only recommend.


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.

Kenneth S.

There's a very wise man delivering this message about living a balanced life, to be a better musician and a better person. Maybe I'm a little older than when I first started playing, but this is the message that any young aspiring musician needs to hear, heck, even struggling musicians! Again that part he says, "music isn't about that Bb chord... it's about life.... ". It just rings with me a lot more, connecting with people, and about not putting oneself on a pedestal... there's a lot of truth in musicians being prone to doing that. If you can't relate to people, how is your music going to relate to people? I like this lesson a lot!

Bob S.

Herbie Hancock has always been a musical mentor for when I was in high school in 1976. I was fortunate to see his VSOP performance in NYC where he played 3 sets of music including the first set with Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne shorter and Ron Carter. Herbie makes some poignant points about being your true self. I have always enjoyed being a musician and this lesson shows that I want to continue with music. These lessons from the Masterclass have been helpful on many levels as herbie would say.

Félix O.

Hi Herbie, Thanks for cheering up! I really look forward to find my true self. As I was already looking for a job, I was also trying to organize an halloween party with the skating peeps out here! But figured out for this time I was a little to short, but I still will doing the skating rink per say idea for physical training and lots of fun! I still need to find and realize some other stuff many projets I have put on the side. But for now I think I will be focusing on a new album and make it as a band! rather than a solo artist!

A fellow student

Beautiful Herbie. Thank you so much for your authenticity and generosity in sharing. This class began with watch out for your ego, and ended with be yourself. I'm in a place where I'm not sure how to tease out the difference?

Angela G.

Yes the reminder that it’s ok to feel insecure is legit but to ignore that feeling and allow the passion of the music to move you forward is worth restating.