From Herbie Hancock's MasterClass

Improvisation

Don't let improvisation intimidate you. Herbie’s approach starts with the simplest of ideas: Listen, then react.

Topics include: Stay Open to Infinite Possibilities • Don’t Judge It, Make It Work • No Wrong Notes • Trust Your Ears and Your Heart

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Don't let improvisation intimidate you. Herbie’s approach starts with the simplest of ideas: Listen, then react.

Topics include: Stay Open to Infinite Possibilities • Don’t Judge It, Make It Work • No Wrong Notes • Trust Your Ears and Your Heart

Herbie Hancock

Teaches Jazz

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What Is Jazz Improvisation? Jazz improv is one of those things that many people suspect can’t be taught—but they’d be wrong. Improvisation is probably part of your everyday life already, even if you don’t realize it. That’s Herbie’s perspective. If you think about improvisation the way Herbie does—expressing yourself and your given circumstances in the moment, acting and reacting without premeditation—then you start to realize we’re all improvising constantly. Conversations are a kind of improvisation. You don’t plan and rehearse what you’re going to say. Rather, you listen to the people around you and create your responses on the spot. You can also think of jazz improvisation as living and playing in the moment. Learning to play in the moment starts with acknowledging that each musical moment offers you an infinite set of possible directions to take your playing. A silly little melody can turn itself into a gorgeous ballad, and a mistake can become an exciting melodic shift. Playing jazz means being open minded and learning to see any note, any sound, no matter how strange, as an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of what you’re playing. Don’t limit yourself by thinking in terms of conventional relationships between chords and scales or “right” notes and “wrong” notes. There are no wrong notes. Another cornerstone to Herbie’s approach (which goes hand in hand with open-mindedness) is experimentation. You don’t know what kind of player you are, or what kind of player you could be, until you’ve tried a vast variety of styles and approaches. Keep your ears open to everything and take risks to find the sounds that really move you. The Pros of Playing Solo When you’re learning jazz improvisation, it’s a good idea to start by experimenting on your own. Improvising on your own makes it easier to test various musical ideas through chord changes and chord progressions. Playing solo also allows room to make mistakes, and just let yourself go. It’s a good opportunity to develop your own sound without feeling nervous or judged by others, which will eventually inform your jazz solos and give you the confidence to play alongside other jazz players. When you’re playing alone, Herbie says: “You don’t have to follow any particular tempo. You can speed up; you can slow down. You don’t even have to play any particular harmonies.” The process of developing your own sound should lead you to some strange, uncharted places. You’ll find there are ways to approach improvisation that have nothing to do with chords, melodies, or the traditional language of jazz. You might want to explore improvisations that start with no structure at all—just letting the notes come out of your fingers—and see how you can latch onto themes or ideas that emerge, repeating and transforming them to make compositions on the fly. What Are Some Jazz Improvisation Techniques? Playing with others can be a great joy and inspiration. The best musical partnerships aris...

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.

Reviews

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

I can never play anything but the most basic jazz: a few 7/9 chords. But seeing the struggles even a great player like him has gone through along with his humility is inspiring. There's no reason I can't work hard, find my own voice, and reach my own level.

Thanks to all the masterclass team and to Mr. Hancock for such an amazing class! Really appreciate all the knoledge and Mr. Hancock music philosophy.

Herbie Hancock's insight into the philosophy of music is profound and eye opening. He inspires me to try different improvisation strategies.

Herbie is a one of a kind character. I appreciated his approach, and his advice to explore what your own approach might be.

Comments

Marcus M.

Liking the journey so far. That melody he came up with and the chords were incredible!

A fellow student

This perspective is like the complete opposite of deadmau5’s perspective on expression . This is what music is all about

Vivian H.

Wonderful, thank you so much. It’s what part of me has been pushing for, experimenting with and just plain feeling since I began this musical journey of mine a few years ago. For so many years I've been afraid. In my own studio I've felt safe following the voice of my heart, free to express, explore and throw paint, but seldom in front of others. I suppose I thought somehow I was wrong, something wrong with me. Always those around me expected me to always be perfect. "There is no such thing as trying, success or nothing”, was always the motto in life around me. I felt small, stupid, unworthy. How could anyone do something right the first and every try? Only behind closed doors or in the middle of the woods did I feel like there might be more. Slowly, little by little by listening to and following the heart of the music, are the chains breaking around me and more, it’s as if tiny feathers are growing and stretching and forming and here and there I am learning to fly. Thank you, what a gift you have given. Thank you for helping to clearify something my soul has been trying to show me.

Kenny M.

It’s funny. The best all around musician I ever played with would repeat a mistake in a solo. After the second or third time it was no longer a mistake but part of the experience.

William J.

Just being able to watch Herbie play the piano is worth the price of admission alone. But the information here is gold. Not only for musicians but for plain old jazz fans who want to know more about the craft and the art behind the music.

R. Greg S.

This look into his thought, the approach to improvisation, the idea of where the notes might go if tied to the music rather than just the chord structure is just what I was hoping I'd find in this class.

A fellow student

Herbie tearing up talking about Miles.. DO NOT MAKE ME CRY HERBIE!!! "Miles just accepted it as something new that happened." If that isn't the secret to a happy life, I don't know what is. "Try to make anything that happens into something of value... Make it fit. Make it part of the music." This is my new New Years resolution, ppl

Calvin R.

I enjoyed how Herbie explained how to improvise in its simplest form. When one adds harmony and rhythm to a very simple melody can create wonderful. Also when he played the wrong note /chord while playing for Miles Davis. Miles then played a phrasing that made Herbie's mistake sound really great!

Isaiah S.

In the workbook, it says that he used Dorian minor scales, and it also says that he used notes and triads "to move outside of the chord scale". What do these things mean? :)

Akashdeep R.

The things I am hearing here are the same that reside deep within me. Nothing seems new but hearing it from someone who has given his life into it, reassures that we as human beings are already empowered and that the point is not to reach a goal. It is to live through this process of life. The beauty of life is how it unfolds. The intimidation that one feels because of one's own "short-comings" , the feeling that one is lost in this vastness are catalysts that help us grow in a unique way. This helps to not take life too seriously. We are all different plants in the same garden. We flower in our own way. I am so glad to be alive in this moment and to have experienced life