From Herbie Hancock's MasterClass


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


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

Learn More


We improvise all the time. When we walk from one place to the next, do we tell ourselves which foot goes out first? No we don't. We just walk. Improvisation is what we do when we have a conversation with someone. It's based off of responding to whatever's happening in the moment. Like if you did-- [PLAYING PIANO] Right, you may want to do it again. And then you may want to do it again so that you won't be boring, but a little twist. [PLAYING PIANO] And then you might want to put a kind of a finishing touch on it. So if it's-- [PLAYING PIANO] Now this may maybe a stupid melody, by the way. [PLAYING PIANO] [CHUCKLING] So that's a type of resolution. Again, I wasn't trying to make a great melody. But I'm trying to make a point. And hopefully you can hear it in what I just played. That melody might not be that bad. [PLAYING PIANO] Oh, that's where they part. [PLAYING PIANO] Or it could, or, or at the-- [PLAYING PIANO] Now like I said, it may not be a great melody, but I try to make something out of it. What can help with that is how open are you? Developing up a sense of being open is very healthy. When you start closing your mind up to genres, saying this genre, that's not music, but this is. When you start pitting one thing against the other and making these-- drawing these divisive conclusions, all you're doing is limiting the scope of this plethora of ideas, this garden of choices, this rainbow of choices, if you will. That rainbow is really healthy. Rainbows are healthy. I had the great experience of working with Miles Davis, where I played something that was you could say technically wrong. And it was in the middle of a concert that was the best concert of that tour. We were having a great time. And in the middle of one of the songs, during Miles's solo, I played this chord that was so wrong. I thought I had just destroyed everything and reduced that great night to rubble. Miles took a breath and he played some notes. And he made my chord right. And I could not figure out how he did that. It sounded like magic, you know. It took me years to figure out what actually happened. Here's what happened. I judged what I had played. Miles didn't. Miles accepted it as something new that happened. And he did what any jazz musicians should always try to do, and that is try to make anything that happens into something of value. The duty of a musician and particularly in jazz, because it's constantly being created through improvisation-- the real duty is for us to take anything that happens on the stage and make it fit, make it part of the music. There's a tendency to think that only certain notes work over a certain chord. Now let's take a B-flat minor chord which basically-- [PLAYS A CHORD] that's B-flat minor. OK, OK. [PLAYS A CHORD] That's also B-flat minor, but it has some other notes in ...

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.

Expression , that is the most important thing with any Arts. To express own feeling we need tools , we need certain technical skills.

These classes alone cannot make me a great piano player, but they do make me a more interesting piano player. The sounds I make at the keyboard have been changed forever. Thank you, Master Hancock.

Good tips on tecnique and opened my mind about reharmonizations. Good transcriptions. Thanks

Would have been five stars, but all the class material for download is missing. Disappointing.


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


I love to improvise, in fact, it's all I do, and I seek the vein and follow it where it leads. I am buoyed hearing Herbie talk about these things. In "So What", when the song opened it was like a blank canvas that was suddenly being tinged with different notes of color. The brushes on the drums were adding a tropical, frond like feel, the bass notes going down and up and like an escalator, the piano lines and then the horns with their elaborate expression. Miles subtle shades and hues of the same note, as he left each phrase is sort of heartbreaking. A muffled articulation, the little sizzle and rumble I almost feel it on my lips as the note escapes into eternity, just the hue staining everything. A little over half way (after the saxes) Miles come back in from out of nowhere, like he just landed from some other planet almost forgotten but vital to all existence repeating the theme and then Bill Evans starts to emulate Miles, a little at first, just a wisp, then a thought, then a nod, then a craziness.... Wonderful. :) Thanks for this assignment Herbie

Rhesa S.

I always play safe when during the improvisation and afraid to make mistakes. Herbie's story about his experience with Miles really is really inspiring. After watching this video, I'm sitting on my piano and trying to play without worrying hitting the wrong note. The previous lesson, I just learned about how to tell a story and now, I just learned about how to engage conversation. Thank you again for the wisdom, Herbie.