Chapter 3 of 25 from Herbie Hancock

Improvisation

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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

Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz

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

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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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Herbie shows you how to take your music to the next level.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Herbie will also critique selected student work.

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Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz