Music & Entertainment

Jam Session: Rhythm in “Actual Proof”

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 9:23 min

Herbie brings the rhythm section back to break down the groove of one of the Headhunters’ most complicated numbers. Play along and find the downbeat for yourself.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
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OK, now we're going to talk a little bit about rhythm. So we're going to take a tune I wrote some years ago with Bennie Maupin called "Actual Proof." And it was originally written to kind of show off to the drums, because it has the use of what years ago used to be called stop time, at least that concept. So again, I have the aid of Luka on electric bass and Anthony on drums. And let's see what happens, OK? One, two, one, two, three. Thank you. So there's interactions happening, a lot of rhythm, and things happening in unexpected places, you know, displacement of rhythms. Doesn't really fall where you would expect that to fall. But actually, it was constructed that way on purpose. Actually, we still count one, two, three, four, but we displaced that. We actually moved that over from where that were a figure like that normally falls, just to fool everybody into thinking that we actually changed the beat and we didn't. So a lot of rhythmic things happening. You know, giving yourself a challenge, giving the other musicians you're working with a challenge by writing tunes that have displaced rhythms. And by that what I mean is if you're taking something that normally they hear-- the ear hears that the beat falls in a certain specific place. And if you actually remove half a beat somewhere and move that phrase one-half a beat backwards, that's a displacement of the rhythm. And it can create some very interesting responses from the other musicians, and gives you a challenge of something different to work with. Preparing to perform a piece like this takes a lot of time. I don't know, when you guys learned this, did you have to listen to it a lot? I mean, because I didn't send you sheet music. I didn't even know you. So you learned it from listening to the record, right? Right. Yeah, and the bass line is particularly tricky, because the one is not where, I mean, you might think that it is. Right. You can listen along and try to find the one, if you dare to. But actually, we were never changed from 4:4. You, yourself, rewind this. Rewind the actual performance that we did, and see if you can count it. But you can make compositions yourself. Just play with moving things around. And it's a really good exercise, not only in composition, but for actually improvising, to have to figure out ways of improvising something that makes sense over phrases that are displaced-- either moved backwards or moved forward. So try it and see what you come up with.

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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.


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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.

I learned how music really comes from telling your story instead of being technical about melodies

He did not know the person who is Herbie beyond his mastery of jazz piano. More than the techniques he taught, I really enjoyed listening to him talk about how a human being can be happy doing music that makes others happy. It was quite important for me to continue. Thank you Herbie

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Kristian J.

Wow! Awesome to see how good Herbie Hancock is after many years of practice.

William C.

really impressed how he navigated the Kronos keyboard. I may have to get one

Hans B.

I wish he had included more of the process of how to make up something like that.

Louis J.

So Cool, I am really bad watching good musicians, I slip into unworthy feelings too easily. Would be interested to see how you guy deal with that kind of thing? I like the view that those people serve to make you better. All to easy to forget though.

Margaret E.

WOW - all three were great and all three had fun. wonderful just to listen to them. I'm a long away from that kind of rhythm.

Kris Y.

This is awesome stuff and rather 'mindbending' for me at the moment but I will also be revisiting this lesson many times. I'm going back now to find the 'one' if I can.

John P.

Rhythmic displacement - very interesting. I was amazed at how all three musicians arrived at the end in perfect time. I will no doubt listen to this lesson many times.

Dominic V.

Man, there's gonna be a lot of reruns of this video on my computer. A lot to be gained here.