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Arts & Entertainment

Jam Session: Two Approaches to “Watermelon Man”

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 10:16 min

Herbie brings in a rhythm section to break down two versions of his classic tune. They also accompany a synthesizer solo steeped in the sounds of funk and the blues.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
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This is going to be the original 1962 version, which was not the big hit that another version, by Mongo Santamaria, made in 1963. But this is the original way it was written. And then we're going to move from that to a rearrangement of it that happened 11 years later, in 1973. And I recorded this with a group called The Headhunters, and the record was called, Headhunters. So here is Watermelon Man. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Thank you. So play the-- play the first-- the first baseline, again. Right. Now son, that's just simple. Now, the other version. Right. So you see there's a big difference, in a way, with the baseline, different tempo, different feel to it. Anthony, what's the beat that you actually played for Watermelon Man? The first one or the second one? The second one, second one. It's kind of like, uh-- Right. And, what did you do for the first one? I played something a little bit, I guess more straighter, I guess I played-- --more straight ahead, huh? Ha, ha, yeah. Is that what you did? Yeah. Kind of like a-- Great, great. So, I hope you can hear, in this, that there are more rhythms than a lot of what you hear on the radio today. There are a lot of things that you can play with, have fun with, surprise yourself, and kind of, surprise other musicians that you're working with. So, it's like variety is the spice of life, so enjoy it.

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.

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 is a genius with the capability of breaking it all down for the beginner. He also interjects some philosophy that is basic, yet profound....

The Herbie Hancock MasterClass is full of musical tips and tricks. His knowledge and experience is incredible. He is a great instructor. Listen closely to how he talks about music. The passion he has for jazz and music comes through not only through his music, but also through his conversation...

I wish this class had another 900 lessons, it's incredibly interesting watching and watching, the more I watch the more I discover new things.


A fellow student

Considering the amount of free material available od Herbie playing on youtube, and especially numerous versions of Watermellon Man, it seems absurd to dedicate an entire episode to him playing it again, where the teaching is: 1. The bass line and rhyrhms are different (really???) 2. You can create variety by re-arranging an old tune (duh). I think it is fair to assume that anybody who listens to this Masterclass has listened to both versions of the song many times and got that the grooves were different and that the second is a great arrangement of the first.

Noel H.

Mr. Hancock is so inspiring! Especially with regard to composing new and fresh compositions! Thank you!

A fellow student

Is it just me or am I the only one who feels like they've learnt nothing about Jazz Harmony, modes or anything like that And I'm 14 episodes in - someone please explain!

Kenneth S.

My GOD that's great! Both Watermelon Man, and Cantaloupe Island are core fav's of mine... and Herbie with Pat Metheny live really show how these tradition well to improvisation. Yep, another night in the music room!

Janice H.

I love how Herbie Hancock uses the various instrumental sounds on the Korg to bring a fresh take on an old classic "The Watermelon Man". Thanks for sharing.

Jonathan S.

I'm inspired. I mostly do a 1-man show. Now I want to jam more often with a couple of friends I get together with three times a year. It has to be more often.

Margaret E.

Chapter 13 set Chapter 14 up to be far more enjoyable. All three were sooooo Talented.

Carlos S.

Love the way things flow. Its not about perfection, but a communion. Cheers!

Jonny S.

With all the disparaging comments about the Rhythm Section here, I'm looking at them and thinking - "Man, if I were their age and jamming with Herbie I would A. be shitting a brick, and B. no matter how good I was at that age, be intimidated as hell..." So, until I've walked a mile in their shoes, I don't think I'll make any judgments.

John B.

I was blown away by how effertlessly he switched between three distinct keyboard tones during the funk part? Clavinet, horns and lead synth. All three were on the Record, but I'm pretty sure he multi-tracked it. He put three parts together without missing a beat. I would have needed another keyboardist/guitarist in my band to make it sound that full. He just HANDLED it. He mastered the functions of his keyboard just as much as the music itself