Arts & Entertainment, Music

Piano Basics

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 14:21 min

Herbie breaks down the fundamentals of piano playing.

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

Topics include: Getting to Know Your Instrument • How Much to Practice • Learn to Read Music • The Importance of Touch • Let the Fingers Do the Work


Let me tell you a story about when I first started taking piano lessons. My parents actually bought me a piano on my seventh birthday as a birthday present. Now I realize it was a piano for the family. But at least it gave it an occasion. My older brother and my younger sister and I started lessons after having had the piano for maybe a couple of months. I really feel like that was a blessing that I didn't have a teacher from day one that I had the piano. Because it gave my brother, my sister, and I a chance to just kind of mess around with the piano ourselves and form some minimal relationship with this instrument. Because it was just us and the piano, us not knowing really anything about it, and us just finding out for ourselves little things-- [PLAYS NOTES] --about pitch, seeing how the piano looked. I don't remember. I was seven years old, and I'm 76 now. So I don't remember exactly how it was. But I do know that by the time I actually had a teacher, I wasn't intimidated by just looking at the instrument. I'd just walk in, and all of a sudden, there is this big thing with its 88 keys, and I don't know what it is. And I would encourage parents to not be concerned about giving a child a lessons from day one that they have the instrument. Let them fool around with it for a while, and then start their lessons. [JAZZ PIANO MUSIC PLAYING] Practice is very important. You know the phrase, practice makes perfect? Well, because we're human beings, perfection in that sense is sort of a loaded word. So getting as perfect as we can at the moment is something that we can strive for. That's not impossible. You don't want to spend all day practicing because you are a human being. And you have to live. I've heard of people practicing four and five hours a day. I think the most I ever practiced was three hours a day. Practicing every day, in the beginning, that's what I did. I practiced every day. I know in playing jazz, over time, because we're playing in the moment, after years and years go by, you start to get a feeling for what we might call mind over matter. And the reason it's important to get a sense of that concept is because what I found out later is that if I didn't practice-- because I was so used to practicing everyday. If I didn't practice, I felt worried, scared. And the fear is what made it difficult for me to have at least a decent performance. So the problem was I was depending on practicing in order to do the best that I could. So somewhere in there, there's a balance. You want to be able to practice. But you don't want it as a crutch. Sometimes you're in situations where you won't be able to practice. And are you gonna sit there like this, biting your fingernails? No, you don't want to do that. So a certain period of my life, during the time I was playing with Miles Davis, I never saw him practice. Except the few seconds before h...

About the Instructor

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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Herbie Hancock

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