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Arts & Entertainment

Piano Exercises

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 14:01 min

Build speed and strength in your fingers with the exercises that have helped Herbie most.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
Learn to improvise, compose, and develop your own sound across 25 video lessons.
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I started playing piano when I was seven, so I didn't make a whole lot of decisions. I didn't know anything about what I was doing. So my teachers told me about Hanon, for example. That's a person who wrote exercises, exercise books. And that's a very common one, H-A-N-O-N. There's another one, Czerny, C-Z-E-R-N-Y. So in those exercises, they give you what's considered the standard fingering for playing scales. [PLAYING SCALE] OK. And the idea or the way those exercises were constructed, because of the configuration of the hands, the thumbs are shorter than the other fingers, are located in a different place. And then you have your little finger here. Usually, the thumb was placed on the white notes, and the other fingers played the black notes when that was possible. So when the idea of D-flat scale, they asked you to, or actually put numbers, above the notes on the written page to tell you the fingers they suggest. So it would be, in the right hand-- [PLAYS NOTE] --second-- [PLAYS NOTE] --third finger-- [PLAYS NOTE] --then the thumb comes underneath. [PLAYS NOTE] Then the second, third, and fourth. I'm saying, this is first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. I'm counting them that way. OK. So say one, two, three, four, five. You got-- [PLAYING SCALE] --2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2. Also for chords and arpeggios based off of major, and minor, and diminished chords. Started with C major and then C minor. And then they used-- this is actually a flat chord with the C on the bottom. Because they wanted it to sound musical. So basically it's-- [PLAYING PIANO] So the same thing applied-- [PLAYING ARPEGGIOS] --for arpeggios based off of those chords. [PLAYING ARPEGGIOS] And then they would have-- [PLAYING ARPEGGIOS] There was another book that I use primarily now, written by a person named "Beh-ran-jay," or Beringer. These exercises have a different kind of fingering. They actually use the same fingering on-- like the C fingering on all the scales and arpeggios. [PLAYING SCALE] Actually, I don't know if they use it on the scales, but they do on the arpeggio. [PLAYING ARPEGGIOS] The same fingering that I have used on the C arpeggios, I use the same fingering on a D-flat arpeggio, which at first was very awkward. Now, you might ask yourself, what purpose could that serve? Well, when you're improvising and you happen to play something, where you say you're playing some ascending line. And then you end up on your little finger, right? But then suppose you use something above that. What are you going to do? Or you hear something-- the basic idea is if you hear something and you don't have the finger that you're comfortable with, available. There's a tendency, not to even try to play it. Because you're so used to the habit of thinking, this is the correct finger for th...

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.

Mr. HH is my kind of people. Deep water, but fun, too. Dig you, Sensei.

Really Exellent, Inspiring, Thank You very much !!!!

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.

Awesome class!!!!! Thank you are truly a master:) Love, Rachael


Brian B.

I practiced one Hanon exercise per week in 2019. Parts II and III gave the most value to me. Lessons 32-36 deal with passing the thumb under all fingers. Hanon is also my first experience practicing major, minor, diminished, and chromatic scales and arrpegios in all keys. Practicing legato thirds (Lesson 50) and Scales in Thirds in all keys (Lesson 52) will take a lot of work in the next couple months, but is IMHO great for jazz improv. Exercises to master trills and tremelos seem less relevant to jazz. There is so much to learn from the Hanon exercises by the book, and also by slowing the lessons down to work on dynamics and shaping. I haven't tried, ever to play any of the Hanon at the maximum recommended speeds. I hadn't heard of Beringer, but I'll try to check it out this year.

Nick B.

"Cost $3 when I got it.. I wonder what it is now?" Well, in the UK Oscar Beringer's Technical Studies for Piano is a paltry £12.95. That's 152 pages of boredom for a mere thirteen quid. Not bad!

Antonio P.

So great to see a master emphasizing the value of exercises, dynamics, and the essential need to do the work. Think about this: we are hearing one of the greatest musicians of modern music--if not all music--telling us that even he values doing the work and has had to do the work. He said, "..move through sonic explorations, to help power the mind to generate ideas" near the end of the video. Seriously, whoever is not inspired to do better and learn more from this video may not be paying attention or may simply not care about music.


Not much useful here... to be honest... Many free Youtube videos teach you more. Love the Dude, but not much to learn here...

Marcus M.

Hanon and Czerny were some of my first finger training books too. Never heard of Beringer though. Interesting. I remember starting out using thumbs on black keys were only as a last resort. LOL....

Paul P.

This brought back memories of 40 years ago, all those hours of piano exercises. Thankyou.

Ken C.

As a jazz musician, everything I hear him say makes sense to me because we speak a common language. But it bears mentioning that, around the 5:25 mark, Herbie talks about "hearing" something, say another note, that may be difficult to play because it lies outside the normal fingerings. By using the word "hearing" he is really saying that he "hears" something in his head that he wishes to play. He is imagining, hearing, where his musical idea is going but may be stifled by traditional fingering. These lessons are priceless.


Loving this class but it seems like I needed to be able to read music for it. Does anyone else feel that way? Should I spend time learning how to read first, would that be beneficial?

Ruth W.

gosh havent been in here for months .. too hard basket but been busy in choirs and playing with groups and now minimising things so can concentrate on what love .. when i heard "Hanon" thought wow got a book of that downstairs so will check that out for while first lol

A fellow student

Beringer LH is kicking my ass. Thanks for these - best class series on the site. More of this please