Music & Entertainment

Ravel's Creative Harmonies

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 6:58 min

Jazz players don’t just learn from other jazz players. One of Herbie’s harmonic touchstones is the French composer Maurice Ravel. Learn how to add some of Ravel’s sounds to your bag of harmonic tricks.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
Learn to improvise, compose, and develop your own sound across 25 video lessons.
Get All-Access


Let's get into the area of harmony, like who are some of the people I listen to and I encourage you to listen to. Again, I started making a little list. And the first name I wrote down was Ravel. So I said, OK, let's talk about the classical people. Ravel, I learned a lot of things. For example, say I'm playing in the key of C, [PLAYING CHORD] OK C major seventh. Let's make it a C major ninth. [PLAYING CHORD] That chord is actually a C diminished. But-- [PIANO PLAYING] or let's say, C E flat, F sharp, and A. Then I've added a B and a D. Let's make it a ninth. I mean, I've heard that chord, for example, with Ravel. Or even this chord. [PIANO PLAYING] On the bottom, I have a C. It's almost like the place where I'm going. [PLAYING NOTE] But the place where I'm coming from is from basically [PLAYING CHORD] a G seventh to the C. But the place I'm coming from, that G seventh can also be played, instead of just [PLAYING CHORD] simply, can be played [PLAYING CHORD] like that too. This is a G seventh with a flatted ninth. And I've added a few things to it. So you get the [PLAYING NOTES] G seventh, [PLAYING NOTE] with the flatted ninth. That's just a repeat of the third there. And then I have [PLAYING NOTE],, that's the 13th-- 13th, yeah. [PLAYING CHORD] OK. But now, with this C on the bottom [PIANO PLAYING],, it's that something you hear from everybody. In other words, having a chord that is a chord of motion, which in many cases a seventh chord is a chord of motion, but this chord a motion, which is going somewhere, with notes of where it's going to. [PIANO PLAYING] So that's one of the examples of something I learned from Ravel. [PIANO PLAYING] Now, here's another thing. If we're in the key of C [PLAYING CHORD],, a common chord that goes to that is the five chord, which is G seventh. [PLAYING CHORD] Now, what notes fit comfortably [PLAYING CHORD] with G seventh, the seventh chord? There's a way to put, of course, the G [PLAYING CHORD],, you can play-- that's A flat, which is the flat ninth, which works [PIANO PLAYING]. And A, B flat can fit with it. [PIANO PLAYING] B can fit with it. C can fit with it. Well, almost-- [PIANO PLAYING]. That's not [PLAYING CHORD]---- that's not exactly [PLAYING CHORD] the G seventh. We're sort of borrowing from the two chord, [PIANO PLAYING],, which is D minor. [PLAYING CHORD] But let's go on [PLAYING CHORD]. That's C sharp. That works with the C seventh. [PLAYING CHORD] D does, E flat does, E does, F does. What about F sharp? [PLAYING CHORD] Sounds funny, doesn't quite fit. What about this? [PIANO PLAYING] That works. It's F sharp [PIANO PLAYING] in the position to be the chord that's going [PIANO PLAYING]-- You're probably wondering, how did I do that? To make an F sharp fit in that position as the chord going to-- in a chord that's going to C [PLAYING CHORD],, well, what I did was something...

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.

Very inspirational course. This course alone was probably worth the price of the yearly Masterclass pass. The amazing warm kindness and modesty of this great artist is certainly a model to follow. This is not a technical jazz course though - there still is some serious woodshedding to do !

I have taken a lot from this class particularity. Herbie is a master of communicating his ideas in a way that is very adaptable to all sorts of different approaches, styles. I had a great time and will be re-watching and absorbing these lessons for years to come.

Listening to a legend like this talk about his craft is awesome

Music is life and an expression of your heart! Great message Mr. Hancock!


Jonathan S.

Especially interesting at 4:55 when he went to the F# and it sounded "wrong.," or as he said, "funny." When he re-voiced it, it suddenly worked.

Giovanni T.

In the first part, he has explained that I can add some notes at my G7, like b9 and 13th and C at the bottom, in other words G7b9 mixed with C9. At second part , in overall, we can put every chord(major7th) inside the G7, all right ? in exemple, I can catch the E7(E,A#,B,D) and mix with G7, transforming in something like F,B,E,A#,B,E ? that's right ?

Calvin R.

interesting lesson! I need to listen to more Ravel, Debussy and Rachmaninoff !! To combine Classical elements to my contemporary style of playing.


This stuff is way over my head, but I am hanging in there. Question: What makes a chord sound 'jazzy'? I play mostly major and minor chords. What can I do to jazz them up a bit?

Gabriele P.

Beautiful lesson. Not so well known as Ravel, but also very interesting for its use of harmony, is the Spanish composer Federico Mompou. I highly recommend to check out some of his piano music.

Margaret E.

I'll need to add Ravel to my listening. And agree will need to watch this one 50 times to catch it all.

Elijah M.

This lesson was absolutely wonderful! So much stuff to take away from this! It's interesting seeing how Ravel influenced jazz musicians like Herbie. In fact, it seems the Impressionist composers in general (Ravel, Debussy, etc.) seemed to shape the jazz sound a lot. There's a great movie called "Calle 54," which is basically a showcase of Latin Jazz and the amazing artists who compose/perform it. A virtuoso Cuban pianist named Chucho Valdez spoke of the classical influence on Latin Jazz, and he specifically mentioned the Impressionists and how Latin Jazz artists need to listen to them. I'm a great admirer of Impressionist music, and I want to compose sounds like that myself someday. It's one of my chief musical influences. So it's great seeing Herbie deconstruct the method behind Ravel's lush harmonies.

Colleen M.

I enjoyed this lesson the most so far. I loved how Mr. Hancock shows the "jazz chords" embedded within Ravel's music. Interesting way to see the music and the sounds created, not just the genres. Yes some "delicious" chords alright! I love Ravel and Debussy, and the chords they chose are so fascinating to listen to.

Steve A.

One of the best ones so far. Probably enough in this to keep someone occupied for months despite it being very short. Some of the variations are well used and are found in lots of "real" books but seeing them being created on the fly was far better for context.

John P.

I have attempted to play Ravel and I really like his harmonies. His music is difficult to play but so worth the effort. It is interesting how many of the classical composers used voicings that prove to be so familiar to the jazz world. Debussy is another interesting composer." l'après midi du faune" is one of my favorites of his. I know that Herbie said to forget the mechanics in an early session but it seems they came back here - #11(b5), b9, #5