Chapter 18 of 25 from Herbie Hancock

Ravel's Creative Harmonies


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.

Topics include: Rethinking the V Chord

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz

Learn to improvise, compose, and develop your own sound across 25 video lessons.

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Class Info


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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Herbie shows you how to take your music to the next level.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Herbie will also critique selected student work.


Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz