Music, Arts & Entertainment

Recomposing, Rearranging, Reinventing

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 11:58 min

A song is never finished. Even after you’ve recorded it, there’s still room for it to evolve. In this chapter, Herbie challenges you to give old compositions a contemporary edge.

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Topics include: Rewriting on the Fly: “Actual Proof” • Keep Your Ears Open • Make It Funky • Don’t Let Criticism Get in the Way of Your Growth


Even though jazz players are used to changing things every night-- they hit on this band that was really popular. And a lot of the audience that we had were audiences that wanted to hear things like they were on the records. And Paul Jackson, who was electric bass player-- actually, he was originally a jazz acoustic bass player. Acoustic bass players, jazz players, are used to changing bass lines all the time. I told Paul, I said, you know, you have to keep the same bass line. You know? On ,, you have to play-- [PLAYS BASS LINE] You can't just keep playing a different bass line every night because people, they're not going to really be satisfied. So eventually, he understood. And he started doing that. So that was a bass line for "Actual Proof." And he played it every night. And so we got to the recording studio and we were going to record that and some other pieces. And we got to that point we were going to record "Actual Proof," and I had been hearing-- before we actually started doing that piece, when I was talking to somebody, I heard Paul messing with something. I didn't know what it was. But anyway, so I counted off the tempo for "Actual Proof." So I went, one, two, three, four. He played a completely different line. And I went, oh, no. Because I had figured out a clarinet part that fit the bass line he had been playing on the road. So I had this set part in it. The new thing, my part didn't fit so well. So I said, I know, Paul, I've been telling you. And he said, oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I said, well, Paul, whatever you are doing, that bass line is so different. Let's use your new bass line. And he was happy about that. But it was so elusive at the time that it blew my mind. But one thing I want to point out about this experience is, don't be afraid to change your mind about things. Don't be afraid to try something new. It's very important to have the courage that if you hear something that you feel deserves merit, deserves to be explored, is entertaining, and it kind of peaks your own appetite, and you want to share that with others, don't be afraid of shifting around and doing that new thing. Don't be afraid of walking that difficult minefield to get to the goal that's on the other side. You know? And that's what music is all about. It takes daring sometimes. And that's how you get from here to there. [JAZZ PIANO MUSIC PLAYING] Many years ago, I used to have tunnel vision about jazz and classical music. That was the only thing I wanted to listen to. That's the only thing I respected. And I had blinders to anything else. I didn't want to hear rock and roll. I didn't even want to hear rhythm and blues. But because I respected Miles Davis, and I saw that he had-- this is in the days of vinyl. And he had the Rolling Stones and maybe the Beatles and James Brown and John Lee Hooker. And I saw t...

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

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

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