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Arts & Entertainment

Recomposing, Rearranging, Reinventing

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 11:59 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.

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

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.

I have learned a lot about not only jazz, but enlightenment and life. I would reccomend this class to a lot of people. That shall conclude my review. Clint - 11 yr. old.

Herbie Hancock is a jazz legend--an inspiring teacher--and a warm and wonderful human being. I loved this course!

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.

This class inspired me to pursue my own way in music.


Sasha S.

how awesome to watch Herbie fumble on Watermelon man. turns out he's human after all!

Ryan A.

Does anyone know how to resume the play after you pause the video? This should be easy like Youtube videos, but so far to me, it looks like either broken or bad design ...:(

Ellak E.

There is something good about repeating songs and improving the crafts when repeating a practice that things get better and fully explored, but there is also something good about taking on change and taking new practices that improve our careers and us as living beings. There is no shame in taking new things into our development though there are many that try to resist innovation and evolution. It seems that the world has had a long story of discrimination and rejection, though agents of change and improvement have to keep going in our journey. Keep up the good work and don't be influenced by negative or stupid criticisms. EK

Michael O.

The Headhunters album introduced me to Herbie as well as opened the doorway for me into Jazz. I was in a culturally isolated area of the country and exploring Herbie's previous albums started my curiosity into various genres.

Marissa S.

I loved that Herbie validates that you can change things you did before. I also love that as an artist, he is constantly looking for new things and ways to grow and develop as a musician and artist. The things that he does with synthesizers are really cool. When he came to Seattle last year, I had tickets to see his show and I loved the keyboard/guitar that he played - it made some really cool sounds.

Jonathan S.

Just about anybody who ever brought us anything new and revolutionary was panned by the critics. Where would we be if Picasso had listened when he first distorted someone's face? When Einstein said that matter and energy are interchangeable? When Copernicus said earth revolves around the sun? When the first caveman said, "Oooga booga" (let's take that ember with us so we can start a fire when we want to.)? But it takes courage. Be courageous.

Susanna R.

I liked the sincerity of Herbie saying things as they are, as he himself feels. They are pills of wisdom. Making music is not just about learning technique and theory, but learning from one's own and other life experiences. We must know how to interpret between the lines. I could also disagree on some points, but it 's the substance that is important and that's what I learned in this lesson. If I don' t open my life at 360 degrees don't open new horizons, obviously without betraying oneself, continuing to follow your own patway as Herbie emphasizes. I'm happy to take this course !!!

Luigi M.

Here's my rearrangement of "How high the Moon"


A most perfect lesson for me as I have just recently converted some old cassettes of music I wrote in the 1970's and 1980's to digital format. I suppose much of it can be updated and vastly improved!

Nucleo V.

Thanks for breaking down the imagery in Watermelon Man! I really loved how the melody was derived from the people calling his name, instead of the melody he sang. Changing the perspective is a cool way to get out of a compositional obstacle. Would you be able to include your compositional approaches to your other songs? I love composition, and I find other composers approaches intriguing.