Music & Entertainment

The Two Basic Jazz Forms

Herbie Hancock

Lesson time 7:44 min

Countless jazz tunes are built around one of two simple harmonic patterns. Practice Herbie’s licks and improv ideas, and discover new opportunities to use them.

Herbie Hancock
Teaches Jazz
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In jazz, there are only two formal forms. One is called the blues. And at this point, there's 12-bar blues. And we can start in the key of C. And it's-- [PIANO PLAYING] It's like, the C-7. [PIANO PLAYING] Maybe I should count for you-- [PIANO PLAYING] --1, 2, 3, 4-- 1, 2, 3, 4-- 1, 2, 3, 4-- 4, 2, 3, 4-- 5, 2, 3, 4-- 6, 2, 3, 4-- 7, 2, 3, 4-- 8, 2, 3, 4-- 9, 2, 3, 4-- 10, 2, 3, 4-- 11, 2, 3, 4-- 12, 2, 3, 4. It's 12 bars, 12-bar blues. That's one of the forms. The other form was created by George Gershwin. And it's called rhythm, or rhythm changes. So the basic form of that sounds like this. [PIANO PLAYING] That's the second form. And a lot of tunes have been written with that form. If we take the blues-- OK, right now we're in the key of-- [PIANO PLAYING] --of F, which happens to be one of my favorite keys. I don't know why. Now this is very basic. But there are what I call the blues notes. And that's a-- [PIANO PLAYING] --a minor third-- [PIANO PLAYING] --in this case, A flat. [PIANO PLAYING] I did a turn on that. [PIANO PLAYING] And the other blue note is the-- [PIANO PLAYING] --the seventh-- [PIANO PLAYING] --which is E flat. [PIANO PLAYING] And it sounds like I'm playing in minor key. But-- [PIANO PLAYING] --down here, I'm playing a major key. [PIANO PLAYING] You know, that's the color that's in there. [PIANO PLAYING] And the B natural is another thing that's a note for-- [PIANO PLAYING] --part of the blues style, kind of basic blues style. Blues style guitar players use it a lot, use all those things-- this minor third, you know-- [PIANO PLAYING] --and the seventh-- not major seventh, but natural seventh, which is an E flat. [PIANO PLAYING] I mean, a lot of these things I got from listening to records by other people. You know-- [PIANO PLAYING] You can listen to Oscar Peterson. You can listen to-- there are old records of even Nat King Cole. Before we know him as a singer, he was a piano player. There's other people like Les McCann, who was great with the blues. Horace Silver had his own way. One thing to listen to is guitar players, blues guitar players. You know, you got BB King and a whole bunch of people that piano players kind of try to emulate on the piano. Because you can't bend notes on the piano. So instead of bending them, we just go back and forth between them. And so is our attempt to make it sound like it's bending, you know? [PIANO PLAYING] Right? That's kind of a blues technique. [PIANO PLAYING] You see that? [PIANO PLAYING] It's an attempt to make it sound kind of guitar-like. So along the way, you're going to be asked to play some of the two forms of jazz that exist now, the blues and rhythm changes. And there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of examples of that. But there are some interesting ways to approach the blues and to approach playing rhythm c...

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 !


Thanks for the lessons, your most important point is be yourself, you have your own sound, and style. even to this day I've tried to copy you, Joe Sample and Bob James. always came up short . I've always known that I had my own flavor in music, so I guess I'll just keep working it out. thanks again William Maurice Caldwell

I wanted to hear Herbie Hancock share his important thoughts. And he did that. And it was awesome. I liked how he spoke directly to us all from the heart. Very sad it is over.


Antonio P.

An exceptional lesson. The discussion on blue notes (3rd and 7th intervals) brought a lot of things together. I am essentially a beginner from a technical standpoint. But I have been playing bass for 29 years. This lesson is a good example of the things I am searching to help me finally understand music. This is a great 7:44 to that end. Do the homework on the PDF!!

Danny I.

Man i completely suck lol I'm trying hard but just cant figure it out. Herbie is a legend I feel overwhelmed it seems like every note he plays is perfectly matched to the scale but me trying to do it sounds like a mess. Granted I'm like a intermediate at best piano, i just can't seem to grasp anything. I'll keep trying though.

Ash T.

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A fellow student

It would be helpful in future presentations to hear the "mechanical/technical" played and then the "music from the heart" that Mr Hancock discussed- show us the difference between the literal interpretation of eighth notes played along side the "swing" or syncopated form of the eighth notes. For those of us classically trained, the differences should be enlightening and, hopefully, inspiring to our own performances.

Kenneth S.

I love Herbie's insight into the two Forms, especially the Blues. For a Jazz musician, the Blues brings out a whole different feel than say, a classical or rock musician, and Herbie's examples are just fabulous to listen to. Next is Rhythm Changes, which is a topic all of its own. Love this lesson!

Avzal I.

I love the way Herbie draws you into his energy..So much is familiar territory but yet so fresh and inspiring and boy those voicings and the tone of tha Fazioli!!!


I finally understand 12 bar blues. And when I practiced the chords, I got a better understanding of C7, F7, etc. I don't ry to understand every single thing in the lesson. I just understand what I can, I go over what I don't until I do get it. Like everything else, in life, sometimes may never understand it in the beginning, but after time, and constant study/practice, you get your "aha" moment.

Darrin B.

Just being in his virtual "presence", is so inspiring. He can charge the air between us as the lesson begins. Awesome!.

Susanna R.

I like these lessons, even if I lose some nuance for the different language...

Warren D.

To hear the sounds of jazz broken down, even to a non-musician, is interesting. I am sure I am missing things, but it is a delight to watch and hear Herbie play. And to get some sense of what musicians do when they are mixing it up.