From Herbie Hancock's MasterClass

The Two Basic Jazz Forms

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.

Topics include: Learning Blues Licks • Blues Players to Draw From • Improvising Over Rhythm Changes


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.

Topics include: Learning Blues Licks • Blues Players to Draw From • Improvising Over Rhythm Changes

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.


I didn't know Herbie before this class was launched but now I am a huge fan. Outstanding class and real as can be!

Expression , that is the most important thing with any Arts. To express own feeling we need tools , we need certain technical skills.

I can never play anything but the most basic jazz: a few 7/9 chords. But seeing the struggles even a great player like him has gone through along with his humility is inspiring. There's no reason I can't work hard, find my own voice, and reach my own level.


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.

Larry Y.

Like most of the black jazz piano players I've met, seen or heard, Herbie has the ability to wander around the keyboard with effortless selection of tenth chords in the left hand, where many white guys like me have to limit themselves to playing octaves or splitting the chord up for both hands. Does anyone (including Herbie) have any other solutions ? This also gets me round to saying my favorite piano player bar none was Errol Garner. His sound may not have been out and out Jazz, but he was a virtuoso like the world will never see again.

Julie S.

He'll talk for a just a little while, then he'll break out into playing. Yeah!