Chapter 15 of 25 from Herbie Hancock

Working As a Composer


Herbie shares advice from his years of composing and collaborating with the icons of jazz.

Topics include: Working for Hire • Writing for Film • Own Your Own Publishing • Releasing Your Own Music

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


I've done about 23, 24, 25 commercials, you know, jingles in my life. I haven't done one in a long time. But it's interesting to get into that line of work because there's a product to sell. And the idea is to listen to what the real bosses are in that case. And it's usually the advertising company. The focus really is on that product. So if you think the focus is going to be on your music, the music is a pathway to people buying that product. So don't lose hope when it appears that, in the process, the focus is not on your music. Is just a reality of the situation. You know, you'll get paid for doing your work, whether you're writing music for a television commercial or a radio spot or a movie or animation, whatever it may be. I mean, all of these are really inspiration, and they make your toolbox grow, inspiration for your own creativity. Maiden Voyage was for men's cologne commercial. And the rhythmic foundation of that tune came from me trying to figure out a way to make a beat that wasn't a typical backbeat, which normally sounds on the second beat and the fourth beat, like one, two, three, four, one. With an accent like that. That's what I was looking for. I didn't wind up with the thing that is an example of what I was looking for, but it did lead me to [CLAPPING RHYTHMICALLY].. Now that's not any kind of funky beat. But the fact that I was looking for something other than what I had been hearing was just enough to lead me in a different direction. And I found something that I could use, and a lot of people like that record. Scoring a film is very different than making music for a record. And it's the director's dream. It's his baby. It's like his record. I learned that the hard way because the first film score I did, by the way, was a film called Blow-Up. Michelangelo Antonioni was the director, who was like a mentor of Bertolucci and many other filmmakers. You know, he was one of those guys from Italy, like Fellini and many others. And after I finished the music for Blow-Up-- I'll just tell you briefly-- and I went to the theater to see the premiere of the film, my music was so soft I could barely hear it. And I was so mad that I put so much work into making this music that I was angry and disappointed. And I spoke to Michelangelo Antonioni, and he said-- and Antonioni was a big jazz fan. And he said that he used the music the way he thought would fit his film. And I thought about that for a couple of days. And I started to realize, here I am a novice in writing film scores. Antonioni is a genius. And I'm feeling hurt. And I started to examine why I was feeling hurt. And I was feeling hurt because I didn't go to see the premiere of the film. I went to the theater to hear my music. Wrong idea. So I went back, four days after seeing it for the first time, I went back to the same theater to see the film. And I was fine with 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.

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