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Lesson Plan

  • 01


    Meet your instructor, legendary pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. For Herbie, music is more than the notes you play. Learn how to open your mind—and ears—to the real story.

  • 02

    A Human Approach to Music

    For Herbie, music is more than the notes you play. Learn how to open your mind—and ears—to the real story.

  • 03


    Don’t let improvisation intimidate you. Herbie’s approach starts with the simplest of ideas: Listen, then react.

  • Show all 25 Lessons
    • 04

      Learning by Listening

      Herbie taught himself to play jazz by playing along with his favorite records. Learn how to use his methods to accompany the music you love.

    • 05

      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.

    • 06

      Listen and Learn: “Oleo”

      Listen, practice, and play along with Herbie’s solo performance of Sonny Rollin’s standard, a classic example of rhythm changes.

    • 07

      Piano Basics

      Herbie breaks down the fundamentals of piano playing.

    • 08

      Piano Exercises

      Build speed and strength in your fingers with the exercises that have helped Herbie most.

    • 09

      Improvising Alone

      Playing alone means you’re free to play any way you want. Learn how Herbie breaks the rules of melody, rhythm, and harmony to infuse his solo performances with creativity.

    • 10

      Expanded Improv Techniques

      Have you ever thought about music as a series of images? Herbie shares techniques that will push the boundaries of your improvising.

    • 11

      Jam Session: Improvising Together

      Herbie brings some guests to help demonstrate how musicians communicate while playing.

    • 12


      Where do songs come from? For Herbie, they start to take shape in life experiences. Here’s how he turns memories, impressions, and emotions into music.

    • 13

      Recomposing, Rearranging, Reinventing

      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.

    • 14

      Jam Session: Two Approaches to “Watermelon Man”

      Herbie brings in a rhythm section to break down two versions of his classic tune. They also accompany a synthesizer solo steeped in the sounds of funk and the blues.

    • 15

      Working As a Composer

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

    • 16

      Chord Voicings

      There’s a near-infinite number of ways play chords on your instrument. Learn some of Herbie’s go-to approaches, and let them spark your own experimentation.

    • 17

      Case Study: Reharmonizing “’Round Midnight”

      Playing a new set of chords under a classic melody is one of Herbie’s favorite ways to study harmony. Explore the new possibilities he finds in Thelonious Monk’s classic tune.

    • 18

      Ravel’s Creative Harmonies

      Jazz players don’t just learn from other jazz players. One of Herbie’s harmonic touchstones is the French composer Maurice Ravel. Learn how to add some of Ravel’s sounds to your bag of harmonic tricks.

    • 19

      Expanding Your Harmonic Horizons

      Herbie’s approach to harmony was built over years of experimentation. Let these ideas inspire your own harmonic exploration.

    • 20

      Listen and Learn: “Maiden Voyage”

      Herbie performs one of his most famous compositions alone at the piano. Listen and practice along to learn about how to play ballads and use the sus4 chord.

    • 21

      Rhythmic Musicianship

      Herbie has tips for grooving deeper and feeling more comfortable playing in strange and complex rhythms, from swing to funk.

    • 22

      Jam Session: Rhythm in “Actual Proof”

      Herbie brings the rhythm section back to break down the groove of one of the Headhunters’ most complicated numbers. Play along and find the downbeat for yourself.

    • 23

      A Musical Life

      Herbie followed an unlikely path to jazz, and it’s been a wild ride ever since. His story serves as an inspiration and a testament to what you can accomplish when you let passion be your guide.

    • 24

      Listen and Learn: “Watermelon Man”

      For his final solo performance, Herbie chooses one of his most popular compositions. A study in bluesy playing, it showcases the possibilities you can find in simple structures if you stay open to the moment.

  • 25


    Herbie offers his parting words and a bit of music as a thank-you for joining him.

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