Herbie Hancock Masterclass – Review of Piano Jazz Lessons

If you've been thinking about learning piano, you may already know about the seemingly endless wealth of online video lessons out there. Today, we'll be looking at something a little different -- the Herbie Hancock Masterclass.

You may have heard Herbie Hancock's name before. He's known as one of the founding fathers of jazz piano, he's won multiple Grammys, and he's performed with legends like Miles Davis. Herbie's class is a little different than most piano courses we've seen -- it's more Herbie Hancock sharing his approach to jazz, which we think is interesting from both a musical and a human interest standpoint.

Herbie Hancock Masterclass

PRO's & CON's of Herbie Hancock Masterclass

Is “Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz” for you? We'll find out, but first, let's check out some pros and cons:

Pros

  • You get to learn from one of the founding fathers of jazz piano, which is an incredible opportunity.
  • If you're interested in jazz improvisation, you can learn about it from a master-- Herbie will share his approach to improvisation composition.
  • You get to learn about Herbie Hancock's jazz career and philosophy, and you also get to learn about some jazz history.
  • If you aim to be a professional musician (whether in jazz or another genre), Herbie will also offer some advice on navigating a musical career.

Cons

  • While exercises and technical advice are part of this course, they aren't a large part of it, which may make it harder for newer players or those looking to develop their technical skills.
  • The Masterclass platform is a bit expensive, and you need a full annual membership in order to take a course.

Things to Consider Before Signing Up for an Online Piano Course

Like we mentioned before, there are lots of options when it comes to video lessons for piano. Before you commit to one, it's a good idea to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you have a genre preference? This course is obviously one that focuses on jazz piano. If you're more interested in familiarizing yourself with the instrument before specializing, you might want to take a general piano course first.
  • Do you have some experience? This masterclass probably isn't ideal for aspiring players who have never touched a piano. But if you have some playing experience, you'll probably get a lot out of it.
  • Are you interested in writing your own music? We mention this because the course trailer states that the goal of this class is to help you "find your own sound." Different courses have different amounts of focus on helping you create your own sound and write music. This course also focuses on improvisation, and Herbie shares his approach to help you find your own musical voice.
  • What type, of course, are you looking for? Like many courses on Masterclass, this one takes a holistic approach to learning. If you want something that is more strictly focused on learning scales, chords, and songs, this might not be the right option for you.
  • What's your budget? For most piano players, budget is a concern. Some courses like this one require you to purchase an annual membership, which can be a little challenging.

Type

Course

Price

Piano

Hensie Hancock

Features and Benefits

Now, let's take a look at some of the features of this course. You'll learn valuable skills for improvisation composition and harmony, although the Herbie Hancock Masterclass is a little different than your typical set of video lessons for piano.

Class Introduction

According to the Masterclass platform, Herbie Hancock started playing in his family's living room. He would sit listening to his favorite records and trying to play along.

Plenty of musicians start out this way, but few reach the heights that Herbie did in his career. Herbie went from this humble beginning to being one of the most renowned musicians in the world. He started playing with Miles Davis in the 1960s and branched out from there. He has worked as a composer, producer, and musician, and he is often considered to be one of the founding fathers of American jazz piano.

However, in his course, he talks a lot about how this beginning was useful. Herbie believes that there's something to be said for experimentation and improvisation, and that's why so much of his masterclass focuses on helping you develop your own sound.

Here's the class trailer, which should give you an idea of what Herbie's approach to teaching jazz is like.

Course Content

You already know that, while Herbie shares his approach to improvisation composition in this course, you don't get a whole lot of drills or exercises. So what's in the course? Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from each of the 25 video lessons:

  1. 1
    Introduction -- In this lesson, you'll get acquainted with Herbie at the piano and hear him play a little.
  2. 2
    A Human Approach to Music -- Herbie believes that music is about more than just the notes you play, and this lesson will introduce you to his approach.
  3. 3
    Improvisation -- Lots of pianists are a little apprehensive about improvisation, but Herbie Hancock will slowly take you through his improvisation philosophy: listen, then react.
  4. 4
    Learning by Listening -- Even listening to your favorite songs can help you improve your playing. In this lesson, Herbie will help you get the most out of your listening.
  5. 5
    The Two Basic Jazz Forms -- In this section, Herbie will introduce you to two simple harmonic patterns behind many jazz hits. You'll also get introduced to some more of his philosophies on improvisation.
  6. 6
    Listen and Learn: "Oleo" -- In this lesson, you'll develop your skills by practicing along with a Sonny Rollins classic.
  7. 7
    Piano Basics -- This lesson is great for newer players -- you'll go through some of the fundamentals of the piano with Herbie.
  8. 8
    Piano Exercises -- We mentioned earlier that Herbie Hancock's jazz course does not include a lot of exercises, but this lesson includes a few that can really help your speed and dexterity.
  9. 9
    Improvising Alone -- When you improvise on the piano while playing alone, you have plenty of opportunities for creativity, and there are almost no rules. In this lesson. Herbie will show you how he improvises while playing solo.
  10. 10
    Expanded Improv Techniques -- This section will help you think expansively when you improvise.
  11. 11
    Jam Session: Improvising Together -- In this fun lesson, you'll see Herbie play along with some other accomplished musicians. This will help you see how groups of musicians communicate while they improvise.
  12. 12
    Composing -- This lesson is a great one for songwriters since Herbie will tell you how he begins constructing songs.
  13. 13
    Recomposing, Rearranging, Reinventing -- Even once you've written or even recorded a song, you can still continue to creatively shape it. This lesson shows you how.
  14. 14
    Jam Session: Two Approaches to "Watermelon Man" -- This lesson illustrates what Herbie talked about in lesson 13.
  15. 15
    Working as a Composer -- Want to know what it's like to work as a composer? Herbie Hancock will tell you about his experiences writing for some of the other greats.
  16. 16
    Chord Voicings -- Chord voicings can spark creativity and add life to your playing, and this lesson is a great introduction to them.
  17. 17
    Case Study: Reharmonizing "Round Midnight" -- Reharmonizing is another great skill to have in your creative toolbox, and this lesson does a great job of introducing it.
  18. 18
    Ravel's Creative Harmonies -- Maurice Ravel is one of Herbie's favorite composers, and this lesson will introduce you to some Ravel harmonies you might want to add to your own music.
  19. 19
    Expanding Your Harmonic Horizons -- Herbie Hancock's jazz harmonies are the result of years of experimentation. This lesson will help you start developing your own approach to harmony.
  20. 20
    Listen and Learn: "Maiden Voyage" -- In this lesson, you can hear Herbie play one of his most famous songs solo.
  21. 21
    Rhythmic Musicianship -- This lesson will help you expand your rhythmic confidence and repertoire.
  22. 22
    Jam Session: Rhythm in "Actual Proof" -- This lesson lets you learn about complex rhythms as you watch Herbie and friends play this song from Headhunters.
  23. 23
    A Musical Life -- In this lesson, you can hear about Herbie's musical journey and let it inspire you.
  24. 24
    Listen and Learn: "Watermelon Man" -- In this lesson, you'll revisit Herbie's song "Watermelon Man" and learn about how even simple structures can create beautiful pieces.
  25. 25
    Closing -- This lesson will wrap up the course.

In total, these 25 video lessons add up to four hours and 23 minutes of instruction time. When you take the class, you'll also gain access to 10 original piano transcriptions (and of course to the five exclusive solo performances that Herbie gives you throughout the course).

We like that there are so many lessons -- it means that each lesson is fairly short and gives you time to reflect. In fact, some students have recommended taking a day or two in between lessons to mull them over and then practice what you've learned on your own.

If you want to see a little more of Herbie's teaching abilities, check out this Masterclass Moment from the Masterclass YouTube channel.

Pricing and Membership Options

You may have already heard of the Masterclass platform. If you haven't, here's a brief introduction -- Masterclass is a site where industry leaders teach courses in their field of expertise. You can learn to play tennis from Serena Williams, learn about electronic music production from Marshmello, or even have Christina Aguilera teach you to sing.

At one point, the site lets you purchase a single course for $90. Some students thought this was a somewhat high price, but it did let you save some money over an annual membership.

Now, the only way to gain Masterclass access is via an annual membership, which costs $180. There is, unfortunately, no monthly payment option, and we realize that $180 is a steep price for many. However, if you can afford it, we think the annual membership is worthwhile. You get unlimited access to the courses, and they aren't limited to music -- you can take courses in writing, cooking, photography, design, and more.

If you want to learn more about the platform and what you can learn from it, check out this promotional video that outlines some of what Masterclass can teach you.

Social Proof of the Course

One thing we like about the Masterclass platform is the fact that it provides space for actual students to say what they think about the courses. And unlike reviews on many piano sites, these ones aren't curated by the site owners. We've gathered a few thoughtful student reviews of the Herbie Hancock Masterclass in order to help you decide whether this is the course for you.

Herbie Hancock Review 01

Like many students, this person was thrilled to be able to learn from a piano legend. He also felt that the class taught him something about humanity -- something we hear a lot from students who take Masterclass courses.

Herbie Hancock Review 02

This student delivers an excellent endorsement of Herbie's masterclass -- they would take it again and again. And while we've focused a lot on the fact that the course offers guidance for improvisation composition and harmony, we like that it can help you learn about music as a whole.

Herbie Hancock Review 03

This last review is a brief one, but it seems to sum up what a lot of students of this class have said. Many of them seem to view it as more than a music course -- they view it as something transformative.

In Conclusion

On the whole, we thoroughly recommend Herbie's masterclass, with a caveat: we think new players will get more out of the course if they first take a beginner piano course to get familiar with some of the basics of playing.

If you have some experience with piano and an interest in jazz, we think you'll love this course. Herbie Hancock is a true legend in the industry, but he's also a personable and relatable teacher, which makes the masterclass an experience you won't soon forget. Click here to check it out!

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