Herbie Hancock MasterClass Review

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Teaches Jazz

Herbie Hancock is one of the most prolific jazz musicians and recording artists in all of musical history. His career as a keyboard player, bandleader, and songwriter has seen him succeed as a provocative jazz pianist, tour with Miles Davis, and collaborate with artists like Paul Simon, Santana, and Stevie Wonder. 

As someone who loves music but can’t play an instrument to save their life, I was interested to see what a class like Herbie’s would have in store for an amateur learner. 

Is this course any good? Would it be right for you? 

I’ll answer those questions and several others in this review! 

Here’s a quick rundown of everything that I’ll be covering in this review: 

  • What You’ll Learn:
    How to get started with improvisation
    Learning by listening
    The fundamentals of piano playing
    Turning memories and emotions into music
  • Pros
    The opportunity to learn from a jazz legend
    Detailed classes accompanied by a workbook
  • Cons
    Herbie’s tendency to go off-track and ramble 
  • Who this course is for 

This course is definitely for intermediate and advanced learners. If you have only a beginner-level understanding of music, then this course might be a bit challenging.

Overall verdict

Herbie’s course is worth taking, especially if you hope to be a jazz musician. You’ll gain a lot of insight from an industry legend, along with helpful advice and instructions that will significantly help you and your music career. 

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About the Instructor: Herbie Hancock 

Herbie Hancock is one of the most well-known figures in the jazz industry. 

He began his career with Donald Byrd, then joined the Miles David quintet shortly after. During his time with the quintet, Herbie helped redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section, and he is considered to be one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound. 

Herbie’s musical style shuffled from nearly every development in electronic and acoustic jazz and R&B. His piano and keyboard skills are entirely original, even though he could absorb the sounds of blues, gospel, funk, and even classical influences. His talents were always perfect for the age of electronic sound, as he studied engineering and loved playing around with gadgets. His music contains rhythmic and earthy signatures with licks that young musicians have copied for several years.

In addition to working with Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, Herbie’s diverse list of collaborations also include Joni Mitchell, Snoop Dogg, and Quincy Jones. 

His career is several decades old. It has seen him win 14 Grammy awards, compose scores for films, and he also joined the faculty to teach at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in 2012. 

You may have had a few reservations about taking this course, but rest assured that you are in excellent and capable hands. 

A Detailed Look at Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass

A Detailed Look at Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass

Herbie’s MasterClass detailed MasterClass is packed with lots of helpful tips and tricks. These are its features: 

  • Four hours and 23 minutes of video footage, broken down into 25 lessons ranging from about five to fifteen minutes each. 
  • A 166-page workbook, complete with all the lessons and advice shared in the course.
  • Blank sheet music pages interspersed throughout the book to jot down your own compositions and ideas, practice Herbie’s drills, and play alongside his performances.

Compared to some of the other MasterClass courses, a 166-page workbook may seem lengthy and a bit intimidating. However, you’ll soon realize that as you go through this MasterClass, the workbook accompanies each lesson perfectly. I will also include a few examples of the assignments included in the workbook to give you an idea of what to expect from the workbook. 

While structuring an online course in a subject as extensive as jazz is challenging, this MasterClass includes tips, tricks, and instructions into lessons that provide both experienced musicians and amateur learners like me with easy-to-follow directions, tricks, and instructions that can be applied to music and other creative activities, like writing.  

I’ll be dividing Herbie’s 25 lessons into four sections. Even though the course itself flows from one lesson to the next, I found that categorizing the lessons into these four sections helped me navigate the course more effectively. 

  • Lessons 1-6: An Introduction to Jazz
    In this first section, you are introduced to Herbie himself. I thought of this section as the warmup section, where you start by paying attention to the music you want to learn while developing an idea of approaching playing it as you listen to it. You will be taught about the art of improvisation, how to learn by hearing, and the two basic jazz forms. The sixth lesson that concludes this section is a short video of Herbie playing ‘Oleo,’ a composition by Sonny Rollins that is a classic example of rhythm changes.
  • Lessons 7-11: Exercising and Improv Techniques
    The next section of the course takes the listening you’ve been doing so far and turns it into practice. Herbie encourages you to pay attention to the discipline of practicing on the piano every day by playing a song or composition in various ways. He discusses different improvisation techniques by searching for inspiration wherever you look, transforming the theme of a piece of music, and finding freedom in the music. This section concludes with a jam session, where Herbie and two other musicians improvise together; they demonstrate how musicians communicate and listen to each other as they play. 
  • Lessons 12-20: Composing, Reinventing, Chord Voicing, and Expanding Harmonic Horizons
    In the third section, Herbie’s lessons build on the exercising and improvising techniques from the section before and take them one step further, encouraging you to pay attention to composition. Next, he encourages you to add notes to your chords from their associated scale to get a sense of how new sounds and textures are produced. Finally, he encourages you to practice reharmonization by playing around with incorporating notes that usually outside the scale in a given chord. 
  • Lessons 21-25: Rhythmic Musicianship and A Conclusion
    The last four lessons wrap up Herbie’s MasterClass. He encourages you to challenge yourself rhythmically by paying attention to the way jazz musicians play and groove. In addition to the lesson on rhythmic musicianship, Herbie talks about his career as a jazz artist, the lessons he learned along the way, dealing with insecurity, and recognizing his most authentic self. He plays ‘Watermelon Man’ in the penultimate class, one of his most widely and well-known compositions. His final class concludes the MasterClass with some music and a few parting words. 

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Lessons 1-6: An Introduction to Jazz

I always knew that Herbie Hancock was an incredible musician before I took his MasterClass, but I had no idea just how amazing until I was only a few minutes into the first lesson. 

Right from the introduction video, Herbie’s passion for music comes through. All of the lessons are interspersed with shots of his hands moving so fast across the black and white keys on the piano as he demonstrates a sound or technique that it’s hard to fully gauge where he starts and the instrument begins. 

The first official lesson, titled ‘A Human Approach to Music,’ begins with his creative epiphany when he stopped seeing himself as a jazz musician. Instead, he embraced all the diverse parts of his identity and personality. It is a joy to listen to him talk about music because the passion he speaks about rings through his playing and speech. 

Lessons three to six, titled ‘Improvisation,’ ‘Learning by Listening,’ ‘The Two Basic Jazz Forms,’ and ‘Listen and Learn: Oleo’ respectively; they give you a sense of how the MasterClass will continue to build and become more detailed. 

In ‘Improvisation,’ Herbie demystifies the overall concept of playing jazz by describing the feeling of learning to play in the moment. The fact is, we’re all constantly improvising in daily life. Instead of being intimidated and feeling limited by playing complex notes, he encourages experimentation instead. You don’t know what kind of musician you’re going to be until you have tried a variety of different styles and approaches. 

‘Improvisation’ then neatly segues into the next lesson, ‘Learning by Listening.’ A big chunk of Herbie’s learning came from listening to jazz records, taking them apart, and recreating the sounds he heard. Besides listening to great music and talented musicians, this form of practice can teach you about the basic ideas common to jazz playing and the individual styles artists bring to the genre. After listening to Herbie talk about improvisation, the ‘Learning by Listening’ lesson continues this lesson: listen to the way great jazz musicians improvised, the dynamics, tone, and rhythmic choices that they made. 

Lesson 5, ‘The Two Basic Jazz Forms,’ talks about the two basic chord progressions in jazz: blues and rhythm changes. This particular lesson is tightly packed with listening recommendations, Herbie’s demonstrations, and sheet music at the end of the chapter in the workbook to practice with. At this point in the MasterClass, the workbook definitely comes in handy because you can try out your own ideas with the chords. 

To give you a sense of what some of the assignments included in this workbook entail, here is the assignment provided at the end of lesson 5, ‘The Two Basic Jazz Forms’: 

“The blues and rhythm changes occur in all different keys, so don’t get stuck playing in the keys that feel the best to you. To practice transposing and getting used to the chord changes in different keys, take a blues lick of Herbie’s and a passage from his rhythm improv and learn it in all 12 keys.”

At the end of the introductory section titled ‘Listen and Learn: Oleo’, the sixth lesson is a short, two-minute video of Herbie playing Oleo, a composition by Sonny Rollins. This particular track is, as mentioned before, a classic example of rhythm changes. It’s also a video of pure talent in motion. 

Lessons 7-11: Exercising and Improv Techniques

Once the introductory section finishes, it’s time to turn some of his advice into practice. 

Lessons 7 and 8, titled ‘Piano Basics’ and ‘Piano Exercise’ respectively, stress the importance of practicing at the piano, be it scales or drills. Herbie believes that jazz players should approach scales and exercises with different fingering than what is traditionally recommended for classical students. For instance, he follows the Beringer method, using the C scale fingering because it gives him more flexibility when he improvises. 

Even though Herbie shares his belief in the power of practice and discipline, he also encourages you to have fun getting to know your instrument by playing around with it. 

An essential piece of advice he shares is that you must not get too comfortable with practicing, to the point that it becomes a crutch for you to play well. Instead, find a balance between practice and having fun with the music. While practicing, pay attention to touch and feel, including articulating sound, dynamics, and expression. Herbie calls this “milking the notes.” 

Additionally, do not forget that your body is also an instrument that must be taken care of. Pay attention to your posture when you sit down at the piano, pay attention to how you move your hands, wrists, and fingers. 

In the workbook, there are five pages of piano exercises for you to try out. 

Here is the simple assignment provided at the end of lesson 8: 

“Make a practice plan. Put together a regimen of strength exercises, harmonic exercises, improvisation, and listening/ copying that works for you, and set yourself a reasonable goal for how many times a week you can do it. Now stick to it for a couple [of] weeks and see how much progress you can make.”

Once you’ve completed the piano basics and exercises, it is time to move on to improvising. Lessons 9 and 10 are titled ‘Improvising Alone’ and ‘Expanded Improv Techniques,’ respectively. 

Herbie talks about a perspective shift that changed the way he approached solo piano playing. While this may sound simple, he realized that you could do whatever you want when you’re playing alone! Think about it: when playing alone, you can change the tempo and key at your own will. You can change certain sections, remove others, and alter the sections that you enjoy most. If that isn’t enough for you, you can add improvised sections and challenge yourself to see how much of someone else’s composition you can make your own. 

His approach to solo playing is to take the thematic material from an original piece and interpret it in different ways, such as playing it in other keys or changing up the tempo. 

In lesson 10, titled ‘Expanded Improv Techniques,’ Herbie also encourages you to improvise without a specific plan in mind. Approach the piano and let the music come out from your fingers by composing as you go. Think about what your instrument can do in an abstract manner, such as when it comes to feelings or images, and bring out the music from there. 

There are about 15 pages combined at the end of these two lessons. Lesson 9’s sheet music is for improvising alone, and lesson 10’s sheet music is to develop a theme while improvising. 

Here is the assignment from the end of lesson 10: 

“How can you let images inspire you? Pick a favorite painting or photograph and let it inspire an improvisation. Think about what different aspects of the image you can use to guide your playing: colors, the quality of the lines, the sounds of the world being depicted, your emotions, etc.”

As this section concludes, we’re treated to more of Herbie’s playing in lesson 11, ‘Jam Session: Improvising Together.’ Unlike the ‘Listen and Learn’ lesson, Herbie plays with other musicians to give you a sense of how artists listen to each other as they play. 

When playing in a group, try and focus on how your playing interacts with the other musicians’ playing. Does your sound blend with theirs, or add an interesting contrast? Herbie brings in a bass guitar player and a drummer, thus adding a rhythm section to break down two versions of his classic tune. As mentioned in the MasterClass description, “they also accompany a synthesizer solo steeper in the sounds of funk and the blues.”

After all of the lessons so far on technique and practice, this jam session kills two birds with one stone. You can both take a break from the serious parts of jazz music and have a bit of fun while practicing your listening skills by playing along with the jam session. 

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Lessons 12-20: Composing, Reinventing, Chord Voicing, and Expanding Harmonic Horizons 

The third section of the MasterClass builds on the exercises and improvisation techniques shared in the section before and takes them further. Here, he encourages you to pay attention to composition. You will be encouraged to try adding notes to the chords from their associated scale to get a sense of new sounds and textures produced. 

Until this section, attention has been paid only to the technical and improvisational aspects of jazz music. It’s time to have some fun and take some of what you’ve learned and turn it into a piece of original music. 

Lessons 12 and 13 are titled ‘Composing’ and ‘Recomposing, Rearranging, Reinventing,’ respectively. Herbie encourages you just to start composing with feeling. Instead of putting too much pressure on yourself, try and look at the big picture. Don’t focus on becoming famous or earning a lot of money, but instead, think of how the music makes you feel. 

In lesson 12, he advises you to focus on a feeling, an image, or an experience before you sit down at the instrument and begin to write. His next step is to try and see how you could create musical interpretations of what is inside you. Herbie wrote his best-known song, ‘Watermelon Man’ this way! The piano’s rhythm represents the sounds of neighborhood watermelon seller’s cartwheels, which he associates with childhood. 

We all suffer from writer’s block every so often, and the process of writing on a blank piece of paper can seem a bit daunting. Instead of trying to get everything down at once, Herbie advises you just to put a few notes down. Start somewhere, even if you think the notes sound terrible. The important thing is that you’re starting with the knowledge that your work will lead somewhere eventually.

As you move to lesson 13, Herbie encourages you to think of songwriting as an ongoing process and keep an open mind as you change your compositions. By letting new ideas and sounds catch your ear and inspire you, you allow yourself to grow creatively. While there will always be folks who don’t like or care for your new sounds, the vital thing to remember is that you have been and are continuing to push yourself to create bigger and better pieces of music. 

The assignment at the end of the thirteenth lesson says: 

Try branching out to new genres. Take a song you’ve composed or someone else’s song that you like and try rearranging it in a different genre. Try to surprise yourself by working with sounds and grooves with which you’re not normally comfortable.

Another jam session breaks up the two lessons in composition; lesson 14 is titled ‘Jam Session: Two Approaches to “Watermelon Man.”’ The purpose of this session is for you to see how much flexibility a song can have when it comes to tempo, instrumentation, and groove. 

In the workbook, you are provided with the sheet music for “Watermelon Man.” The workbook assignment challenges you to see what new direction you can Herbie’s song in. 

Next up comes lessons 15, 16, 17, and 18 titled ‘Working as a Composer,’ ‘Chord Voicings,’ ‘Case Study: Reharmonizing “Round Midnight”’ and ‘Ravel’s Creative Harmonies.’ 

Lessons 15 is jampacked with a lot of Herbie’s professional advice, put into a small list below: 

  • Listen to and respect your collaborators. 
  • Keep an eye out for your persona business interests, by owning the publishing if you write a piece of music 
  • Self-release music as a way to get your sound out there, while maintaining both financial and creative control

To try and push yourself further, try scoring a video clip. Write a new jingle for one of your favorite commercials or movie scenes. 

In the sixteenth lesson, Herbie encourages you to voice a chord from its first or second inversion. Once you get more comfortable with doing so, you will start to see possibilities that make moving through the chord progressions easier and feel better. Herbie’s tip: practice these techniques on the III-VI-II-V-I progression.  

Next, we move on to lessons 17 and 18. In lesson 17, Herbie reharmonizes ‘Round Midnight’ a composition by Thelonius Monk, when working on the score for a film. The purpose of this lesson was to show you how he came up with a fresh interpretation of a classic ballad that would challenge the musicians playing while staying true to the late-fifties setting of the film. Herbie’s approach was to reharmonize the piece using chords that you may have heard in the film’s time. 

Next, in lesson 18, Herbie alters the chords and voicings of Maurice Ravel’s composition to make it sound more pleasing to the ear. He drew inspiration from classical composers and jazz musicians, and Ravel hugely influenced Herbie’s thought process about voicing chords. 

Here is the assignment that is given at the end of lesson 18; it will provide you with a sense of how Ravel’s ideas stuck with Herbie. Several pages of sheet music follow the assignment. 

“Work with the sheet music for Herbie’s playing and transpose it to practice playing Ravel’s chords across all 12 keys. Next time you see a tune that moves from the V to the I, try using one of Ravel’s voicings and see how it changes the sound.”

As you continue to move on, you come to the end of the third section with lessons 19 and 20, titled ‘Expanding your Harmonic Horizons’ and ‘Listen and Learn: “Maiden Voyage.”’ 

In lesson 19, ‘Expanding your Harmonic Horizons,’ you’ll learn that many of his biggest lessons were learned by simply listening to records. Herbie encourages you to think outside the box of traditional harmonic structure and break some basic rules. For example, [as he says], people always say that the third and seventh are the most important notes in a chord, but what happens when you stop playing them? Herbie found new possibilities when he took Miles Davis’ advice and stopped playing what Miles called “butter notes” and started using fourths, fifths, sixths, and ninths instead. 

Reharmonization is the practice of finding a new set of chords that fit with a song’s melody. To challenge yourself, he encourages you to open your ears and teach yourself more about harmony.  

Herbie advises you to play around with notes that are outside the scale associated with a given chord, and eventually, you will find new ways of using the chromatic scale over any chord. 

The section closes with yet another aural treat in the form of the second ‘Listen and Learn’ session. Here, Herbie plays “Midnight Voyage,” another composition for which he is best known. To experiment and practice, you can play along with Herbie. 

Lessons 21-25: Rhythmic Musicianship and A Conclusion 

Unfortunately, it is at this point that you have come to the concluding lessons of Herbie’s MasterClass

Lesson 21 is titled ‘Rhythmic Musicianship.’ In it, Herbie talks about a time early on in his career when he was unable to play fast, no matter how hard he tried to do so. This particular lesson is all about learning to challenge yourself rhythmically while keeping your ears open for new grooves. By doing this, you’re learning how to make your compositions and improvisations more creative and engaging. 

Herbie also shares a piece of advice that the legendary Donald Byrd gave him about playing fast: the trick is to conquer your own mind. To play fast, try writing out a solo and practice it until you get to the speed you want. This way, you become more comfortable playing fast, and it becomes easier to improvise comfortably at faster tempos. Herbie’s sense of rhythm also grew when he started playing with the drummer Tony Williams, who introduced him to polyrhythms (playing two different time signatures on top of each other to create complex grooves). Ever since then, rhythmic complexity is another one of Herbie’s signatures. 

To challenge yourself rhythmically, you could try out these tips: 

  • Listen to Oscar Peterson to get a deeper feel for “the pocket.” 
  • Check out Donald Byrd’s band with Herbie on piano. 
  • Use the sheet music following the notes page to explore the complex rhythms in “Actual Proof.”

You could also try out this assignment: 

Listen to a fast recording of “Cherokee” and use the method Herbie learned from Donald Byrd to start trying to play at that tempo. Did it help?  

This chapter is followed by four pages of Herbie’s example of a rhythmically simplified “Actual Proof” for you to practice. 

Lesson 22 is the last jam session of the MasterClass. Titled ‘Jam Session: “Actual Proof,”’ this lesson shows you how the track ‘Actual Proof’ used displaced rhythms. Displaced rhythms mean that musical phrases are shifted around before or after where the ear is used to hearing them, thus giving the piece an unexpected sound, making it exciting to listen to and play. 

Since you’ve been provided with the sheet music already, you can try and play along with this track and pay attention to Herbie’s use of rhythm. 

After this, you’ve reached lesson 23, titled ‘A Musical Life,’ the last official lesson of the MasterClass. This ending would feel bittersweet if it were not for all of the brilliant advice and words of wisdom that Herbie imparts. As a musician, you’re learning how to play well and be technically proficient and how to listen to your collaborators and grow as a musician and person. 

Don’t ever stop being a student. Remember to be open, humble, and committed to turning your experiences into creative opportunities because they can help you make progress in your music and life. You can always learn from other people by listening carefully to everything that is going on around you. Instead of judging or criticizing, use your experiences and learning by channeling that energy into your music. 

Finally, never give up. This phrase may sound cliched and overused, but it’s true, and it can be applied in so many other areas of your life. 

This is the assignment given at the end of lesson 23. No matter what stage of life you are in, this assignment holds good. 

“Write your own biography. It shouldn’t be your life story as a musician, but rather your life story as a human being. It’s okay if it’s just a page or two. Reflect on what you’ve lived through and what’s shaped you. Take into account as many different facets of your personality as you can. These are the kinds of big-picture human truths you want to keep in mind as you’re pursuing your dreams in music.”

The final lesson in the MasterClass is another listen and learn session titled ‘Listen and Learn: “Watermelon Man.”’ This lesson, in particular, provides you with the opportunity to play along with Herbie. The sheet music for this track is provided in the workbook immediately after this chapter. You could pick sections that you enjoy and break them down or play the song straight through from beginning to end. No matter what you choose, you’ll be able to see how Herbie approaches rhythm, melody, and expression in real-time. Additionally, you get to simply watch him in action, which is a gift in itself. 

The very last video in the series, titled ‘Closing,’ is simply a conclusion to the whole MasterClass. His MasterClass is all about finding your sound. He encourages you to experiment with the ideas in this class and allows them to lead you to new ideas. Remain open to trying new things out and latch onto what works for you. At some point, you’ll develop a unique taste that will transform itself into a sound that is entirely your own. 

As a thank you, he closes his MasterClass with some music. 

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Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz

What I Liked About Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass

These were the things about this MasterClass that I enjoyed, listed below. 

The Organization and Structure of the Lessons

While dividing the 25 lessons into four sections for personal convenience, I appreciated how the lessons were organized and structured. 

As mentioned earlier in this article, I cannot play an instrument to save my life, so I was curious to see whether I would understand a lot of what Herbie talked about. From a musical and technical perspective, I couldn’t. However, when I approached this course as a writer, a creative person, and a music lover, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I understood more than I thought I would; this is all thanks to Herbie’s simple explanations. 

The lessons in the course build from exercises and drills to improvisation and composition. Throughout the course, you are also encouraged to play along with Herbie and get a sense of how to adapt both pieces of music and your playing as you go through each lesson. Each lesson is also relatively short, ranging from 5 to 16 minutes, so you don’t feel like you are spending too much time on one video. This isn’t the type of MasterClass that is easy to finish in a single sitting, and I believe that listening and learning from a jazz legend like Herbie Hancock is an experience that you need to savor. 

This MasterClass also progresses gradually, so you do not feel like you’re being assaulted with information in every video. 

The ‘Listen and Learn’ and ‘Jam Sessions’ provide you with a small break in between lessons while also giving you a chance to see how you could apply some of the techniques and advice shared in your own playing. 

The Transferable Nature of His Advice 

I am a big believer in the idea that a passionate teacher can make you appreciate any subject, even if you don’t understand it, and Herbie’s MasterClass is a beautiful example of this. Aside from technical advice that would benefit a musician, such as selecting specific portions of a track and playing through them in different tempos or practicing with a metronome to keep your playing even rhythmic, I felt that the creative advice he shared could be applied to other creative professions or hobbies, such as writing. For instance, a writer could read a short story or essay by an author they admire, take sections of that essay, and adapt it to suit a different genre or style.  

Throughout the course, Herbie constantly encourages you to keep learning from experience, fellow artists and collaborators, and life itself. 

The Helpful Workbook 

The workbook that accompanies this course was extremely helpful. 

It contains a summarized version of everything that Herbie talks about, advice, tips, tricks, and assignments. There are also pages of sheet music at the end of each lesson you can use for practice and exercise. Additionally, there is a blank sheet of paper at the end of every lesson to jot down notes and ideas as you go through each class. 

The Audio and Video Quality

This particular point is something that I appreciate about MasterClass in general: their videos are impeccably shot, and the audio quality is top-notch, primarily when relying heavily on visual and auditory senses for a music course. 

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What I Didn’t Like About Herbie’s MasterClass

The only complaint I have about this MasterClass is that Herbie has a slight tendency to ramble slightly before getting into whatever that particular lesson is about. While it is interesting to listen to him sharing experiences from his life, there were times that I found myself wishing that he would simply get to the point so I could continue learning. Aside from this, I have no other complaints. 

Who is Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass Best For?

Herbie’s MasterClass is definitely for advanced musicians and advanced music learners. 

Like other MasterClass instructors, Herbie does not spoon-feed or start from the very basics of a particular concept or technique. Instead, he shares practical advice, tips and tricks, and suggestions that you can apply to your musical practice. 

I would recommend this course to advanced learners because I can see how having a good understanding of music theory would help you gain much more knowledge from his experience and expertise. If you have some formal training, you can follow along easily as he plays through the various tracks mentioned while also simply making sense of the drills and exercises he talks about. It is like knowing how to paint and then learning a series of techniques from Van Gogh. If you don’t have much experience or knowledge of music theory, chords, melody, or rhythm, you may feel like you are falling behind, wasting your time, or not gaining as much from the course as you could if you had a basic understanding of music. 

A small piece of advice that I’ll share with you: take notes as you go. 

MasterClass Pricing: How Much Does This Course Cost? 

MasterClass has two payment options. 

You can buy the course individually as a gift for $90, or you can pay for an entire year’s All Access subscription to MasterClass for $180 a year, billed at $15 a month. 

In my opinion, the yearly subscription is a great bargain because you get an all-inclusive pass to some of the world’s leading experts on a variety of topics. For example, you could learn Science Fiction and Fantasy writing from Hugo Award-winner N.K. Jemisin, Music Curation and DJing from Questlove, or Voice Acting from Nancy Cartwright.  

For the amount of information you get from these experts, $15 a month is a great price, especially if you can find a few classes that you like. 

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Alternatives to Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass

If a jazz music class isn’t what you’re searching for, don’t worry. MasterClass has several other music classes as well. 

You can learn Songwriting and Producing from Alicia Keys, Drumming and Percussion from Sheila E., Electric Guitar from Tom Morello, or Film Scoring from Hans Zimmer. If you have purchased the All-Access Pass, you can take all of these courses one after the other!

Of course, aside from MasterClass, you might be hoping for a cheaper option to learn Jazz music, and YouTube is a great place to start. Admittedly, these classes won’t have the same level of expertise as Herbie Hancock, but they will give a good idea of what to expect from a good class. Piano With Jonny and Bill Hilton have lessons on Jazz piano, as well as playing piano basics and techniques. 

If you’re considering investing in an online learning platform, you could consider Skillshare. 

Skillshare is free for 14 days after creating an account in terms of the cost, and Skillshare Premium is free for seven days after creating an account. Once your free trial is over, Skillshare Premium is $8.25 for the annual membership, with $99 in total for one year or $19 per month. Martin Cohen, a composer, musician, and teacher, teaches a class called The Complete Jazz Theory Course – Jazz Chords/Scales and more. His Skillshare course is over 3 hours long, with videos ranging from two to ten minutes. Alternatively, Arthur Bird, a Piano Teacher and Session Player, also teaches a jazz course. It is called Jazz Piano – The Ultimate Beginners Course – A simple step-by-step guide to jazz piano. This course is over seven hours long and has 96 lessons. 

If you want to purchase a course individually, you could also have a look at Udemy. Robin Hall teaches Pianoforall – Incredible New Way To Learn Piano & Keyboard, which is currently priced at $19.99. 

Aside from the cost, course length, and platform, these courses differ from Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass because they contain jam sessions and listen and learn videos. Of course, Herbie is a jazz legend, and his MasterClass is four hours of uninterrupted footage of him talking about everything he does best. 

Related Articles: MasterClass vs SkillShare

Is Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass worth it?

The short answer is yes, it is. However, when it comes to something like music, everyone’s opinions are different. I scoured the internet to find a few reviews. One Reddit user enjoyed the course but felt that it would benefit an intermediate learner. 

Review by Reddit user Percussionbear7 in a music theory subreddit

“I watched it! The worth of this course depends on what you are looking for. If you are an intermediate jazz pianist, you could probably get a lot from it. I was too early in my jazz education to actually benefit at that time. If you want to understand Herbie’s mind and get some cool jazz concepts, it is totally worth it. If the money and time are not a big deal, I would take it.

P.S. there are some cool jam sessions and performances in the class!”

Learning music online can be challenging, especially if you’re a beginner starting from scratch. 

Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass is definitely not for learners starting with the basics of the piano. If you are an intermediate or advanced piano player, then this course is for you. 

In this review, I covered the features of Herbie’s MasterClass, what to expect from the course, and who will benefit from it. 

If you’ve ever found yourself saying “I wish there were a one-on-one jazz masterclass out there somewhere,” you don’t need to look any further, thanks to Herbie Hancock. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass a good gift?


A single class costs $90, and an All-Access Pass costs $180. The second option would be better because you get access to over 90 different courses taught by leading experts in the industry for one year. 

How long is the Herbie Hancock MasterClass?

Herbie Hancock’s MasterClass is four hours and 23 minutes long, divided into 25 lessons. 

Can I get a refund if I don’t like the MasterClass?

If you are not satisfied with the MasterClass and want a refund, you are eligible for a refund if your annual membership was purchased through the website within the last 30 days. Click here for more information.

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