Herbie Hancock Masterclass Review (Worth It?)

Last updated:
Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Herbie Hancock Masterclass Review
I enjoyed this course and felt I got a lot of meaningful information from it. I certainly have a better understanding of jazz and jazz harmony. I loved the workbook because my keyboard skills are a bit more together. Overall, this course is great, but again, you will get the full benefit of the course if you can already read music and have some experience with the piano.
Musical Experience and Advice
Jazz Training and Theory
Finding your Voice/Improv
Herbie Live Performances
Full Transcriptions Included
Course Ties Into Your Own Performance
Valuable Advice On Creating A Sustainable Career
Some Knowledge Of Theory Is Necessary
Structure Can Be Confusing
Uses An Annual Subscription Fee
Explore Course Structure
  • Is “Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz” worth the money?
  • Who is the course for?
  • What do you need to get started?

Let’s be serious here; if you are familiar with jazz, you will have heard of Herbie Hancock.

Herbie is one of jazz’s living legends, and getting tuition from him is something many jazz musicians would be keen on. But is the course worth the money? Is the content comprehensive, and are you musically even at the right level to take the course?

The good news is that we have gone through the course and done a thorough breakdown, so you can decide before you spend anything on the course.

Is “MasterClass Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz” Worth The Money?

All in all, this is a really great course that has only a couple of flaws. I wouldn’t recommend this for theory newbies, but if you have some experience with notation, have access to a keyboard, and have a little experience, then there is really a lot to be gained here, especially for aspiring jazz players and composers.

Who Is Herbie Hancock?



A multi-instrumentalist, accomplished bandleader, and composer, Herbie Hancock’s discography is the stuff of legends. From Maiden Voyage breaking jazz sales records and being the first jazz record to sell more than a million albums to his professorship at UCLA, Herbie’s career has been hugely influential and spanned all of music. His depth of experience alone makes spending time with his classes worthwhile.

Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz – MasterClass Review 


Full disclosure, I am a huge Herbie Hancock fan. Cantaloupe Island was one of the first double bass tunes I learned, so I could not pass up the chance to take this class.

So, what does the class have to offer? Quite a lot, actually. At the start, Herbie promises to “help you find your own sound.” I don’t know about that, but it has certainly broadened my understanding of jazz. 

It also improved my ability to improvise and think more critically about note choices in my solos and how to use chord voicing and odd rhythms.

If you want an introduction to jazz improvisation from one of music’s best, you could do much worse than “Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz.”

This course has much to love, and you can justify the cost, although it might benefit from a more linear and organized structure.

The course consists of 25 videos that deal with Herbie’s musical experience, the basics of jazz, finding your own voice as an improviser and musician, composition, and navigating a career in music. So, I am going to go through each of those in turn and give you my thoughts on them.

Overall, though, I recommend this Masterclass for any aspiring jazz head.

In fact, while you’re here, you can check out our other Masterclass reviews…

Musical Experience and Advice: (9/10)

Herbie gives a lot of tips to aspiring musicians. The course features several interviews with the legend, where he shares his advice and experiences. A life spent in the very heart of jazz makes his advice invaluable.

Throughout the course, Herbie gives various interviews and presents his views and experience. Honestly, hearing the philosophy and musical thoughts of a musician of this caliber makes this a truly unique offering from Masterclass.

Herbie discusses his philosophy and advocates a “human approach” to music and composition. He counsels students against the idea of “wrong notes” and encourages a curious and creative approach to music-making and life in general.

Jazz Training and Theory (7/10)

Herbie starts off with some basic jazz concepts, like a bit of jazz history and what gives jazz its sound. 

From there, you move into slightly more advanced concepts and Herbie touches on the basics of improv and basic jazz forms.

As you advance through the course, you will go through more complex theoretical and improvisational concepts, including rearranging and reinventing pieces you know.

All in all, the theoretical content of the course is excellent, but it lets itself down in terms of structure. The course would be easier to navigate if it had a more formal structure. 

Finding your Voice/Improv (8/10)

Jazz is improvisational music. If you can’t improvise, you can’t really play jazz. This course is all about finding your own voice and applying that to jazz improv.

It definitely has some successes in pulling that out of you on the course. The focus on piano training may be uncomfortable for non-piano players (it was for me), but do not let that put you off. Getting familiar with the keyboard is invaluable, and I found myself giving my ear-training chops a real workout.

The more technical lessons help you to develop your musicianship, with videos focussing on how to listen to music and what to listen to when building your musical vocabulary.

The course also contains some pretty advanced concepts, like reharmonization and alternate chord voicing, so keep that in mind.

Workbook (8/10)

This is one of the more extensive workbooks I have seen included in online courses. It comes in at a hefty 166 pages and has rather a lot of info in it.

As expected, the workbook includes a brief bio of Herbie and his career and high-resolution photos.

In terms of content, it starts with a list of the equipment that will make learning easier, like access to a piano. Chapter summaries help you understand the most salient points in every chapter, and each chapter goes quite in-depth.

There is a lot of notation in the workbook, with exercises and transcriptions of Herbie’s music. This is what I mean when I say it might be useful to have a basic grasp of music notation and reading to get the most out of this course.

One thing that I found especially useful was the “Take it Further” sections. These encourage you to take the exercises described and make them your own. This really made me think about improvising and note choices. Definitely worth a look.

Herbie Live Performances (9/10)

I could not review Herbie Hancock’s Masterclass without mentioning the live performances we are treated to throughout the course.

Herbie is jazz royalty for a reason. His 1973 album, Headhunters, was the first jazz album to hit the million sales mark. This proves that his music has the reputation it does for a reason.

As you move through the course, you are given performances by Herbie as Listen and Learn exercises that include transcription. I loved being able to follow the written music, so this was a real treat for me. Although I am a musical math nerd, your mileage may vary.

Whether the transcriptions interest you or not, the performances are certainly worth your time. Herbie demonstrates techniques discussed within the course, and hearing them in application was a huge help to my learning.

Herbie performs some of his best-known tracks. You can hear performances of his classics Oleo, Watermelon Man, and my personal favorite, Maiden Voyage.

Honestly, this was the highlight of the course for me. I could not recommend it highly enough.


What I Liked

I liked the course content and felt that the exercise, especially in terms of pushing you to tie what you are learning into your own music and performance, was hugely beneficial to me. I might have taken more meaningful steps toward “Finding my authentic voice” than I have.

Herbie’s authentic nature and attention to detail in the course materials are nice to see.

I loved getting full transcriptions of the music so that I could read along as I heard it, and hearing the concepts we were discussing in practice made it much easier to carry over onto my instrument in the practice room.

For a jazz fan, Herbie’s tales of life within the jazz scene and navigating being a professional musician are worth the price of admission.

When everything is considered, I enjoyed taking this course and now want to get much more deeply into jazz harmony.

That is a win.

What I Didn’t Like

I thought the course could do with a more structured approach, as I think this makes learning a much more logical and linear experience. The current structure might be confusing for a lot of students and is definitely something that can be improved on.

Additionally, a subscription model that is only billed annually does make the course prohibitively expensive for some and is definitely not ideal if the only course you want to do is Herbie’s.

Is it Worth the Money?

The monthly subscription for MasterClass may be pricey for some. A monthly membership comes in at $15 but is billed annually, so there will be an upfront payment of $180 for the lowest membership tier.

That might be prohibitive if you are on a tight budget, but if you can afford it, then the content is definitely worth the subscription cost.

Herbie Hancock: Navigating a Life in Music

As I said, Herbie Hancock’s experience is extraordinarily vast. Listening to him talk about his life and music and his advice to musicians really got my brain engaged.

Herbie talks about how to build yourself as a musician with a sustainable career.

He advises on the value of open-minded collaboration and checking your ego at the door.

Herbie’s philosophy is that life fuels art, as he talks about using life experiences to tell your story in music.

He also deals with those topics we sometimes struggle with and maybe don’t talk about enough, like how to deal with the inevitable insecurities we all encounter and also how to find your own voice that is authentically yours.


Who is the course aimed at?

This course is aimed at anyone with a basic understanding of music and an interest in jazz. However, if you want to get the most out of this class, I suggest you have at least a basic understanding of music notation and a little experience with a piano. 

How long does it take to complete?

The course has 4hrs and 23min worth of video lessons. It features 25 videos and can be completed at your own pace. You could complete the course in a day, but taking your time will help you get to grips with all of the concepts, and how long that takes is up to you.

Where can I get started?

If you want to sign up for the course, head to MasterClass. They have a subscription model billed annually, with an Individual membership that costs $15 a month, billed annually at $180. 

It is worth noting that the subscription model is only billed annually, so there is no monthly option. Keep that in mind.