Pianist Herbie Hancock has had a profound impact on jazz and an even deeper impact on jazz pianists, thanks to his uncanny harmonic and rhythmic prowess. There are a handful of so-called Herbie-isms that are worth adding to your cache of piano tricks. Many pianists have been using his famous octave roll for as long as they’ve been playing, but the fun stuff is in the cross-handed patterns. Both Hancock and Chick Corea have made an art form out of the two-handed piano patterns–as opposed to approaching the instrument with horn-like single lines.

This first sample is from his electrifying solo on “Shiftless Shuffle” from the Mr. Hands album. Here he takes a R-R-L-L-R-R-L-L pattern moving around a pentatonic scale in D minor (Dorian). Near the end, he changes the rhythmic pattern from 2-2 to 2-1, creating even more excitement. It goes by really fast too!

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Here’s a pattern he used on “Succotash” from his groundbreaking latin jazz trio album Inventions and Dimensions (also released as Succotash). He starts the phrases with a single-line suspended triad outlined in an octave — 1, 4, flat-5, 1 —  moving in back and forth in half steps, then adds the left hand playing a mirror image pattern against it. He also adds rhythmic tension by doing this in four note triplet groupings. This is a sample, the whole passage involves variations on the second measure, sometimes in groups of 3, 4, and so on.

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This next clip is from “Sly” on Head Hunters. The sinister sounding ascending major 7 shell is definitely a Herbie trademark. It’s unclear whether he’s playing this all in his right hand, or whether he’s covering the bottom note with his left hand. Try them both!

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Further listening: Miles Davis Four and More (1964), Lee Morgan Ceora (1965), Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1964), Inventions and Dimensions (1965), Headhunters (1973), Thrust (1974), and Mr. Hands (1980).

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