Herbie Hancock Plays You’re My Everything

As a listener, it’s thrilling to hear world-class musicians improvise flawless solos over crazy tempos & impossible progressions. But one of my favorite things, is listening to my musical heroes play simple tunes

I’m talking about the regular old jazz standards that we practice all the time.

It’s all about those times in the club when a famous player calls a familiar standard that you know, or when you get to hear one of your idols play on a blues or rhythm changes on a recording.

In these moments you get to hear the best musical minds tackle the same tunes and progressions that you’re working on in the practice room. You can finally get answers to questions like:

  • How are they approaching the basic chords of any tune?
  • What musical techniques are they using over common progressions?
  • How are they utilizing time and rhythm?
  • What novel ideas are they using that I can imitate?
  • What musical story or mood are they creating on the song?

The answers can quickly improve your understanding and approach to any tune, and today, we’re going to study how the great Herbie Hancock plays a jazz standard…

The solo

Take a listen to Herbie’s one chorus solo on You’re My Everything from Freddie Hubbard’s classic album “Hub-Tones.” The solo begins at 3:35…

Check it out…

Be sure to listen to the solo and get it in your ear. Sing along with it, slow it down, and repeat it – you’ll be much more successful in ingraining the techniques if you’re starting with the music itself!

Thinking about the Chords

With any jazz standard that you learn, it’s important to understand and hear the larger harmonic movement in the tune.

And this is particularly important when you are transcribing or studying a solo – remember, a tune isn’t just a collection of chords to memorize, there are bigger harmonic relationships at work and a reason for every chord!

In your practice, strive to find different recordings of the song you are learning, and seek out the original if possible. Chords are often substituted and progressions are reharmonized…and this is the case with Freddie Hubbard’s ‘You’re My Everything.’

Let’s take a look at the original progression of Harry Warren’s composition You’re My Everything…

The tune is in C Major and utilizes some common harmonic movement throughout the progression:

  • ii-V-I
  • iii-VI
  • Related ii-V’s to the iii (E-) and vi (A-) chords
  • and the II7 or V7 of V chord

These are relationships that you’ll find in many jazz standards and harmonic progressions that you want to hear and have tools for.

Now let’s check out Freddie Hubbard’s approach to the progression:

Using some related substitutions, he modifies the original progression while staying in the larger harmonic world of C Major. Let’s take a closer look at 4 changes to the original…

1) Relative minor instead of Major

The first change happens in the opening four bars of the tune:

He begins on the relative minor (vi chord) rather than the I chord and adds a ii-V in bar two leading into the step-wise ii-V’s in the third and fourth bars. The goal is still the D- chord in the 5th bar, but the pathway there is slightly different.

Why does this work?

  • The I and vi chord are tonal poles in the harmony of any key – Major vs relative minor
  • These two chords also share strong chord tones and can often be substituted for one another

2) Minor iv chord to iii

In the following four bars, an extra chord is added to the progression:

Rather than two measures of a G7 chord, an F- chord is inserted, resolving to the E- chord in the next bar.

This is the minor iv chord, F- in the key of C, which is related to the bVII7 chord, a dominant substitution moving to I. And the iii chord is a substitute for the I chord…

Why does this work?

  • The addition of the F- chord creates step-wise motion in the bass between the V7 (G7) chord and the iii (E-) chord .

3) The second 8 bars

On this recording, the second 8 bars of the tune are approached differently than the first 8…

Here he begins in C Major and substitutes the chords in the following two bars:

In the second bar, an F#7 chord resolves to an F Maj chord in the third bar, drawing on the familiar movement of I (C) to IV (F) and then moving to the ii chord (D-).

Why does this work?

  • Utilizes the I to I7 to IV progression with a tritone sub (#IV instead of I7)
  • Descending half-step root motion to the ii-V to D minor (F#-F-E-Eb-D)
  • The substituted chords work with the original melodic notes

4) bVI at end of progression

The last change in the chord progression happens at the very end of the form – the final chord is changed to an Ab7sus chord:

Why does this work?

  • bVI (Ab7sus chord) creates ascending half-step motion between V and the vi chord at the top of the form

Tritone Substitution

In addition to the reharmonizations above, another harmonic technique to take note of as you check out the solo are the use of tritone subs on dominant chords.

For instance, check out the first four bars of the progression and listen to how the rhythm section treats the dominant chords in the example below:

By “tritone subbing” the V7 chords you create a descending half-step root motion, moving from F# all the way to D in the 3rd and 4th bars.

Another example is in the last 8 bars of the progression, check out Herbie’s comping behind Freddie’s solo:

Tritone substitution is nearly always an option when playing jazz standards, depending on the rhythm section and the arrangement of the tune. And as a soloist you can imply them as you see fit…as Herbie does in this line:

Keep these harmonic variations, as well as the original chord progression, in mind as we explore and analyze Herbie’s solo.

Want to master the ins and outs of jazz harmony and chord progressions? Then check out our latest course Jazz Theory Unlocked:

Jazz Theory Unlocked

4 Musical Tactics from the solo

Now that you understand the harmonic framework of the tune, let’s dig into some of the musical techniques Herbie is using to create his melodic ideas…

Specifically, we’re going to highlight solo tactics that you can use over the chords and progressions in the jazz standards you play, and more importantly, how to apply them in a musical way!

Remember, listening to the solo and ingraining each phrase in your ear is the starting point, and most important part, in absorbing the sound, time, and musical techniques.

Let’s check out 4 solo techniques from this Herbie solo…

1. Utilizing Triads & Arpeggios

The more you transcribe, learn language, and study the playing of the masters, you’ll notice one thing…that many of the best solos are built with surprisingly simple elements.

I’m talking about fundamentals like triads, arpeggios, and the nuts & bolts of any chord, and Herbie’s solo on this tune is no exception.

Remember, the mark of a great player isn’t only playing crazy lines and complex harmonies…it’s the ability to be creative and musical with the building blocks of any chord or progression.

If you listen closely to each phrase, you’ll hear Herbie utilizing fundamental elements. But the point is not that he plays them, rather how he applies them musically within his phrases and ideas.

Let’s take a look at a few examples, starting with the first phrase of his solo:

The musical content here is simple, arpeggios ascending from the 3rd of G- and descending from the 9th of F#-, but applied within a musical phrase:

Another example is the phrase in the 8th and 9th bars:

Over the F- chord he plays the scale/ underlying chord in 3rds, utilizing a triplet rhythm with the 2 note pattern:

And in the next bar, he uses an arpeggio again, but applies it with a musical shape and rhythm…

Simple, fundamental structures applied in a musical and natural manner within each musical phrase…

2. Motion on static chords

In any tune that you play, one challenge as an improviser is creating melodic ideas over static chords

Navigating stretches of two or more bars of the same chord, especially when the tune is in a medium or slow tempo.

In these cases a scale tends to fall flat and isn’t musical, an arpeggio only takes up a beat or two, and a lick gets old as soon a you play it.

To create flowing and interesting lines on an extended chord, you need something more. You’re My Everything contains one of these “static” spots in the 5th bar of the form, a 2 bar D minor chord :

Let’s take a look at how Herbie uses 3 techniques to create linear motion over this spot in the tune…

Technique #1: Imply harmonic movement

The first time he encounters this spot in the progression, Herbie plays this line:

Here he is implying a chromatic walk-down motion, or guide tone line, over the D- chord. He starts on the root and descends, creating motion on an otherwise static chord:

On top of this framework he applies arpeggios and rhythmic ideas to create a musical phrase:

By implying a progression or guide-tone line, you can create a framework for coming up with lines in numerous variations without having rely on a single lick.

Tactic #2 – Use chromatic motion

The second way Herbie plays this chord he utilizes chromatic motion to generate a line…

Here the chromatic notes are use to highlight or move between chord tones of the D minor chord, creating linear motion at the same time:

He continues the chromatic motion, moving outside of the original harmony (to Ab), but resolves on the following chord (Bø7).

Tactic #3 – Insert V7 to I motion

And finally, over a different spot in the progression, but on the same chord, Herbie plays this line:

Here he implies a three chord progression over a single chord to create melodic interest and motion…

In this case he is implying a i-V-i sequence over the D- chord, and delaying the resolution to the V7 until he is on beat 3 of the G7 chord.

This is an effective tactic when you want to create interest or melodic motion over static sounds – imply V7 to I motion. Try it over stretches of major, minor, and dominant chords.

3. Rhythmic variety

Another hallmark of any great solo is mastery of time and rhythm

Improvising ideas and phrases that feel authentic and sound good, and ultimately create interest over the underlying chord progression.

For example, check out the rhythmic content of this line from Herbie’s solo:

In the space of six measures, you hear swinging 8th notes, 16ths, turns, and triplets played with intent and definition…

He has such control over time, rhythm, and swinging that he can simply move between different rhythmic concepts within a single phrase, measure, or a few beats.

And this is the goal, not necessarily trying to force these rhythms into a line, rather ingraining the rhythms through practice with a metronome and learning language with rhythmic variety and solid time feel.

…and over time this rhythmic variety will naturally come out in your musical ideas.

A good start is incorporating some small variations into the 8th note lines that you already play. To see what I mean, let’s take one of Herbie’s lines and reduce it to only 8th notes:

Now let’s look at the original line he played with more rhythmic interest:

A few triplets, 16ths, or turns can add another layer of musical expression to your lines.

For more on developing and expanding your rhythmic approach, check out this Premium lesson on 8 Rhythmic Ideas To Spark Your Creativity.

4. V7 Alterations

The last technique we’ll explore from Herbie’s solo is how he alters the dominant chords in his solo…

Dominant (V7) chords are the spot in a progression for tension leading to resolution, and they are perfect place for applying some harmonic alterations to add interest to your lines.

Here are a few solo tactics from Herbie’s phrases…

1. The Diminished scale

Listen to what Herbie plays over this F#7 chord:

He plays a descending diminished scale starting on and Eb and resolving to the F major chord in the next measure.

The F#7 serves as a tritone sub resolving to F major, and the diminished scale is a way to access some of the altered tones of a V7 chord.

Jazz musicians have been utilizing the diminished sound and the the symmetrical pattern of half and whole steps in the diminished scale is one expression of this sound.

For more on utilizing diminished scales and patterns check out The Diminished Handbook (Premium).

2. The Altered scale

Another technique Herbie uses to all tension and interest to dominant chords is the altered scale

Listen to how he applies this sound the the E7 chord in this line:

The altered scale includes all the altered notes of a dominant chord – the b9, #9, b5/#11, b13 – and is a useful scale to know as you navigate the dominant to tonic relationship.

For some more examples of the altered scale in solos, check out this lesson on 5 Secrets for Mastering the Altered Scale.

3. The bii minor

Another trick for altering the V7 chord stems from the tritone sub.. the bii minor chord…

This is the minor ii of the tritone sub V chord. For example, let’s say you have an A7 chord:

Eb is the tritone sub and Bb- is the ii chord of the tritone ii-V. You can simply apply this ii chord to the original V7 chord – which is the bii minor in relation to the original V7 (Bb- triad over an A7 chord):

Herbie uses this sound two times in his solo, first over a ii-V going to D minor:

He arpeggiates up the E- chord and descends over the A7 with this Bb- triad, resolving to an A over the D- chord.

And in the next example, he arpeggiates up the bii- sound (Bb-maj7 over and A7):

This “bii minor” is one way of accessing this sound, a triad that includes the b9, 3rd and b13 and also serves as a tritone substitution.

Learning the techniques

There is an entire world of information in any great solo, and Herbie Hancock’s playing on this standard is no exception…

So take your time with these techniques and pratice them slowly!

The idea is not to force these lines directly into a chord or a solo, but to listen to and study them over time, to practice them at your own pace, and to ingrain them gradually into your musical approach.

As you tackle the techniques in this solo, be patient and completely learn each idea. Make sure you are hearing each concept as well as understanding it intellectually…

Over time, with patient practice, these techniques will naturally become a part of your own musical voice!

Want more inspiration from the musical genius of Herbie Hancock?

Check out these two lessons:

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