Monday, February 27, 2012

Transcription: Herbie Hancock's Solo on "Orbits"

Here's Herbie Hancock's solo off the classic Miles Davis record "Miles Smiles." I transcribed this in one week and learned it over the course of a couple weeks. This was probably the most challenging solo I have attempted. The chromaticism and the up-tempo was a recipe for many weeks of painstakingly slow practice with the recording.

Oribts is a great example of the "time, no changes" approach to improvising. The improvised sections were free, meaning there were no written chords. Although the harmony was free, the tempo and feel stayed constant. It was up to the individual improvisor to listen and direct the harmony.

For more video transcriptions, please check out my YouTube page at


  1. Hi, Great work. Tell how did you get the piano out on Orbit's? In other words, what did you use to get all the instr's on your video less the Herbie's piano?

    1. Hello Van. I used a program called "Transcribe!" to slow down the more challenging parts. I really didn't do any other editing of the audio to hear the piano better. You can find more info on the software at

    2. If I understand the question correctly, I don't think he's asking you how you transcribed it. I think he's asking you how did you eliminate Herbie's piano while managing to leave in all the other instruments for your video clip recording.

    3. If you listen closely you will still hear Herbie's piano playing. I did not remove it from the recording.

  2. Just checked this out. Great playing, it must have taken you more than a few frustrating hours to get it down. I read somewhere that all of herbie's harmonic refinement and deft reharmonizing skills where already present in that period. Listening to the records and your transcription seems to confirm that. A lot of cyclical material, transposing lines up or down in major thirds, the use of the lydian augmented as a bII chord, this remains largely unexplored, which is a shame, so thx for your contribution.


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