Difficulties with the Cm11 Herbie Hancock voicing

Hello everyone . Discovering the extended voicing lessons ; really precise and well made . Bravo Hayden .
With the Herbie Hancock voicing Cm11 , the hand position is very incomfortable, and avoiding not ringing the F# is really hard . Any tips ?


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Hey Pierre… great question!

Some voicings are harder to play in certain keys.

The Herbie Hancock Voicing is difficult (and even uncomfortable!) to play in C and G.

A simple recommendation would be to modify the voicing slightly…

For C-11 Herbie Hancock Voicing, in your right hand swap the F(11) with G(5). Basically, move your right-hand index finger up a whole step.

This will give you a C-9 chord, which doesn’t have the same richness of the 11th, but it still sounds great.

Another more interesting option… invert the chord…

try this voicing:

Left Hand: G - C - Eb

Right Hand: F - Bb - D

Here we are playing the exact same notes, but now we have the G in the bass, which gives the chord a very interesting sound. It’s still C-11, but with G in the bass.

This gives you a lovely ‘bi-tonal’ sound … the left hand is playing a 2nd inversion C- Triad, and the right hand is playing a 2nd inversion Bbmaj Triad.

Your ears should hear both of the triads separately, which creates the ‘bi-tonal’ effect.

You can also do this in every key… a wonderful sound to experiment with.

An example of this voicing in a jazz standard lesson:

Check out the lesson on “Autumn in New York” where we play that exact voicing in the 4th bar for A-11 : https://www.pianogroove.com/jazz-piano-lessons/autumn-in-new-york-tutorial/

You will see that it voice leads very nicely to the D7. Again you can do this in all 12 keys.

I’d recommend that you take that progression around all 12!

A final note…

You will always find that chords, progressions, scales, licks, lines, etc… are harder to play in some keys than others.

This is also different for everyone because we all have different size and shapes of hands.

Always experiment with the inversions and you can discover some really cool sounds :sunglasses:

Hope this helps and if I can be of further assistance just let me know.

Maybe it is possible to arpegiate (in a quick tempo) the large chord… taking care of posing the pinky, as a kind of voice…

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Yes arpeggiating large chords is another option… great suggestion @marc421812

I just tried this by arpeggiating the right hand b3-11-b7-9 and it works well. I still find it a little tricky to finger but it’s less awkward than holding the notes down simultaneously.

I recommend a similar approach in the lesson on the ‘Kenny Barron Voicing’ - the index finger of each hand can be used as a ‘pivot point’ whilst applying the sustain pedal liberally.

Many students mentioned to me that their hands don’t stretch that far, so this is always a good option.

With most voicings, you can rearrange the notes within a smaller range of the piano as outlined in the inversion example above…

Left Hand: G - C - Eb
Right Hand: F - Bb - D

All that changes is the C moves up an octave to the middle of the left-hand, and the right-hand plays 3 notes instead of 4 which is certainly more comfortable on the wrist joint :smile:


I have small hands, so arpeggiating certainly works for me :grinning:

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Thanks for all suggestion … arpegiating quickly could make it sound yes, and this inversion really cool and wise and lovely sounding :sunglasses:

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Yes I love that inversion of the Herbie Hancock Voicing, it has such as rich ‘texture’ and ‘colour’.

When I think of the Herbie Hancock voicing, the most characteristic thing for me, is the b3 and the 11 voiced close to each other, with the b7 on the top.

Also Rootless Options Of That Voicing…

You can get some nice rootless sounds, by playing b3-11-b7 in your left hand.

For example, here is a rootless F-11 chord with a similar sound to the Herbie Hancock voicing:

  • The left hand plays: b3-11-b9
  • The right hand plays: 9-5-9

Interesting to play around with.

That screenshot is from Tuomo’s lesson on “Every time We Say Goodbye”:

Watch how Tuomo plays the 1-6-2-5 Progression at 9:05 in the video.

He plays lots of rootless voicings…

Ebmaj / C7b9 / F-11 / Bb9 —> back to Eb.

That would be a nice progression to take around all 12 keys, with the exact voicings he plays. This might be difficult to work out, but it would be worth the effort! :sunglasses:


Wow, impressive progression, if i understand i can play this rootless 1-6-2-5 chords on every same progression i meet, no matter the jazz standard (of course it depends of the context) ?

Yes that is correct.

The above is a great example of how rootless harmony can be used in a solo piano context.

By dropping the root, we can create completely different textures for any chord or progression that we play.