Human Nature Tutorial – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s music is some of the most classic pop/rock music of all-time, so we wanted to feature this Human Nature tutorial because so many students have been interested in Michael Jackson tunes. Human Nature is a particularly great tune to explore because of the beautiful, lush left hand chords as well as the classic right-hand melodic hook. We’ll take a look at some of the thick, dense left-hand chords used in Human Nature that sets it apart from other pop/rock tunes. We’ll also look at the iconic right hand melodic theme that introduces the song.

Human Nature Tutorial: The Chords (Intro)

One of the cool things about the chords used in the Human Nature intro is that they are not diatonic. The song itself is really in the key of D major, but the chords in the intro and verse alternate back and forth between various keys. The intro is a 4-measure phrase that moves from Gmaj7 to A major in measures 1 and 2, and Fmaj7 to Emin7 in measures 3 and 4. The rhythm of that harmony is as follows:

Listen to the original recording of Human Nature and read along with the 4-bar phrase above so that you can hear the rhythm of the chord movement.

Human Nature Tutorial: The Voicings (Intro)

This is the really fun part of diving into this recording. Of course, this song has been played by many artists, and many keyboard players. So we’re not trying to transcribe the voicings on Michael Jackson’s recording, but rather look at how these chords can be voiced at the piano.

Let’s check out one way in which you may play these chords in a solo keyboard context:

Now let’s break down what’s going on in these chords. These are some big chords – 5 notes per voicing (except for the Emin7 chord), all played only with your left hand.

How is that Gmaj7 chord voiced (spelled)? Well, (from the bottom up) we have the root (G), the 9th (A), the 3rd (B), the 5th (D), and the 7th (F#). I would suggest playing these notes with the fingering (from bottom up) 5-4-3-2-1 (one finger per note). See if you can identify the chord tones and extensions used in the other voicings.

Human Nature Tutorial: The Hook/Keyboard Melody

This is the melodic line that makes Human Nature the classic MJ tune that it is. It’s a 4-bar phrase made up entirely of 8th notes and although it takes some practice, it’s a lot of fun to play (which is why it’s been sampled so frequently in pop music).

Notice that the line is really a 2-bar phrase that is sequenced (meaning it repeats in bars 3 and 4 but changes slightly to adjust to the new chords in those measures). For example, the C#s that are used in measures 1 and 2 (over Gmaj and Amaj) don’t fit as well in measures 3 and 4 because the new chords are Fmaj and Emin – so they become C naturals. This is a concept that you can and should use in your own playing and writing – sticking with a single simple idea and adjusting it to conform to the chord changes as necessary.

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Willie President
Willie Myette is a pianist, serial entrepreneur and author of over a dozen books on piano and music education. He received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and graduated in under 4 years. Willie is the creator and president of online piano instruction sites Jazzedge® Academy, Jazz Piano Lessons and HomeSchool Piano.

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