How to Think Like a Pro Jazz Musician: Michael Brecker and The Power of Simplicity

It sounds so complex. So difficult. So advanced. Great jazz musicians sound as though they’re implementing highly complex and difficult concepts that mere mortals could never hope to access, but in reality, professionals think simpler than you’d ever imagine. It’s the beginners and intermediates who study the pros and abstract what they think is going on in a convoluted and complex way.

Jazz improvisation is a real-time activity. This means there’s no time to think.

And even in the practice room where you do have infinite time, simplicity is your best friend because when the heat of the moment comes and you’re on stage, it’s the simple stuff that will be there with you.

Professionals use simple concepts.

They use them effectively and they disguise them…

Michael Brecker and simplicity

When you think Michael Brecker, you probably don’t think simple.

He plays so fast. So effortless. So perfect.

But, when you closely study what he’s playing and take away the lightening speed that he’s known for, you’ll see many simple concepts you’re familiar with.

Listen to his solo on Giant Steps with saxophonist Bob Mintzer, from the album Twin Tenors.

A lot of what he’s playing sounds extremely angular and complex, but it’s actually not at all. He utilizes some very simple techniques, but knows exactly how to get the most mileage out of them.

Complexity = Disguised Simplicity

Studying music theory and analyzing jazz solos defines how we view what we discover. It’s a catch-22. Without knowledge of music theory we have no real framework to understand what’s going on, but with it, we may tend to artificially and subconsciously mold our findings to fit into what we understand.

This process of analysis happens time and time again when transcribing and figuring out how to think about our findings.

Through this line of thought, what may have been a simple concept in the performer’s mind, becomes an elaborate design in ours.

When you’re trying to understand how to ...

Hey, Sorry to interrupt...

I know you were really enjoying this article and super excited to learn something new, but we have to stop you right there because this is an article for premium members only.

(Already a premium member? Log in here)

You see, we write a ton of articles, some of which you probably know and love - articles that explore the intricacies of jazz improvisation in a way that you may have not thought about before, giving you the advice you need to break through your plateau...

Occasionally, we'll go into even more detail. But this extra special content is just for our premium members.

You can unlock access to all of this premium content, too. It takes less than a minute and it's only $5 a month.

When you sign up for premium, you'll get:

  • Unrestricted access to every article on the site
  • Embedded member-only article content
  • Ability to print out any article as a customizable PDF for your practice room
  • Good karma knowing you're keeping Jazzadvice alive!
  • And, a whole lot more to come...

And here's the truth…

We almost gave up multiple times. Closed shop. Took the site down and called it quits. We've been really close a few times. You have to make some difficult decisions when you're doing something you love.

But we pushed through and kept going. And now with your help, we're rising to the challenge to make Jazzadvice even better!

So if you've ever shared one of our articles, or if you've ever learned something new from us that inspired you, propelled your playing forward, saved you from quitting or throwing your instrument (or yourself) out the window, consider joining premium to say thanks.

It's just a few bucks to make Jazzadvice even better, so we can focus on creating the most awesome jazz improvisation material on the planet for you.

Here's how it works:

  1. The $5 a month is billed yearly using PayPal or credit card
  2. You'll create a new Jazzadvice account, or if you've purchased from us before, use your email and password you used previously
  3. That's it! Log in, and you'll have premium access

Click the lovely button below to sign up to premium

Get Premium Now

has been added to your cart!

have been added to your cart!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What payment methods do you accept?

A: You can easily pay by credit card or Paypal.

Q: How do I access my Premium Membership?

A: Once you sign up to Premium, you simply log in to your account. Then, all of of your premium content will automatically be unlocked for you.

Q: Do the Fundamental Courses come with Premium?

A: No. The Fundamental Courses are standalone, completely separate from your premium membership.

Q: I'm not a jazz musician. Will I still benefit from Premium?

A: Yes! No matter what style of music you play, you will benefit from Premium.

Q: Is there a money back guarantee or a refund if I don't like Premium?

A: No. We do not give refunds or money back guarantees. We hope you like Premium and we're constantly improving it, but you can of course choose whether or not to renew your annual subscription.

Q: I'm a beginner. Should I sign up to Premium?

A: Yes. While some of the articles in Premium are super advanced, Premium gives you the extra guidance and in-depth details that are especially useful for a beginner.

Q: I'm an intermediate or advanced player. Will I benefit from Premium?

A: Absolutely! Premium was made for you - the musicians that want the extra tips and direction to get to the next level.

Q: What instrument(s) is Premium for?

A: All instruments can use Premium

We're here to help...

If you have any questions at all about Premium, we're more than happy to answer them.