Consistency on the Road

Being on the road with Dave Matthews Band, my own group—the Mu’tet— and doing clinics and other spot gigs here and there, I need to find a way to spend quality time on all my instruments every time I play. I perform on soprano, tenor, alto and baritone sax; flute and alto flute; and sometimes clarinet or bass clarinet. I need to be sure that each instrument is in good working order and that I have good reeds to use.

THE SPACE. Every day, I find a space to practice. It might be in a closet, a room, side stage, the bus, wherever. There is always someplace.

THE REGIMEN. On each instrument I have a similar technique of going through the horns. I do scales and arpeggios from the lowest note on the instrument to the highest—into altissimo on sax. I do them at a medium tempo, so I can feel the reed consistency and be sure the horns are not leaking.

As an example, if I am doing Dominant 7th chords, I will begin on the lowest note of the chord. If it’s a C7, I will start on the low Bb on the sax, low G on clarinet and low C on flute. It forces me to invert the chords and to really listen to the relationship between the notes. I do them up and then come back down again. I do this for a number of chord (and scale) types. I also do long tones with a tuner, and I always use a metronome.

I also experiment with new musical genres like playing Brazilian choro music on flute. I find that practicing a style of music I am not fluent in, or possibly even familiar with, brings other influences to my playing and forces me to listen in a different way. And, as we all know, listening is the most important part of being a musician.

THE CONNECTION. Playing a few minutes on each horn can sometimes take a couple hours. Doing this puts me in touch with the instrument for the day and warms up my body and mind. Consistency is key, and I find that working this way allows me to improve as well as stay very consistent with my playing on the road.

About the author

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin is a three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist, composer, educator, and author. He has been a band member of Dave Matthews Band since 2008.  Jeff also teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeff has published “The Saxophone Book,” co-wrote “The Articulate Jazz Musician” with Caleb Chapman, and released “The Road Book” in late 2019. Jeff is a Yamaha and D’Addario Performing Artist and Clinician.  Visit jeffcoffin.com and earuprecords.com for more information.

Georgia Redcoat Band

Georgia Redcoat Band

Across the country and back again, the University of Georgia Redcoat Band appeared in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day as well as the ...