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.


Jeff Coffin is a three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist/ composer/educator (Dave Matthews Band/Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, The Mu’tet). As a Yamaha Performing Artist and Clinician, Jeff has presented more than 300 clinics worldwide. Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet’s latest recording, “Into the Air,” and the latest Dave Matthews Band recording, “Away From the World,” are available on iTunes. Visit or twitter feed @jeffcoffinmusic for more information.

Jim Snyder


You gotta stay home. Camps are closed. Concerts are canceled. Vacations are now staycations. I’m sure with the demands for housework, yardwork, and online schoolwork, ...