Getting Ready for the Road

Tour is coming up, and you’re not ready! What can you do?

Being on the road as much as I am, I have found a number of ways to get things together musically and personally.

For the latest tour with Dave Matthews Band, I had to memorize about 85 tunes for the first gig. That’s a lot of music. I cleared my schedule for most of the month of March to give myself enough time to work on the music and to get the rest of my gear together.

Your Music.

I put together playlists on my iPod and started playing along. I figure I spent about three to four hours a day for a solid month just on the music for tour. I want to be as prepared as I can be, and I set a very high standard for myself. While I work on the songs, I also think about the fundamentals and how tone/dynamics, harmony, articulation, rhythm and, above all else, listening can help in this process. Listening is the key because without listening, nothing gets better.

Your Gear.

Another part of getting ready to go on the road is figuring out what to bring. How much gear do I need, which instruments, which electronics, which pedals, how many cords, how many boxes of reeds, which emergency repair tools, how much extra cash, shoes and gig clothes, extra glasses, batteries, passport, books, DVDs, house stuff, etc?

I have compiled comprehensive checklists to avoid forgetting something important. I have separate lists for clinics, single gigs, tours, overseas, etc., and I add or subtract to the list as things change.

Your Instrument.

I also recommend making sure your instrument is in good working condition. It’s worth the time and money. If you have room to bring a backup instrument, I recommend that as well. You should always have a backup mouthpiece.

My hope is by putting thought and effort into having things together before I leave, I give myself a much greater opportunity to concentrate on what I am supposed to be doing on the road … making music.

About 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 and for more information.