No Matter What

Jeff Coffin

How many of you would like to be a studio musician, living in a cool city and making all different kinds of music? How many of you think you have what it takes to play on pop, jazz, country, rock, blues, and indie rock recordings?


If you’re a saxophone player, you’re expected to play all the saxes at a very high level, improvise proficiently, and double on flute, clarinet, sometimes alto flute, piccolo, and bass clarinet.

Can you play a high G to C on the flute consistently in tune? Can you sight-read and play pseudo-orchestral parts on clarinet? Can you play all the saxophones or are you mainly a tenor, alto or baritone player? Can you blend in a section? Can you make up horn parts that sound great? Can you consistently be on time and easy to work with, no matter what the musical situation? Can you get it right the first or second time?

Consistency and fluency in all these areas are very, very important. These are some of the many parts of being someone who plays in the studio.


I have been fortunate in having a great performing career with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, the Mu’tet, and since 2008, with Dave Matthews Band. I have also had many, many opportunities to record in the studio with a variety of musicians and bands that play a variety of styles.

I have had to do all the different things I mentioned as well as many others not mentioned here. You have to be able to go with the flow and rearrange on the spot, transpose on the spot, create on the spot, and even switch parts on the spot!

The Fundamentals

In order for me to stay on top of my game, I continually work on the fundamentals of each instrument while also trying to grow as an artist on each. I recommend spending time every day working on the fundamental elements of your instrument(s), so when you get the call to record for Amos Lee, Garth Brooks, Cage the Elephant, or another group, you will be ready to go. No matter what.

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.