Archive for: August, 2012

Putting the A-C-T in Practice

For our first tuba euphonium studio masterclass of the semester , I presented the following outline to encourage good practice habits. I thought that I should share it here:

“Putting the A-C-T in Practice: Appraise, Correct, Train”
A Masterclass Outline Presented by Professor John Manning
University of Iowa School of Music
August 30, 2012

Appraise your goals
Appraise your schedule and practice habits
Appraise your strengths and weaknesses

Once you get into the practice room…

  1. Assess your playing critically and identify challenges
    • Acknowledge mistakes and take note of them
    • Activate your inner critic; become your own teacher
    • Avoid becoming hypercritical, frustrated or distracted
  2. Can’t play it?
    • Can you sing it?
    • Can you buzz it?
    • Can you simplify it?
  3. Troubleshoot
    • Take time to isolate and diagnose
    • Try, Treat, Trace,
    • Transform

Correct your approach
Correct your mistakes
Correct your methods

  1. Assault problems and issues aggressively
    • Alternate working on small cells, and testing your progress in context
    • Allow enough time for real improvement
    • Anticipate progress but don’t be discouraged by small setbacks
  2. Conquer ChallengesTake your time…
    1. Circle the problem areas
    2. Concentrate on what you DON’T play well
    3. Change the most challenging aspects of the music to simplify
  3. Train yourself to…
    • …to learn it correctly
    • …, then increase difficulty
    • …and keep your cool

Train yourself to practice regularly, efficiently, and effectively
Train for success
Train like an Olympic athlete – with consistency, discipline, and dedication

  1. Act like a teacher to yourself
    • Access your “inner critic”, but not while performing
    • Alter your approach and change your perspective
    • Acknowledge mistakes, it’s how we learn
  2. Consistency
    • Consistent playing comes from consistent practicing.
    • Create good habits to override bad habits.
    • Challenge yourself to Excel, Stretch, Engage, Choose & Serve
  3. Tenacity
    • Treat music like a project, complete with tasks and due dates
    • Trust your instincts
    • “Try not. Do, or do not”. – Yoda

Getting the Most out of the Wenger Practice Modules

As many of you know, The University of Iowa was flooded in the spring of 2008. The Voxman Music Building was irreparably damaged, so the School of Music has been in temporary facilities since that time. The university contracted Wenger to install offices and practice rooms in our temporary facilities. These practice rooms have a module in the wall that allows the user to modify the sound by selecting any of a number of sound options, such as “Practice Room,” “Large Recital,” and several other options. I believe that using the presets on the modules has been the primary use up to this point. On occasion, I witness students using the built-in recording and playback feature. The opportunity to get instant feedback is an essential tool for developing (and professional) musicians. There is, however, a feature that I believe has gone completely untapped. As one can see from the image below, there is a device-end USB port on the module; this is the same device end as your USB printer cable (the same cable works here).

Once you have recorded one or more tracks, you can then plug in a USB cable to your laptop or iPad (30pin to USB adapter required).

The necessary USB cable:

Once plugged it, the device will show up on your computer as “HDMain”:

Double click “Wenger” to open the drive, then select and drag the recordings to your computer.

Once the audio files are moved to your computer, you can add them to iTunes (or your desired media player) or edit them with your software of choice. Upon the initial playback, you will notice that the playback quality is significantly better than the in-room playback in the Wenger rooms. This means that the built-in microphones are of a higher quality than the speaker counterparts. You will get better feedback on tone quality by moving the recordings to your computer/iPad.

These recordings are not of the quality necessary for competitions, demo cd’s, or graduate audition recordings as there is no natural reverberation, but students will gain much by using the highest quality recording possible when self-assesing performance.

Unique Opportunity for Students

Please read the following message regarding a new and unique opportunity . I encourage brass players to seek out a chamber work with strings.

To all new and returning brass students,

I would like to welcome those of you who are new to the University of Iowa and a welcome back all our returning students. I hope all of you had a wonderful summer filled with great music and are excited about taking on the challenges of the new academic year. I know that all of us on the faculty are very excited about the prospect of working with all of you.

I wanted to fill you in on a new initiative here at the University of Iowa that is a very exciting opportunity. The University of Iowa String Quartet Residency Program is a new program that will bring 3-4 professional string quartets each year to UI for week-long residencies. During these residencies, the visiting quartets will give public performance, master classes, sessions on how they built their careers and work intensively with student chamber music groups. The UI School of Music is incredibly fortunate to have this resource and I would like to invite you to take full advantage of it.

We will have three outstanding groups visiting us this year. Ranging from experts in the field of new music to competition winners to a group whose career has spanned multiple decades and trained many of today’s young groups, these quartets will be sharing their knowledge and talents with all who have registered for String Chamber Music during the next academic year.

October – JACK Quartet (

February/March – Linden String Quartet (

April – Cavani Quartet (

Students who are enrolled in String Chamber Music (025:188: 001) will have weekly coachings with Elizabeth Oakes, participate in a weekly seminar and will have the opportunity for multiple coachings and master class opportunities with the visiting quartets. This fall, students will also have the chance to participate in a master class with the St. Lawrence String Quartet (

You can enroll in 025:188:001 as a preformed ensemble or as an individual. This is course is not limited to string players but groups must contain at least one string player. If you are interested in the course, please contact me directly to see if we might find a group for you. Enrollment as an individual does not guarantee placement in a group; placement is contingent on number of students enrolled, finding appropriate repertoire and finding the right match.

Please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions. (

Wishing you a great start to this new academic year!

Beth Oakes

Elizabeth Oakes

The “Model Student”

As we begin a new semester, we all have a great opportunity to start fresh. Below are a few ideas to help new and returning students have that fresh start (This is a cross-post from the Iowa Trombone Studio website).

The model student:

  • Has a clear goal in mind and practices diligently to achieve this goal.
  • Shows up to all lessons, rehearsals, and coachings early to warm up (never come to a lesson and say “I haven’t really had a chance to play yet today.”)
  • Carries their solos, etudes, methods, excerpts, metronome, tuner, pencils, slide lubrication, and other materials with them to the practice room. Having a separate bag or briefcase dedicated to your music items is a good idea.
  • Is prepared for each lesson.
    • Assignments are completed on time.
    • Etudes are performance ready, with breaths and alternate positions marked.
    • Solos are prepared. Occasionally one may not be able to play at the performance tempo. In this case, one should prepare this part of the solo at a slower tempo, but it a style conducive to the music.
    • Has all music, etudes, and excerpts being worked on.
  • Prepares music for all ensembles in advance, regardless of the seeming difficulty level of the music.
  • Records each lesson and listens back to make sure all information is assimilated.
  • Gets top grades in all academic classes.
  • Purchases music and recordings in a timely manner. All music being performed must be purchased by the student.
  • Listens to professional recordings, rather than student recitals on YouTube.
  • Develops long-term, short-term, and immediate goals.
    • What is the desired career as a musician?
    • What are the steps necessary along the way?
    • What can I do today to progress along this course?
  • Becomes a member of the International Trombone Association (or their respective organization) and reads the quarterly journal.
  • Discovers music through listening to recordings and live performance rather than asking “what solo should I play?”
  • Looks for opportunities to collaborate with other musicians.
  • Develops proficiency in as many areas as possible:
    • Solo
    • Orchestral
    • Brass Quintet
    • Jazz/Dance Bands
    • Mixed Chamber Ensembles
    • Mixed Chamber
    • Funk/Hip-Hop/R&B
    • Polka
  • Looks for opportunities to play for other musicians and gets feedback. He/she also provides useful (constructive) feedback for others.
  • Uses technology in its many forms to better one’s playing (metronome, tuner, drones, recording, etc)

Welcome New Students!

Welcome back all returning students and welcome to all new students attending the University of Iowa this fall. We are thrilled to have you taking part in the University of Iowa School of Music.

This semester will be full of band and orchestra concerts, faculty recitals, guest artists performances and masterclasses, student recitals, and chamber music performances.

Our hope is that you are exposed to new styles of music and learn to love the music making process.

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