Category Archives: Tips

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.

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)