Friday, February 22, 2019
Text Size

Forty More Truths

by Dr. Betty Scott

Forty More Truths, a continuation of an article written for The International Trumpet Guild entitled Forty Truths About Practicing and Performing:

1.  Discipline is basically an inside job.

Others can inspire. Or perhaps conspire. But the bottom line is that each of us has to dig within ourselves to pull up our personal and best goals. No one can do it for us.

2.  Practicing shouldn't be an afterthought, but a daily disciplined routine.
Be a sage, practice wisely. Stay positive. Reward yourself.

3.  Practice in a variety of ways.

For example, start at the end of a piece and work backwards. Play the last two notes perfectly four times, then play the last three notes perfectly four times, etc. Slur where it's tongued; tongue where it's slurred, using different rhythms. Play at different tempos and volumes. Practice deliberately and mindfully.

4.  Alternate sitting with standing. Alternate sitting or standing with movement.

Like the song (by James Brown) from Sister Act says: "Get Up Offa That Thing."

5.  Weak hands = weak fingering.
Use a hand strengthening device.

6.  Few things are more important than tone production.
William Vacchiano, quoted in Last Stop, Carnegie Hall by Brian Shook: "To the true artist, the sound is primary; technique is secondary. [You are not judged by your technique] . . . it's what you sound like. It's the sound."

7.  If you can sing it, you'll more likely be able to play it.

Buzzing can be helpful, too.

8.  The work you do alone is the most important factor to increasing your ability and skills.

You. Alone. Working minutes or hours. Focused. Deliberately practicing. You, by yourself. Get the point?
Tom Clancy: "The more you do the better you get."
Arnold Palmer: "It's a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get."
John Quincy Adams: "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

9.  Multitasking is all the rage, but it's focusing on one thing at a time that gets the desired results.
Remember to focus on what you want rather than what you don't want.
Henry Ford: "A weakness of human beings is trying to do too many things at once."

10.  When things are difficult, “chunk down;” when they are easy/easier, “chunk up.”

When a passage is overwhelming, “chunk it down” to the smallest unit you can play accurately, even if it's only two notes. Then “chunk up” by adding a note at a time, always playing as perfectly as possible.

11.  The more you repeat something, the stronger and more permanent it becomes.

This includes the good, the bad, the correct, the incorrect, your behaviors and your thoughts.
Georgia Byng, Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure: "Molly knew from experience that the more a person thought a certain way, the more that way of thinking became a habit."

12.  Play with “effortless effort.”

Eugen Herrigel in Zen and the Art of Archery refers to this as "Right presence of mind." Consider also these phrases: “artless art,” “aimless aim,” “purposeless  purpose.”
David M. Kaslow, Living Dangerously with the Horn: "Artistry requires the highest possible awareness of self and 'not self.'"

13.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
One of my favorite teachers would call this “a self-evident truism.”

14.  "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." (John Wooden)
All of us have strengths and weaknesses. You know this. Play to your strengths. Bring your weaker playing up to the level of your best playing. But don't be crippled by thoughts of what you can't do. Just do your best.

15.  The metronome: A powerful ally.
The metronome is an important device to improve our overall musicianship. Use one often to internalize tempos and beats. Make sure that your metronome performs accurately. Some of the old ones “tick-tocked” off kilter. Electric ones are generally accurate and digital technology has improved the smaller, more portable ones. There are many metronome apps available at little or no cost. Examples include Metronome+ (free) and Tempo Advance (low cost). Many musicians have more than one metronome.

16.  Play what's written before you start taking liberties.

Though the notes on the page are only the beginning, learn them first. Then you can take liberties, improvise and make the music your own.
Vladimir Horowitz: “…one must look at the notes on the page to find where they should be played…but to find their meaning, one must look behind the notes."

17.  It is often the small things that make the difference.

Pay attention to all the details on the page so that you can eventually play beyond the page. Learn how to finesse phrase endings, when to push forward or pull back, where to apply specific articulations, how long to hold tenuto notes, or what to emphasize. Become a master.

18.  Fear, like liquor or drugs, can be a great leveler.

If fear is one of your dominant emotions, it's an indication that you need to work on your skills, both on the instrument and in learning stress reduction techniques.
Yiddish folk saying: “Fear is worse than the ordeal itself.”
Harry Palmer: “Fear is the belief in our inadequacy to deal with something.”
ID, Ideas & Discoveries, April 2013: “…people whose brain is flooded with stress hormones perform up to 40% worse than their calmer counterparts.”
Brian Tracy: “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.”
John Haynie, Inside John Haynie’s Studio (Anne Hardin, compiler and editor): “The number one cause of nervousness, stage fright, and fear is lack of preparation.”

19.  Deal with your emotions or your emotions will deal with you.
Jason Sutterfield, “Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health: “…negative emotional states such as anger and hostility can influence both the onset and progression of disease…Positive emotions aid substantially in healing and wellness.”
Socrates: “There is no illness of the body apart from the mind.”
Karl Dawson & Sasha Allenby, Matrix Reimprinting Using EFT: “All health conditions are in the mind and body simultaneously and what affects the psychology also alters the physiology.”

20.  Practicing and performing can make you tired or wired. Or both.

Get ample sleep. Naps are good, too. Your brain and body responds positively to rest. Plan your practice sessions with this in mind. Several smaller sessions are more productive than one long session.
Terry Doyle & Todd Zakrajsek, The New Science of Learning: “The human brain uses 25-30% of the body’s energy…every day.”

21.  Exercise.
Yes, exercise. No matter what your age. Do it at least several times a week. Consider it part of your practice routine. Eliminate excuses. It will help your breathing, your endurance (both physically and mentally), as well as enhance your mood and general well-being. A side effect: It is hard to be depressed after a workout. Exercise is also a good way to work out personal problems and to ponder questions that need time to incubate. Or you can just exercise, thinking about “no thing.”
Arturo Sandoval: “…daily exercise is more than a need—it is a responsibility.”
Doyle & Zakrajsek, Ibid.: “Getting adequate exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is the single most important thing a person can do to improve their learning…exercise makes it easier for you to grow smarter…Exercise also spurs the development of new brain cells.”

22.  If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

This includes mental, physical and spiritual health.
A. It is said that disease begins in the colon, so pay attention to what you put into your mouth.
B. Take care of your lips.
Know what to use when. Remember: what you put on your body goes in your body.
There are three types of lip balm: 1) those that moisturize, either containing herbs (Burt’s Beeswax) or petroleum (Chapstick, which is 44% white petroleum); 2) those with a drying agent for cold sores and chapped lips (Blistex), and 3) those which include anesthetic and drying ingredients such as phenol, menthol, salicylic acid and camphor (Carmex, Abreva, Camphophenique).
Besides Vitamin E oil, I would like to suggest several products that have helped me in my playing career:
Hoomana Skin Salve (, available in a jar and a tube. Made on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Natural Pinon Cream made in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona by Nellie Tsosie, a Dine (Navajo) Indian. It can be purchased at, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Aquaphor (by Eucerin) Healing Ointment, carried by stores like Target and Walmart.
If your lips feel tired, worn out or bruised, try Brass Players Swollen Lip Blend made by expert herbalist and fine horn player, Cheryl Hoard, in St. Louis, Missouri (
C. For greater control and less quiver when playing, do exercises to strengthen your stomach, back and shoulder muscles.
Check out “The 5 Tibetans” (also known as “The 5 Rites”) which can be found in either The Ancient Secret of the “Fountain of Youth” by Peter Kelder or Inner Power by Christopher S. Kilham.
D. Work on your breathing, even when you’re not playing.

Consider learning meditation, tai chi, chi gong or other martial arts for discipline and a host of other benefits, including breath work.
E. If you don’t start, you won’t have to stop.
There’s absolutely no good reason (even peer pressure) to start smoking, use “grass,” overindulge in booze or to try “coke,” “H,” hookahs, or E(lectronic)-cigarettes. If you know you tend towards addictive behavior, get help. There are many therapies and groups available for you to relearn/retrain your behavioral patterns.
F. Stay hydrated.
Both our brain and body consider water essential for optimal health and function. Most of us shortchange ourselves when it comes to hydration.
Doyle & Zakrajsek, Ibid., quoting P. Norman, Feeding the Brain for Academic Success: “Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities.”
G. Spend time in nature.
It helps to reduce your stress, improve your mood, increase your insight and enhance your performance.
H. Your body is an extension of your mind; your mind is an extension of your body. Treat both of them with respect and care.

23.  What you say/think about yourself is reflected in your playing.

Joyce Meyer: “You can’t be pitiful and powerful at the same time.”
Jesus, The Gospel of Philip: “Fear and faith cannot exist in the same space at the same time. Choose one.”
Wayne Dyer, Pulling Your Own Strings: “…you become what you expect to become.”

24.  Believing you can do something often creates that reality.
Bhagavad Gita: “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”
Michael J. Losier, Law of Attraction: “I attract to my life whatever I give my attention, energy, and focus to, whether positive or negative.”
Winston Churchill: “You create your own universe as you go along.”

25.  The more aware you are, the more creative you are. The more creative you are, the more aware you are.
Mary Oliver, from the poem “Yes! No.”: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
David M. Kaslow, Ibid.: “We increase awareness only to the degree to which we apply ourselves to the task.”
Deeper awareness = better performing.

26.  Decide what you want to have, become or be and then set up the conditions to bring that into reality.

Wayne Dyer, Your Erroneous Zones: “What you really, really want, you’ll get. What you really, really don’t want, you’ll also get. What you are focused on in your mind is what you attract…what you think about expands…”
Albert Camus: “Life is the sum of all your choices.”
Pythagorus: “Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Fred Saeks: “Everything is a choice.”

27.  You don’t know what you don’t know.
This is a prime reason to take lessons with those who do know more than you do. Include more reading, listening and observing in your daily life.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, The Book of the Books, Vol. 3: “This is the first step towards wisdom: to know that you don’t know.”
Copernicus: “To know that we know what we know and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
Confucius (Kong Fuzi): “What you know, you know; what you don’t know, you don’t know. This is true wisdom.”

28.  Expect the unexpected. Be flexible.

When my students were going to auditions, performing solos or recitals, or playing in a foreign country, these were the two dictums I shared with them.This can be applied to our daily lives, too.
Jason Zweig: “Anything is possible, and the unexpected is inevitable. Proceed accordingly.”

29.  Give praise, blessings and thanks every day.

Thomas J. Peters: “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
Oprah Winfrey: “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thanks, it will be enough.”

30.  In the Light of Eternity, how important is it?
So you missed a couple of notes in that movement: will you or your audience remember it a year from now? A week from now? Take your lumps, learn from it and move on. If you can figure out how/why it happened, you might be able to correct it for the next performance.

31.  Matter matters.
How you treat your instruments often reflects how you treat yourself and others. Don’t stuff your piccolo in a sock or have unprotected instruments bouncing around in a car. I once taught with a colleague who did, in fact, carry his piccolo in a sock and transported it everywhere that way. Another performer I know carries his many instruments, mostly sans cases, in his vehicle. That is a theft waiting to happen. Why spend money on instruments only to neglect their basic care? Matter matters.

32.  If you’re not having any fun, why are you doing it?
Mary Poppins: “In everything that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap, the job’s done.”

33.  Inspire yourself and others.
Keep a journal/notebook of quotes you read, hear or create. Read them at least once a year. Glean knowledge and wisdom from other seekers, as well as from your own observations. When you reread your journals, you will most likely find entries you’ve forgotten were there. Often these writings are helpful to you in your current life.

34.  There’s always something new to learn or to improve upon.

Let Doc Cheatham, noted jazz trumpeter, be an inspiration to you: In 1997, at the age of 91, he made a CD with Nicholas Peyton, then 23 years old. It was said of Cheatham that “…the older he was, the better he played.”
Michelangelo: “I am still learning.”

35.  Do things that not only keep you alive, but lively.
Does it feel good to be you? Does that thought make you smile?

36.  “Remember to remember.”

This is one of my favorite phrases. It comes from a native New Mexican Indian tribe. Many tribes were, and continue to be, story tellers. The opening line to many stories would be: “Remember to remember.” As a performer you need to remember the positive experiences you’ve had in the practice room and on stage. And the joy music brings to your life.

37.  Plant now; harvest later.
When you do the work now (plant the seeds), you reap the benefits later. That’s one of the main reasons to practice. Correctly. Practice. Now.
Mahatma Gandhi: “The future depends on what we do in the present.”

38.  Use the advice offered in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
“Be impeccable with your word.”
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

“Don’t take anything personally.”
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

“Don’t make assumptions.”
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

“Always do your best.”
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”

39.  If not now, when?
You’ve been talking about adding thirty minutes more practice to your schedule. You’ve hinted at working out of a new etude book. You say you want to play a recital. You’ve talked about getting a new instrument. You’ve indicated that you want to read that book, finish that article, learn a new skill, take a private lesson, have a personal chat with that knowledgeable teacher or get rid of a nasty habit. If not now, when? Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”).
Fortune cookie: “The best days of your life have not yet been lived.”

40.  Learn as much as you can about as much as you can.

Life is an endurance contest. So is playing an instrument. Assuming you have taken care of yourself and that you’ve practiced judiciously, you are likely to have a long physical life as well as a long performing life. Invest in yourself and your future. Feed your growth. Expose yourself to a variety of ideas. Attend many live performances (not just your own). Go to museums of every stripe. Read as often as possible, every imaginable genre. Everything is a gift. Everything is grist for the mill. Nothing goes to waste. Much of this exposure will end up making you a better performer. And a better person.
Auntie Mame, the movie: “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”


About the author

Dr. Betty Scott taught at the University of Missouri-Columbia for over 25 years. She is also a certified hypnotherapist who has been on the Faculty Advisory Board for the American Board of Hypnotherapy and the American Pacific University. She also practices various healing modalities: Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Therapeutic Touch, Emotional Freedom Technique, Quantum-Touch and Pranic Healing. If you would like to contact Dr. Scott, please send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

About the Editor: Lisa Blackmore is Adjunct Professor of Trumpet at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Adjunct Professor of Trumpet and Horn at East Central College in Union, Missouri where she also teaches Music History and World Music. She is a member of “Cadre” at Missouri Baptist University, teaching trumpet and assisting with the concert band. Lisa earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Trumpet with a minor in Music History at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she received the Graduate College Dissertation Award in Musicology. Dr. Blackmore also holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and SUNY-Stony Brook. She previously served on the faculty at Lindenwood University and under her direction, the Lindenwood Trumpet Ensemble performed at the 2007 ITG conference at the University of Massachusetts―Amherst. Her private studio teaching has resulted in students performing in the St. Louis Youth Symphony and various Missouri All-State ensembles.

Lisa is a member of the Stonehenge Brass Trio and Confluence Brass. She was a bugler with the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program from 2008-2013 and performed Taps at over 350 military services for Missouri Veterans. She performs with the Compton Heights Concert Band, and she is principal trumpet in the St. Louis Wind Symphony. She serves as a trumpet adjudicator for the Missouri All-State groups.

Lisa lives in Wright City, MO with her husband, Mark (also a trumpeter!) and their two cats, Chet and Ella. In her spare time she makes practice mutes and also enjoys reading and traveling.

Restore Default Settings