‘Don’t think of pink elephants,’ is the phrase Bill Rashleigh uses to get directors to think about the vocabulary they choose. Obviously, everybody immediately does think about pink elephants. A similar thing is likely to happen, he suggests, when a director says, ‘don’t sing flat’. ‘Hmm, flat’, goes everyone’s brains, and the pitch follows the thought obediently downwards.
So, the initial message is that we should couch our requests in positive rather than negative terms. Say what the music needs, rather than what’s wrong with it. This is good advice from Bill, and I’ve found that learning to follow it has had a number of useful effects beyond the simple one of avoiding evoking counter-productive thoughts in rehearsal: