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Basic IPA

English, Italian, German and French

By: Emily Williams




Every fall semester, most freshman vocal performance majors register for an introduction to IPA, English and Italian Diction, often followed by French and German.  Without fail, the students return to class having read the assigned reading, looking like they have been asked to read a text in ancient Aramaic, without any grasp of the language or history. We then spend the rest of the semester creating a basic understanding of the language of IPA, and how it applies to whatever language we are currently studying.  We have a lot of fun. But, trying to sift through a college level diction text can be daunting for a young singer who's never encountered phonetics of even gone to the trouble of dissecting the elements of their own language, let alone one they don't speak.  Don't get me wrong, the canon of scholarly writing is more than adequate, nor do I feel the need to add to it.  What my students are continually asking for is a quick reference that helps them sift through all the rules.  The basics, mixed with a few tips and tricks to help them feel less intimidated and more likely to want to study further.  

Suggested further reading

Suggested Further Reading

  • International Phonetic Alphabet for Singers ​​

by Joan Wall

  • Diction for Singers: A Concise Reference

by Joan Wall

  • Phonetic Transcription for Lyric Diction​​

by Cheri Montgomery​

  • Singing and Communicating in English

by Kathryn LaBouff

  • ​A Handbook of Diction for Singers

by David Adams

  • Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German

by John Moriarty

  • Singing in French

by Thomas Grubb

  • Phonetic Readings of Songs and Arias

by Berton Coffin

  • Exploring Art Song Lyrics

by Jonathan Retzlaff

  • Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary

  • A Phonetic Dictionary of American English

  • Italian Dictionary (complete with IPA)

  • German Dictionary (complete with IPA)

  • French Dictionary (complete with IPA)

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