English Diction and Enunciation for North American Singers

A guide to the usage and enunciation of English in classical singing written by a professional singer and teacher with unique ideas.

Voice students in North America seem to get far more training in foreign language diction than they do in English diction. The fact remains, however, that many classical singers in North America have a poor understanding of how to project English, usually their native tongue, in a way that is comprehensible to an audience.

I was lucky to have had excellent training in English diction from the very beginning of my vocal studies. Colleagues, critics and audience members always commented on how easy it was to understand me in whatever language I sang in, and especially so in English. As I transitioned from singer to teacher, I noticed how confused students were when they had to sing in their native language of English. They had few rules to fall back on, and sometimes the rules they did have were not useful.

English Diction and Enunciation for North American Singers attempts to address this problem. While there are other books on the market that offer English diction training, I have noted that these books are mostly written by vocal coaches and linguists. I found some of the advice outdated and much of it overly complex. I have practical experience with over 30 years as a professional singer and now as a voice teacher, that I want to share. After working with many students, it occurred to me that I had something unique to say on the subject.

There are two aspects to this subject: diction – knowing how to pronounce the words while singing, which is not always the same as in speech, and enunciation – knowing how to project the text into a large space without amplification. Both are equally important. It does no good to know how to pronounce the text if your audience cannot comprehend your words.

While this is not a book on vocal technique, it is written with technique in mind because diction and vocal technique are interdependent. You cannot teach one without understanding the other. The vowel is the voice and those parts of speech that interrupt the vowels, the consonants, need to be produced in a way that enhances the voice.

One unique aspect of this book will be when I convert it to an e-book format with clickable links to phonemes, words and phrases. A level of interactivity that will be unique among the available diction books.

Currently the book is in its second draft and I am “testing” it on my DePaul students, after which I will make any necessary changes or additions. Then I will seek a publisher.

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