Robert Schumann, Intermezzo aus op. 39, 1. Verszeile | Primär- und Sekundärbetonungen

7 pronunciation recommendations for singing in German with IPA

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) presents a precise representation of German phonetics, particularly valuable for singers. The following key points should be emphasized:

  1. Consonants and vowels: Kohler's consonant table lists articulation types and positions. The positions of the vowels in the vowel trapezoid vary depending on the singing tradition. You can find more detailed representations of German sounds in singing here.
  2. Diphthongs in German: The transcription varies between spoken and sung text for combinations of two vowels such as "au", "eu" or "ei". When singing, the first vowel is pronounced longer and the larynx position tends to be lower than when speaking, especially in classical singing. Examples of the transcription and pronunciation of diphthongs in German can be found here.
  3. Special pronunciation of the "r": The "r" has various pronunciation options. For quieter or more traditional singing styles, words like "klar" and "ruht" are pronounced with rolled trills or tabs. However, "r" sounds are increasingly pronounced as low schwa sounds, similar to an "a" in German, especially at the end of words or at syllable boundaries in classical singing.
  4. Aspiration: The pronunciation of consonants such as "t" or "p" is generally shorter and less breathy when sung.
  5. Syllable boundaries: consonants at the end of a syllable are generally pronounced late and drawn out to the next syllable. You can find an explanation and examples of transcription here.
  6. Phonetic decisions: The transcriptions are suggestions and not rigid rules.Pronunciation can be customized according to preference, interpretation and singing tradition.
  7. Comparison with audio recordings: Audio recordings can help with uncertainties in pronunciation, especially with emphasis and aspiration.

These recommendations are based on a detailed overview of the use of the IPA in German.You will also find references for singing with the help of the IPA.The clear representation of consonants, vowels and diphthongs helps singers to master German pronunciation in song and to take the subtleties of the German language into account in their musical interpretation.

Here are selected pieces of music with IPA transcriptions in sheet music for soloists and choir for the German language:

Johann Sebastian Bach: Singet dem Herren
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Hebe deine Augen auf
Clara Schumann: 3 Lieder, op. 12
Robert Schumann: Liederkreis, op. 39 (hoch - mittel - tief)

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