Posted by: Dramamezzo | April 7, 2010

Resources for Singers – IPA – Translation – Arias

I just sent an email to a student on IPA websites.  It became a diatribe on steps for learning an aria.  Sorry bro, hope I didn’t overload you!  We’ll take it one step at a time… sort of.  Well, who said I was a nice voice teacher anyways.  I’m a hard task master because I love seeing the resulting improvement in voices.  I believe a voice teacher should be sensitive but not so much so that we aren’t getting to the points that will improve singing.  Positive reinforcement comes in the improvements and the understanding, in the ah ha moments.  If you aren’t having any ah ha moments that speaks to the teacher, not the student.

OK that was a diatribe on voice teaching.

Now for the diatribe on IPA and info websites:

IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet.  We singers use it as a pronunciation guide for the many languages we sing in.  Some of us learn or know the languages, but many including me, only know the songs we are singing.

When learning IPA the danger with this new found knowledge is to overly use your tongue to create sounds.  Just remember that the changes are minimal and only use tongue positions as exaggerations for learning new sounds and languages.  Then take it back to the idea that sound emanates from the voice box.

Image of vowels and tongue position

This is a comprehensive chart (all languages) That lets you click on each symbol and hear a recording of how it sounds.  I would start with the vowel section. It has long and short sound recordings, and a chart that compares American and British English sounds.  Very Cool! It helps you start to hear the small differences in vowel sounds.

Comprehensive Chart that you can print

Comprehensive Vowel Chart you can print

This is a good chart to learn what sounds go with what IPA Symbols using English.

You can find IPA charts for individual languages at Wikipedia.  There are also many useful books, but I’m sure you know about those from school or you can find them on Amazon.  Either way this is a list of website resources only.

Now this is where I start veering into other subjects because they are VITAL to the whole purpose of learning IPA to begin with.

I’m serious WHOLLY VITAL;-)

Here is a lovely website to lookup most arias according to voice type (aka fach) and what you might need for them: poetic translations, music links, sheet music links.

This is where I go on a how to learn an aria diatribe

DRAMAMEZZO’s How to Properly Learn an Aria

So these are my steps.  If you do this first it’s less time you have to spend on the boring stuff later.  More singing in lessons and less diction and vowel speeches 😉

1. Write out all your words on lined paper skipping 3 lines every time you change lines.  (This helps memorization too, the skipping is so you can do the next steps.)

2. Write down the IPA for the words below each word.

3. Write direct translation for each word below each word. (Some use poetic translations but my teachers always demanded direct, and it helps for learning words later on.)


ich   liebe dich

I[ç]  libǝ  dI[ç]

I      love  you

My favorite cheat websites 😉 (German, Italian, French, Spanish-English translation and vice versa) It also gives you IPA if you do direct definitions. They do ALL this for you, IPA and direct translation but they make you pay for it (I’m too cheap to use this one;-)


This is a very comprehensive page from wikipedia on IPA.

The website that speaks the words for you is only for Italian opera.  The website is also in Italian. I haven’t used it yet so I don’t know how functional it will be once it’s translated by google.

Just found this one.  It speaks words for you! FORVO – All the words in the world pronounced.  Like a pronunciation Wikipedia.  NEAT!



  1. ooh ooh, and if you are trying to learn a language. I could use some friends. Too scared to friend true Italians yet. I can barely translate one word at a time. (Remember I’m cheap, you only have to pay if you buy one of their courses.)
    If you use this it helps me get a free course;-)

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