Musical Rantings and Ravings

Research Tips

Translations and IPA for Singers

WbWFinding good translation and pronunciation guides has always been a challenge for singers.  Now that we have google, its even harder!!!  Why you say?  Because there are so many bad translations and pronunciation guides out there. Unless you’re a native speaker or a seasoned professional singer, you don’t know which are good and which are bad.

The music library reference area makes this significantly easier.  Of course, we have various language dictionaries that include IPA phoneticization.  But, the magic numbers are ML 48 – ML54.6.  That is where you find translations and IPA of songs and arias.  Coffin’s famous Translations of Songs and Arias, yes.  But many others–French chanson, Mozart libretti, Bach cantatas, German Lied, a book translating almost all of the sacred latin texts.  Also, all of the infamous (come talk to me about that) comprimario tenor Nico Castel’s books of translation and IPA are here as well.

JMU Libraries also subscribes to IPA Source, the online IPA translation resource.  This is a quick and easy source to refer to.  But, beware!  IPA Source is not, what i would call, an authoritative resource.  Let’s just take a look at the first line of Walther’s prize song from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger–“Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigem Schein”.  IPA Source’s IPA varies from Castel’s version in two separate places.  AND, IPA Source changes “rosigem” to “rosigen”.  “Rosigem” with an “m” is correct. Nico Castel’s book spells it correctly and is also correct in the other two IPA phoneticizations where IPA Source gets it wrong.  No matter what one might think of Nico’s personality, he is THE Language Expert.

I’ll see you in the Music Library soon because I know you wouldn’t be reading this if you were just any ole singer.  You must be the type of singer that always knows the meaning of the words and always pronounces them correctly.  You must be one of those singers who loves to bring subtle colors and inflections of pitch and rhythm to each syllable sung. You are?  Right?



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2 thoughts on “Translations and IPA for Singers
  • Carrie Stevens says:

    Thank you for thinking of this, Brian! What a great idea to reinforce the issue of poor translations and the fact that we have some of the best resources right on the shelves of the…Reference section! Imagine that…where access is easy at all times!…You don’t even have to ask for a librarian to bring it out from the back stacks! 😉