Page 52 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 52

surviving diction class
Let’s be honest, diction class can sometimes fall low on the priority list or even cause anxiety for music majors. Getting the most out of this class, however, will make you a more successful artist.
Every collegiate voice major in the United States sooner or later will have to take diction— the class that teaches how to sing e ectively in other languages besides English (although occasionally
that is taught as well) using strange symbols and following rules that
can be confusing and contradictory. There are some wonderful textbooks and programs available to help teachers and students alike learn diction, but no one really talks
about how to e ectively present the materials in the classroom. Students hopefully understand most of the concepts upon course completion. Many feel the class was a gruesome undertaking, however, and end up hating a language due to inadequate comprehension of the rules (hint: it’s usually French).
This article will hopefully illustrate some of the pitfalls and inherent di culties in learning diction and o er some practical strategies on
how to succeed. A companion article in a six-part series found online at is focused on how
52 Classical Singer | September/October 2019
teachers can successfully teach diction. Please remember that this is a teaching approach that I have found to work after several years of trial and error. It is also an approach that I continuously tweak as I receive feedback from students who have taken my courses. As the old car ads used to say, “Your mileage may vary.”
Voice instructors are required
to teach diction in individual and class lessons in order to assist students with clarity of text and development of their interpretative skills. Yet the majority of teachers either do not have the time for the intricacies of diction (like teaching the International Phonetic Alphabet [IPA] in individual lessons) or do not have su cient knowledge in all the languages: thus, the need for diction as a course in college/university settings. This course is usually taught at the freshman/sophomore level and is required for performance majors. It is also required for music education majors (choral speci c), since these future educators will be
working with diction in choral and individual-lesson capacities.
Why is diction so difficult to learn?
There are many stumbling blocks in learning diction. The following answers address several common diction questions.
What do I pronounce and what don’t I pronounce?
Rules for languages and the possible exceptions to those
rules make diction confusing. For example, we tend to think that French is the hardest language
to get diction-wise, but most of
the rules in French have been codi ed. Learn and understand
the rules, and it becomes easier to comprehend. Italian, on the other hand, has several rules that vary depending on both the teacher’s
and the book author’s origin and training. Therefore, the rules and the exceptions to the rules vary from teacher to teacher and textbook to textbook.
o i

   50   51   52   53   54