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Diction for the word 'WORLD'

  I'm struggling with how to instruct my singers (grades 5-6 2-part chorus in a public school setting) to sing the word 'world' on a sustained note.  For example, the phrase 'too rough fingers of the world______" in Rollo Dilworth's "The Dream Keeper," where 'world' is sustained for 7 beats at a slow tempo.  Which parts of the word would you recommend sustaining,when, and how should I ask them to achieve the r - l - d sounds?  Thank you for all your ideas.
on January 13, 2016 7:47pm
I'm doing the same piece with my 4-5 non-aditioned chorus.  I demonstrate the pronunciation more than I explain it;  they are pretty used to the idea that in singing we have to pronounce things differently than when we speak. If I had to explain without demonstrating, I would tell them that basically they should sing "world" as "wood with an L in it."
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on January 14, 2016 3:01am
The most important thing in this matter seems to me to produce a clear long sustained vowel somewhere between 'Ah' and 'Uh'. Just before the end of the note (or the next word) make them produce a short 'flipped' r-l-d in one 'whirling' move of the tongue.
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on January 14, 2016 7:29am
I'm fairly close to Kate's description. What I do is have them sustain on the vowel /œ/, what we choral directors know as the German open O with an umlaut (as in the word "öffnen"). I describe the vowel to my singers in the following manner: "Shape your mouth like how you would shape it for the word "box" and speak /ɛ/ as in the word "bed". I have them practice this sound out of context, and even have them sustain it on a single pitch until they have it down. As for the final three consonants, I skip the "r" entirely - the vowel I described above is close to an r-colored vowel in the context of English, so that is taken care of. Place the l and d together at the very last possible moment. Good luck!
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on January 14, 2016 5:33pm
The great advantage in the approach described by Kate, Bas, and Elizabeth, in addition to producing the best singing sound for this hard-ro-sing word, is that it requires the minimum action by jaw, lips, and tongue. Excessive movement of the mouuth parts is tiring, slows the transition from one syllable to another, and often peoduces distorted sound that doesn't blend well. As for R, I use the British butler saying "Very good, sir." Flipped R in the first word, and omitted in the last.
on January 15, 2016 8:50am
They're probably not familiar with the name "Goethe" so I would simply make that vowel sound and ask them to echo it back to me. I might continue this as I walk among them, listening. 
on January 16, 2016 3:53am
All good responses so far, so I'll go for one my kids came up with, and which has worked remarkably well for me over the years.
Kids are phenominal mimics, so if you suggest they pronounce it with an "English accent," they likely will know exactly what that means and will be able to do it well. You can invoke Harry Potter as an example.
on January 16, 2016 10:33am
The easiest way I've found to solve the American "r" is to allow singers to use as much nasty "r" as they'd like . . . as long as they keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom front teeth. The retroflex "r" is created by pulling the tongue back. In the case of "world," encourage the singers also to keep the tongue forward to finish off the word with the "l" and "d" at the last moment. In fact, I believe that most of the problems our singers have in the U.S. as well as in the countries where I've worked are tied to speech habits that unconsciously pull the tongue off the back of the bottom front teeth.
Regarding asking "Goethe" to solve the problem, it could be of help. However, it is my experience that most people who say that name pull the tongue up and back creating that retroflex "r." By focusing on the tongue placement of the "r," one can then transfer that learning to the other vowels and consonants that either excessively pull the tongue back or cause inappropriate tension in the tongue and jaw.
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