A blog for the Alexandria, Virginia, Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
What is a diphthong?
A diphthong is two pure vowel sounds elided together as one sound in a single syllable.
Since one can only sing one pure vowel sound at a time, it is essential in choral singing to time the group's transition from one of diphthong's constituent pure vowels to the next ("turning the diphthong").
For example, "EYE" is a one-syllable word with one diphthong sound consisting of "ah" and "ee". "Ah" and "ee" are 'pure' vowels, meaning they cannot be broken down into any constituent sounds. When singing "EYE", a chorus usually focuses on the "target vowel" (the first pure sound in the diphthong, which in this case is "AH") as long as possible, before adding the second pure vowel as directed.