Guide to pronunciation

Guide to pronunciation


You’re an advanced music student, or you are a very well-informed parent.  You’ve been invited backstage after a wonderful concert, and you’re happily chatting with the musicians.  “Your interpretation of the eye-burt was superb”, you gush, happy that you remembered the names from the program notes.  “I also enjoyed the mill-howd”, you add with enthusiasm.  You’re confused by the blank stares and the mumbled replies.  It’s only when you overhear another conversation that you realize the composers’ names, Ibert and Milhaud, should have been pronounced ee-behr and mee-yoh.  Oh my, what an embarrassment!

One of the exciting and sometimes frustrating things about studying music is that the learning never ends, even for highly trained professionals.  Just when you’ve memorized each passage of a piece, mastered the techniques of performing it, even discovered all its theoretic and analytical aspects, you realize you’re not sure how to pronounce the composer’s name or the title of the piece!

Here are some sites that will help you as you study or perform pieces from different periods and different countries.   Reading a pronunciation guide is one thing, but hearing a native speaker pronounce a word or phrase is quite another experience.   These wonderful sites all give audio pronunciations that will be invaluable to your progress as a well-rounded musician.


In this first site, a classical radio announcer has compiled an audio list of foreign names frequently used in classical music that might be challenging to pronounce correctly.  For example, “Bayreuth”.  You can’t talk about Wagner without mentioning Bayreuth, but in some conversations, it sounded like his operas were performed in Beirut!

Here is another very special site which aids in pronunciation of all musical terms, in addition to the pronunciation of composers’ names.

These sites might become favorite reference tools for those of us who talk a lot about classical music.  When in doubt, just go listen to the pronunciation!

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