Singing with Diphthongs

Singing with Diphthongs

Everyone is singing with diphthongs. It may be an unusual word. But without them, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. So what are Diphthongs? How do we singers ensure we’re using them correctly? Dr Dan has the answers to these questions, as well as a couple of practical diphthong singing exercises in this short video.

First question to answer: what is a diphthong? Well, what better place to obtain a definition about the English language than the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. “Diphthong: a sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable, in which the sound begins as one vowel and moves towards another.”

It’s a bit like colours. We have the primary colours of red, blue and yellow. Separately they’re only three colours, but as every pre-schooler knows, if you add blue and yellow together you get a fourth colour: green. With colour the mixing options are virtually limitless, but fortunately the construction of language is rather more finite.


eye [aɪ̯] – as in the words ‘rise’ and ‘life
ay [eɪ̯] – heard in words like ‘day’ and ‘game’
oi [ɔɪ̯] – can be heard in ‘coin’ and ‘oyster’
out [aʊ̯] – as in the words ‘owl’ and ‘loud’
o [əʊ̯] – as in the words ‘low’ and ‘no’
ear [ɪə̯] – is heard in the words ‘dear’ ‘fierce’
air [ɛə̯] – is found in ‘lair’ and ‘careful’
oo-r [ʊə̯] – can be heard in ‘pure’ and ‘manure’

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