Malay Diction Guide

Malay is fairly phonetic and straightforward for English-speaking singers. You probably already know how to make all the sounds you’ll need.


a is like the [a] in father. (It is sometimes pronounced more like [ə] at the end of words in speech, but I prefer [a] for singing.)

e is usually pronounced somewhat like the [ə] in away, but sometimes like [e] as in egg. In the latter case, I mark it with the following diacritic in the score: é.  

i is like the [i] in bee.

o is like the [o] in core.

u is like the [u] in food.


Most consonants are close to their English equivalents. A few clarifications are:

c is like the [tʃ] in church.

j is like the [dʒ] in jump.

p, t, and k are not aspirated. At the ends of words, they sound more like glottal stops.

r can be pronounced a variety of ways, but for singing I prefer it flipped like a Spanish or Italian r.

Several consonants appear only in loanwords, and to date they do not occur in my music. If you are singing a piece in Malay by another composer and you have questions, Wikipedia lists these consonants as well.  

My works that include Malay