Is Japanese pronunciation altered in songs? If so, how?

Candidates for things which I'm wildly guessing might be affected are:

  • the realization of /r/: [l] vs [ɾ]
  • the realization of word-internal /g/: [ŋ] or [ɡ]

I'm also curious about any prescriptive traditions in this regard, if any exist. For example in Mandarin, 的 (de) is supposed to be pronounced as di, but modern singers don't necessarily adhere to this prescription. In German choral singing, there are certain traditions to over-enunciate some vowels or pronounce /r/ in a certain way – the rules seem to be flexible, so I'm hesitant to give examples as a non-professional.

If the answer is "there are no rules" or "it depends on the genre and the age of the singer", such information is also highly welcome.


  • 1
    Wiktionary (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E3%82%92) claims, albeit without a source, that を can be pronounced [ɰo] in songs (and personally, I'm almost certain I've heard this myself). Commented Jun 10 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


My observations from active listening:

  • /r/ indeed is more likely to be rendered as [l] (or closer to it), but this is not a hard rule.

  • The sokuon っ (which is of course completely unsingable) is replaced by a lengthening of the previous vowel (and this is accounted for when fitting lyrics to the melody). This is also discussed in the related question you found.

  • The diphthong /ai/ can be realized either normally or as two distinct vowels (perhaps split across different notes) as required to fit the song's rhythm. In one notable case there are consecutive lines of the lyrics end with this diphthong and both realizations are used. (I think this also affects /oi/?)

  • The verb 行く (including when used in te-iku form) is typically pronounced ゆく rather than the more usual (in speech) いく. However, this is only really consistent for the plain form; especially one sings いこう rather than ゆこう from examples I can recall.

  • Word-final す doesn't get devoiced in more classical/lyrical styles; it may be devoiced for effect in "edgier" songs as fits the mood. (This is not much different from how classically trained singers in Western languages might avoid word-final /s/ by joining it to the next word.) Word-final し is rarer in lyrics so I can't say as confidently, but I suspect it's treated similarly.

  • As Joshua Grosso mentioned in comments, を is indeed sometimes rendered [ɰo], e.g. here (right at the beginning). My guess is that this happens especially with 僕を (song lyrics very commonly use 僕・君 as pronouns) because it's easier to transition from /u/ to /o/ that way.

  • I found that even ordinary お can be rendered as [ɰo]; see 青い/あおい in the "The First Take" recording of いきものがかり's ブルーバード (Blue Bird), but interestingly not in the official video. Commented Jun 11 at 6:31
  • Note that (also pointed out in the related question though), sokuon is not totally replaced by a long vowel. The previous vowel may be lengthened but the final stop is not omitted. Commented Jun 12 at 6:45
  • @broccoliforest I find that I can't "hear" the stop, but that may just be my own perception. It could just as easily be interpreted as a variation in singing style (like staccato when playing an instrument). Commented Jun 12 at 9:16
  • For the sokuon っ, is the vowel lengthened even when the following sound starts with /s/? Commented Jun 15 at 12:06
  • @LoverofStructure I can't think of any examples offhand. It might depend on the style of singing or genre of music. Commented Jun 15 at 14:14

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