The International Phonetic Alphabet is a necessary tool for better appreciation of sound production and more importantly, sound categorization. To better understand the mouth shapes, subtle differences in the manner of articulation and to communicate those things effectively between people is an important asset in learning how your English pronunciation differs from another person's. Take a step back and the IPA does this for all sounds (at least those based on air flowing out from the lungs). Period.
Sounds are characterized based on:
1) Key location of production; and
2) Manner of articulation.
Key location of production
Bilabials - involves both lips
Labiodental - involves lips and teeth
Dental - involves teeth
Alveolar - involves the alveolar ridge (the inside ridge behind the teeth)
Postalveolar - involves the area just next to the alveolar ridge
Palatal - involves the hard palate (the hard roof of your mouth just before it becomes soft)
Velar - involves the soft, squishy roof of your mouth (further in your mouth)
Glottal - involves the vocal cords
Manner of Articulation
Plosive - Airflow is blocked
Nasal - Airflow escapes through the nose
Tap - Sound is produced via the contact of one part in the mouth against another. Similar to a plosive without the buildup of pressure.
Fricative - Airflow escapes through a narrowed opening (similar to whistling)
Lateral Fricative - Similar to a fricative but the airstream is directed over the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle.
Approximant - Similar to a fricative but with a less narrowed opening
Lateral Approximant - Similar to an approximant but the airstream is directed over the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle.