Born To Sing:
Talking with Howard Austin, creator of the Vocal Power Method
Howard Austin is a vocal coach specializing
in singing technique, style & performance. He is the author and composer
To Sing, a Vocal Power Method instruction package that
includes instruction book, DVD and audio 5 CDs. Over a million sold, and
his VP Method is used by voice teachers and students worldwide. Howard takes
time to explain to us why his method and technique are
What inspired you to call your vocal course Born To Sing?
Well, let’s start with, “What inspired me to sing?”
It was listening to some great voices and being thrilled and moved by them.
The title, Born To Sing, is based on my belief that we
are each born with this amazing and versatile instrument. From the beginning,
we learn to use it to express our intentions and feelings through sounds
and then words, and the voice becomes a powerful transmitter of emotion.
So, if we can learn to apply that to the singing voice, the singing voice
becomes a transmitter of emotion. We’re born with the instrument and the
passion. Technique to tune the instrument – Personal Style - frees
and feeds the passion. My Born To Sing Master Course features
the Vocal Power Method and covers these two elements that a
singer needs: Technique and Style training. The third element, physical
presentation – movement, body language, staging, mic. technique – requires
one-on-one, personal coaching. Teaching songwriting is also one-on-one.
So, you are born to sing and if you nurture it who knows what could happen…
What are some of the features of your Vocal Power Method?
Well, in person or through my Born To Sing
course, I cover technical control and artistic style. For Vocal Technique,
it’s a simple step-by-step approach to breath control, breath support, pitch
accuracy, clarity and projection, vibrato, volume dynamics and natural
resonances for tone coloring. And there’s Register-Blending to eliminate
the ‘break’. That gives you smooth singing throughout the vocal range.
There are several exercises for each of those vocals skills. Now, for Personal
Style, I focus on bringing out your expressive artist in any style – Rock,
R&B, Country, Jazz, Blues, Pop, Gospel, Broadway or classical – or your
own style. In all old or contemporary popular styles, there’s a huge space
for creativity. Here, we would use methods like creative improvisation. Exercises
in the Blues mode provide a vocal playground that opens up your creative
power. Improvisational freedom leads to discovering and perfecting your
own personal style. I teach my singers how to progress on their own and
how to keep the voice healthy.
How important is personal style and how do you help singers
Personal style is extremely important for the solo
recording / performing artist (not classical, not choral). My Born
To Sing Master Course devotes a fair portion of the program to
personal style development. As I mentioned earlier, exploring the Blues
scale and designing ‘licks’ builds improvisational freedom, which leads
to personal style. There are exercises to accelerate that process. Let’s
say you bring in a song that you want to add to your set – we might work
it several different ways till it feels right and maybe detail it with
some tasty melodic ‘licks’ … and maybe even take some liberties with the
lyrics. As for ensemble singing (choral, group), that requires close adherence
to the musical notation, lyrics and the conductor’s directions, no personal
style is needed or desired. For solo opera and classical singers, personal
style is a bit more important but subtle and subservient to the conductor’s
What is the single most important trait a performance singer
needs to develop?
Top of the list is connecting with your audience.
Your voice has to reach out and grab the attention and the heart. So, depending
on the style and the feel of the song, your goal might be to get them on
their feet, dancing – or provoke tears or even anger or longing. In a word,
that performance trait is ‘charisma’. It comes naturally to some, but
it can also be nurtured and developed. Technical control is a foundation,
a way of making your vocal instrument become a musical extension and expansion
of your expressive speaking voice. And, of course, there’s your live presentation.
I teach ‘Staging’ techniques for designing specific movement or choreography,
or just non-specific guidelines for staging any performance. So, will you
grab their attention and their hearts? Will they come back? Will they bring
What are the most common challenges faced by your students
and how do you help them overcome it?
The challenges vary with each singer, and with the
initial level of skill and experience. At any level, confidence will increase
with trust. When you can count on your voice to perform as you’ve rehearsed,
that’s confidence! Getting to love your own voice and love singing – that
is true joy. For my professional singers, it is sometimes a bit of technical
work to smooth out some imperfection – maybe working on staging and body
language for a new song. With less experienced students, it might be as
basic as perfecting pitch accuracy, holding notes and increasing the vocal
range. Also, finding appropriate songs to match your singing level and songs
that make you reach for the next level. At every level on the way to perfection,
there are new skills and deepening maturity to acquire.
Howard Austin is a versatile vocal artist whose
work includes a variety of starring roles on the musical stage as well as
night club performances and recordings. The
series has gained the attention and respect of professionals in both
classical and pop music fields. Howard has been a popular radio and TV
talk show guest with his vocal demonstrations and instant ‘on the spot’
analysis and instruction to callers-in and studio audiences.