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 of Born 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 so effective.

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 find it?

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 directions.

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 their friends?

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 Born To Sing 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.