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Personal profile

Personal profile

Professor David M Howard FREng, PhD, CEng, FIET started his university career as a Lecturer in Experimental Phonetics in the Department of Phonetics and Linguistics at UCL (1979-1990). He moved to the Department of Electronics at the University of York (1990-2017) where he gained a Personal Chair in Music technology and was Head of Department. David moved to his current post as the Founding Head of the new Department of Electronic Engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2017. 

David has been a member of the External Affairs Committee of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Education and Skills Policy Committee of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. 

Educational background

David M Howard holds a first class degree from UCL in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a PhD (1985) in Human Communication from the University of London on Larynx Frequency Speech Processing for Cochlear Stimulation

Research interests

David researches in the area of human speech and singing voice production and perception.

Current research includes (1) looking towards exploring the use of Virtual reality to explore the interior of the vocal tract visually and acoustically suring speech and singing, involving acoustic modelling of the vocal tract such that the output acoustic signal can be rendered anywhere within the tract, ideally in real-time, and (2) advancing the functionality of the Vocal Tract Organ which currently exists in two forms: (a) a keyboard instrument with stops as you would find on a church organ and (b) a pitch slider controlled instrument which controls note pitch as well as the volume of the output as the rate of change of note pitch, making the player a virtual singer. The Vocal Tract Organ will become a true ‘Vox Humana’ organ stop enabling exploration of multi-part vowel textures in performance. 

David's current research activities include the application of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) to enhance user experiences (he is CI on the StoryFutures AHRC Project 2019-2023) and previously the use of VR and AR for immersive story telling in heritage (CI on AHRC grant 2018), the use of data science in museums and heritage (CI on AHRC grant 2019), fundamental frequency estimation, pitch perception, tuning in a cappella choral singing, singing development in choristers at Wells Cathedral (on-going 6-monthy recording visits since 1990 With Prof Graham Welch and Dr Evangelos Himonides from UCL), vocal tract modelling with specific application to his Vocal tract Organ which was presented in a Flash-Mob Opera (Puccini's 'O mio babbino caro') context with soprano Dr Helena Daffern as part of their after dinner presentation to the Summer Soiree of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal at the University of York in June 2013.

In 2020, David was part of the team that created a vowel sound from the Egyptian Mummy, Nesyamun, using the Vocal Tract Organ {Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 45000 (2020)}; a paper that has had huge media acclaim from all over the world as well as over 410k downloads of the paper.

Other work

David was elected Fellow of theRoyal Academy of Engineering in 2014. Previously he was a Trustee (2004-2007) of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) during the period when it became the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). David was President of the British Voice Association (1997-1998) and Chair of the Engineering Professors' Council (1999-2001). He was on the IET pool of Accreditors (1997-2010) and he chaired the IET Education and Skills Policy Panel (2002-2014). He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Linking his research and choral conducting activities, David was made an Honorary Member of the Association of Croatian Choral Directors in 2016.

David was the Founder Editor of 'Voice - The Journal of the British Voice Society' (1992-1996), Editor-in-Chief of 'Logopedics, Phoniatrics Vocology' (2002-2015) and a member of the Editorial Boards of 'Forensic Linguistics: The International Journal of Speech Language and the Law' (1999-present); 'Organised Sound' (2001-present); 'The Journal of Voice' (2004-present), 'International Journal of Research in Choral Singing' (2007-present) and 'Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology' (2015-present). 

David has been involved in a number of Forecsic Audio investigations including: 'Acoustic analysis of audio tapes in respect of: South African Airways: Loss of B747 off Mauritius, November 1987' (1989), 'Acoustic analysis of audio tapes in respect of: Anko (in liquidation) v. Woolworth plc.' (1989),  Music Factory Master Mixes v. Big Wave Records Ltd. "Jive Bunny" (1990),'Acoustic analysis in respect of: R v Charles Ingram & Ors (Who wants to be a millionaire?)' (2003) and 'Acoustic measurements on passenger trains in relation to the passenger crossing fatality at Gomshall Station, 21/8/04' (2004).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education

Education/Academic qualification

Human Communication, PhD, Larynx frequency speech processing for cochlear stimulation, UCL, Dept Speech Hearing & Phonet Sci

1 Sept 19821 Jul 1985

Award Date: 1 Aug 1985

Electronic Engineering, BSC (Eng)

Award Date: 1 Jul 1977


  • Acoustics
  • speech
  • singing
  • voice
  • vocal tract organ
  • Electronic engineering

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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