Tribute performances are not just cover songs; tribute artists have to match the style, outfits, environment, and demeanor of the original artist. As a beginner tribute artist, it’s easy to get lost in trying to add your own flavor to the original songs that the songs lose their identity.
For solo singers and tribute band vocalists alike, here are 3 mistakes beginner tribute singers make and how you can avoid them.
“I can’t stress this enough; you have to develop a timbre as close to the original artist’s voice as possible,” says Jerred Price, the lead of the most popular Elton John tribute band in the world. He advises beginners that having a timbre that reminds audiences of the original artist is vital for a tribute vocalist.
Britannica encyclopedia defines timbre as “the quality of auditory sensations produced by the tone of a sound wave.” When you sing a particular note, say A4, your vocal folds vibrate at the frequency corresponding to that note, 440 Hz in this case. The resulting sound wave is what we recognize as the pitch of note A4. But different instruments produce the A4note differently, and so do different voices. This quality is called the timbre of the instrument or the voice.
Different people have a different timbre—slight variations in how the vocal folds vibrate that gives you your distinct voice. But it is entirely possible to develop your timbre to match someone else or, at least, learn to produce a pseudo timbre and sing naturally in that voice.
As a beginner, it’s unlikely you’d have the same vocal range as your favorite artists—and it’s not just the width of the range that matters. Even if you have a wide vocal range, it doesn’t guarantee that you’d be able to hit all the notes as the original singer; a ten-year-old even with a wide range can’t hit low notes, for example.
Trying to hit notes too high or too low for your range will only ruin your performances. Jerred Price says, “It’s completely legal to move the key up or down a bit if you can’t hit some notes. This is much better than squeaking during a performance.” But starting a song in a different key than the original might surprise the audience. Price suggests establishing the key by playing your instrument before you start singing.
“Focus on even the most minor details such as how the artist produces a certain note in a song or at what note does the artist change their register,” says Price. He also advises practicing nuances for different songs individually instead of considering yourself a master of all the artist’s work after practicing a single piece.