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How to "sing" like Tim Armstrong (Rancid)?

Hi, I will be honest with you divas and dudes, this is probably gonna be a funny question for most of you, but I am actually seriously interested in this, so here it goes: since the mid-90s (my teenage years), Tim Armstrong is one of my "heroes" when it comes to music, and I like the Rancid albums from that time up to this day. I always was into punk, and I do believe it has left me a bit "musically challenged", in the sense that a lot of the bands I like have singers that aren't even on pitch most of the time, which I understand now, but back then, listening to an almost punk-only diet, I wasn't aware of it, and probably trained my ear to be quite insensitive to pitchiness in singers (I've broadened my taste now and think I got a bit better with this now). Also, as I am sure you will know from your own experience, it can be tricky to put the emotional response aside and analyse something that you really like, and have listened to 1,000s of times. So here is my question: can anyone give me some sort of breakdown on what the guy's techniques (or maybe, rather, lack thereof?!) are?

One of my favorite songs by Rancid is this one, I hope it is OK to put the link, I will delete it if it is a problem, let me know:


(Rancid: Corazon De Oro)

I can't even seem to figure out how loud/soft he sings, so any input from you is highly appreciated. If you don't have time to listen to the whole song, maybe the first verse, and the bridge (starting 2:20 mins in) are a good point to start.

Thanks everyone, this forum (and the course) are amazing. As a little treat for any of you helping, I will post my rendition of it once I got some responses (we already play the song with my band but I would like to use some KTVA Forum expertise to brush it up a bit).

Best regards, Klaus

Best Answer


  • Back in my days of punk music only three things were required to be successful.
    One, have an instrument(equipment), Two, cut your hair off, and Three, play as loud as possible.

    It didn't matter if you played in key or not so I highly doubt that there is much singing technique if any for punk singers.

    I could be wrong though.

    Peace, Tony
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    @videoace Hi Tony, that's definitely true to some extent, well they aren't usually striving for technical perfection and I doubt that Tim Armstrong has sung a single LAH scale in his entire career ;) but what I would be interested in: if I wanted to sound like that guy, if only on that song, there must be something that I can try to do. I was "inspired" to ask that question when Ken said that in order to find your own voice, you should be looking into the techniques of your influences (and he definitely is one of my major influences) or how to safely reproduce them with better techniques. Like, just as a random example, how there are instructions on how to copy Axl Rose without shredding your voice, by mimicking the tone in a safer way. I guess I just wanted to hear people's take on what that particular voice makes it what it is. because not all punk singer's sound the same, even if they follow the same 3 steps you describe above. So I meant: this particular guy. I would appreciate if you or someone on here would help me analyze his tone.

    I forgot to say, and that is also why I like him so much: He is the singer that made me realize that it is possible for me to be a singer. Since around age 12, until well into my late twenties / early thirties, I thought it is just not possible for me to sing (not even meaning good singing, just being psychologically able to sing). I was completely blocked (I think it must have been a bad comment from a music teacher at school, I can't remember, but I never dared to even try it anymore after that for a long time).

    It literally took me decades to realize I could at least try to sing, and that guy finally gave me the confidence that it could be actually possible for me to do so. BECAUSE he is not the best singer himself. That broke the ice, and that's why I am here now on this course, you see. So that's why I asked :)

    best, Klaus
  • I'm sure there is a way to safely sing it using Ken's techniques.

    That's also something I think about once in a while too.
    How do you use ken's techniques to reproduce the vocals of someone with no, or poor technique.
    For example: If someone was clearly straining on a note (singer with no technique), how do you reproduce it using technique?

    I really don't have that answer for you, but I know someone does, and they will post it shortly, and end the mystery for both of us.

    Peace, Tony
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    hi Tony, thanks, I appreciate any sort of input! I am not even really sure if his technique is unsafe, I don't even know how LOUD/SOFT he actually sings, sometimes i think he just mumbles into the mic at speech level (which I would imagine should be rather safe). They've been around and touring extensively pretty much non-stop since 1991 and he still sounds the same (I think), so maybe it is not too stressful on his voice, because he cannot really have good technique to protect him much (here I go, slagging off my "hero"). But yeah, it is indeed a mystery, people who agree he is not a great singer still love to listen to him for some reason (well, the songs are actually quite good). If this mystery ever gets solved, I figured it would be on this forum, so let's see!

    Take care, Klaus

  • I was just using an extreme example.
    Someone here a while back asked something similar about Jim Morrison (no vocal training), and some of the screams he did on their recordings. Some have like a yelp to them which I would imagine is done by stressing the cords, but I'm sure it could be done safely.

  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    hi @videoace & @highmtn, thanks for your answers, I will be recording my take on the song once the xmas craze is over, and post it in the demonstration section. meanwhile, have a nice Christmas! best wishes, Klaus
  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
    @Klaus_Trapp, you are a punk? - You are in the best hands. Have you seen Tony ( @videoace ) doing Rocket Man?

    Ich wünsche Dir schöne Weihnachten,

    PS.: The someone asking about Jim Morrison was @Michael4000! He mentioned a very cool video of Jim presenting vocals only.
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    @doc_ramadani Hi Marco, Dir auch schöne Weihnachten!

    Bis bald, Klaus
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    edited January 2019
    Hi @highmtn , @videoace , @doc_ramadani , as promised, my band's version of "Corazon De Oro" by Rancid, just some raw recording from today's practice, the keyboard guy is missing, but hey:

    I play guitar too so a bit tricky to remember all the good KTVA advice and implement it, but I definitely notice some improvement with pitch and support (you might ask: "how crappy did it sound before, if this is the IMPROVED version?" LOL)

    as always, you are welcome to tear it apart, I am not easily offended :)
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Glad to get a chance to hear you, @Klaus_T !
  • doc_ramadanidoc_ramadani Administrator, 2.0 PRO, Facility Management Posts: 3,978
    Hi @Klaus_T,

    wow very cool. I have to say that you have a very cool vibe in your voice, Klaus. I like it very much. I am looking forward to see your voice blossoming with the course.

    Was your drummer using a cajon?

  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,362
    Hi Doc @doc_ramadani , wow thank you, this means a lot to me because I always thought it had some not-so-nice (harsh, brittle, weak) undertones, and that my voice sounds kind of flat. Until about 5-6 years ago (which means until my early 30s), I never even dared to TRY to sing (maybe when I was alone but even then, not feeling great about it, thinking someone might walk in or something), I always wanted to sing but there was just a massive block. And I thought it would never be possible. The flatness is definitely getting better thanks to Ken and the help of all of you on here, so thank you for that.

    You are right about the cajon, actually, he never plays the drums, he is a full-time-cajonist so to speak (he only started to play the cajon last year, and he is doing it quite well already I think). All of the guys were friends first, then turned band-mates, and after years of trying to look for a drummer on the classifieds, I settled for the cajon-approach, because it is just so much better to play with people that you are friends with.
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