Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

This is the biological reason why Freddie Mercury had such a sensational voice

freddiemercury.jpg

Honestly, sometimes it's just painful looking back at old footage of Freddie Mercury. How can one man be that talented, that charismatic, that magical?

As well as being the greatest frontman of all time (just watch below), he was a phenomenal songwriter, an incredible pianist and, of course, an outstanding singer. Not to mention he rocked one of the most iconic 'taches ever seen on a human.

One group of scientists have taken a look at exactly what was going on in that voice of his, and have published a study in Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology (you all subscribe right), revealing some hugely interesting findings (you can read the full paper here).

A team of Austrian, Czech and Swedish researchers used another singer, Daniel Zangger-Borch, to imitate Mercury's singing style, including his famous "distorted" notes, filming his larynx at over 4,000 frames per second. They also studied a range of recordings of Mercury in action, as well as interviews, which enabled them to analyse his speaking voice.

By studying the latter, they found that Mercury was, naturally, a baritone voice (corresponding to a median speaking fundamental frequency of 177.3Hz), but he sang higher than this - as a tenor - "with exceptional control over his voice production technique.” His range was found to be 37 semitones - just over 3 octaves, which is fairly normal.

But what was not normal was Mercury's use of a physical phenomenon called subharmonics, where not only the vocal folds vibrate, but additionally a pair of tissue structures called ventricular folds - features not normally used in speaking, or in classical singing. The likes of Tuvan throat singers are known to employ this technique, but it's not something usually associated with rock singers.

His vocal cords also moved faster than most other singers. A typical vibrato moves between 5.4Hz and 6.9Hz, but analysis of 240 sustained notes from 21 acapella recordings showed that Mercury's was 7.04Hz - a "surprisingly high mean fundamental frequency modulation rate... reaching the range of vocal tremor".

Overall, Mercury was found to possess, "ample control over vocal registration and ‘blending the registers’, i.e. mixing the chest and falsetto registers", while they state, "that it is not too far-fetched to conjecture that Freddie Mercury was rather skillful in adapting his laryngeal configuration to musical needs, thus exhibiting a great variability of sound timbres for enhanced musical expression."

In other words, Mercury was the don. But we probably didn't need a team of scientists to tell us that did we?

(Image: Rex)

Related

queenhero1.jpg

The Ultimate Queen Quiz

rockalbumshero.jpg

The 50 Greatest Rock Albums Ever

hero1.jpg

25 Most Iconic Music Stage Outfits

ag.jpg

35 Musician-On-Musician Put-Downs

HERO1.jpg

The definitive 20 Best Moustaches in Music

BowieCrosby.jpg

Strangest Duets

Comments

More

Check out the exclusive euphoric new video from Tom Chaplin

Here's the promo for 'Still Waiting'

16 Jan 2017

David Bowie's most glorious rejections

Highly selective, and all the better for it

10 Jan 2017

The 17 albums you need in hear in 2017

Get your ears ready for these

by Dave Fawbert
09 Jan 2017

Can You Name 99 Songs From The 90s By A Single Video Screenshot?

09 Jan 2017

The KLF are coming back and this is why you should be excited

‘Transcentral, eternity, sheep’

by Dave Fawbert
05 Jan 2017

The biggest selling UK debut album of 2016 is pretty depressing

Even BRIT Award winner Jack Garratt couldn't top it

by Dave Fawbert
04 Jan 2017

This is the story behind that Bowie mugshot (and what happened next)

by Joe Ellison
01 Jan 2017

If there is any justice in the world this song will be Christmas No. 1

Chip Pan on Fire is the chart-topper we need

by Dave Fawbert
20 Dec 2016

The greatest alternative Christmas playlist

Festive (but not explicitly festive) tunes that you can hammer all year

by Tristan Cross
09 Dec 2016

Bear's Den's Ultimate Playlist

Indie folk Londoners reveal the songs they love

09 Dec 2016