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

Cruz Beckham just released a Christmas song produced by Rodney Jerkins

The youngest Beckham son launches his music career

by Dave Fawbert
07 Dec 2016

This supercut of noises Chance the Rapper makes is Very Important

All together now: AIGH. IGH. AH. BUH-BUH. AIGH.

by Sam Diss
06 Dec 2016

16 things you (probably) didn't know about Appetite for Destruction

Fascinating facts about the Guns N' Roses classic

05 Dec 2016

The Smiths to release first 'new' single in 21 years

Indie fans rejoice

by Dave Fawbert
01 Dec 2016

JME on Drake, dealing with fans and Donald Trump

"Drake, Skepta and JME might have a hit out, with no beat, that’s just a capella"

by Louise Donovan
01 Dec 2016

How to get noticed according to Kaiser Chiefs

A lesson in defying expectations & keeping things fresh by the Leeds indie rockers

28 Nov 2016

An ode to Popworld: the show which delighted in being badly behaved

Remembering Amstell and Oliver's era of genius

by Dave Fawbert
28 Nov 2016

In defence of Joe Corré's £5m punk burning

Why the great bonfire was actually a great thing to do

by Dave Fawbert
28 Nov 2016

Liam Gallagher has announced the date for his first solo show

Find out when he'll be 'avin it large

by Jamie Carson
28 Nov 2016

How I was finally forced to admit that Bruno Mars is a pop genius

I hated him, now I love him

by Dave Fawbert
24 Nov 2016