Before we get into the physiological uniqueness of Freddie Mercury’s voice, let’s take a listen to the isolated vocals of the Queen/Bowie hit, “Under Pressure.” Take note of Freddie’s ability to effortlessly change style, register, and timbre in mid-phrase.
Freddie had a supernatural amount of vocal control. Part of that is the talent seated in his brain. But he would have never been able to translate that talent into singing if he didn’t have the proper physiology. Science is still struggling to connect the two.
A new study in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology presents the analysis of Freddie’s voice. The boffins looked at recordings of interviews as well as isolated vocal tracks in an effort to figure how and why Freddie sang how he did.
Normally, Freddie spoke in a baritone voice, but when he sang, he was able to open up his throat (being “rather skilful in adapting his laryngeal configuration to musical needs”) to cover a range from low F#2 all the way to G5, which is three full octaves (Probably more, actually, but the study’s analysis erred on the side of being conservative). To put it another way, his singing voice could be as low as 92 Hz and as high as 784 Hz.
Freddie also was able to modulate vibrato in interesting ways, which added to his unique sound. Combine that with an innate unconscious use of subharmonics (another factor of physiology) and you have something that’s extremely difficult to duplicate.
Okay, but how? Dunno. Freddie’s gone, of course, so he’s unavailable for further study. Scientists can only speculate what really went on with those vocal cords and his larynx.
(Via The BBC)