Science is still struggling to explain the majesty of Freddie Mercury’s voice

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)

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “Science is still struggling to explain the majesty of Freddie Mercury’s voice

  • October 25, 2018 at 10:28 am
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    He’s amazing, it gives me chills and make me sad that we lost his great talent He also spoke more than English. Different languages use the mouth, vocals and breath differently. I think that had something to do with it. I am tone deaf singing in English my primary language, but don’t do half bad in Spanish, my second language, much to my not tone deaf husband’s amazement.

    Reply
  • October 25, 2018 at 3:23 pm
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    Have you listened to Marc Martel? It is eerie how much his voice and physical presence resembles Freddie. Check him out. Amazing, and Canadian to boot!
    This was his first audition which got him noticed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dREKkAk628I

    Reply
  • October 26, 2018 at 8:38 am
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    Amazing, hearing the isolated vocals. More needs to be said about Bowie’s voice on this track as well.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2018 at 9:03 am
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      Agreed. The two of them working together? Utter magic.

      Reply

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