Freddie Mercury had one of the most recognizable voices in the music industry. How did he develop such an impressive vocal range? An international team of researchers got together to find out.
In a study published in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, researchers detailed how they analyzed the Queen frontman's voice using archived recordings and imitations from a rock singer. Based on their research, they discovered some very interesting things about the voice that has been described as "a force of nature with the velocity of a hurricane."
Speculations put Mercury's vocal range at over four octaves. However, the researchers were not able to establish this as either true or false. What the lead author for the study Christian Herbst did say was that Mercury's vocal range was typical for a healthy adult.
Additionally, contrary to his image, Mercury was possibly a baritone who performed as a tenor, thanks to exceptional control over how his voice is produced. The singer was said to have rejected an invitation to sing in an opera duet with Montserrat Caballé because he would have to do so as a baritone. Mercury was worried that as he is known as a rock singer, he would not be recognized when he sings in baritone.
The study also examined his intentional distortion of his voice to create "growl" sounds. When a rock singer imitated Mercury's voice, he had his larynx filmed at a rate of more than 4,000 frames per second with a high-speed camera.
This offered the researchers a closer look at what Mercury physically does while singing to produce distortions in notes. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the singer drove his voice to the limit using subharmonics and he had a vibrato unlike others.
A unique physical phenomenon, subharmonics is observed when vocal and ventricular folds vibrate. Ventricular folds are not usually used for classical singing or speaking.
Other authors for the study include: Per-Åke Lindestad, Daniel Zangger-Borch and Stellan Hertegard. According to them, their research not only leads to a deeper understanding of the dynamics behind the voice but also honors Mercury's legacy.