A research group made up of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish authors released a study last Friday that examined the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s unique voice — and what made it so special.
“Freddie Mercury — acoustic analysis of speaking fundamental frequency, vibrato, and subharmonics” analyzed Freddie Mercury: The Solo Collection, and other Queen songs to answer questions about his iconic and wide-ranging voice.
Christian Herbst, who is a voice scientist at the University of Vienna, led a group of researchers in also analyzing interviews of Mercury using his speaking voice, and employed an endoscopic camera to study an imitation singer’s larynx at 4,000 frames per second.
The study found that not only was Mercury a likely natural baritone who sang as a tenor, but he also employed something unique called subharmonics in his singing, according to Consequence of Sound (CoS), which interpreted the lengthy study.
CoS reports subharmonics is “a singing style where the ventricular folds vibrate along with the vocal folds,” and notes that most people “never speak or sing with their ventricular folds unless they’re Tuvan throat singers, so the fact that this popular rock vocalist was probably dealing with subharmonics is pretty incredible.”
Additionally, CoS notes that Mercury singing capabilities went far beyond even those of acclaimed opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, and that his vocal cords “moved faster than other people’s.”
One popular claim about Mercury’s voice that the study was unable to substantiate is that he possessed a four-octave voice.
Mercury’s unofficial biography notes he “showed off his impressive four-octave vocal range on the innovative track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’”
The study found it “not be reliably concluded (nor can it be ruled out) that such a phenomenon existed in Freddie Mercury’s voice.”
Read the full study here.
Freddie Mercury fronted Queen from 1973 until his death in 1991.
Listen to samples of his voice below: