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The Secrets Behind Freddie Mercury’s Legendary Voice

October 6, 2019


Ask just about anybody who the best singer in rock history is and they’ll probably all give you the same answer Freddie Mercury. His astounding vocals were at the center of Queen’s sound and a big reason why they were one of the most critically and commercially successful bands of all time. Vocal quality can often seem to come down to opinion and these debates can often get really contentious But it seems at least to me like there’s a universal love for Freddie’s voice, so why is that? Let’s take a closer look… One of the first things that people will talk about when it comes to Freddie Mercury’s singing is his range He allegedly had a range from a low F2 to a soprano F6. This is what that looks like on a musical staff, and here’s what the low-end sounds like in ”All Dead, All Dead” (Note: Freddie only sings the backing vocals here) You can hear the upper end of Freddie’s vocals in this astounding moment from ”Under Pressure” That kind of range is impressive enough on its own, but Freddie knew how to use it Montserrat Caballé is a Spanish opera singer who recorded an album with Mercury She said that she was floored by the way Freddie could move around within that giant range She said “He was able to glide effortlessly from a register to another” A second aspect of what made Freddie so incredible was how performative he was with his vocals “The difference between Freddie and almost all other rock stars was that he was selling the voice” Caballé said He also had a great musicality His phrasing was subtle, delicate and sweet, or energetic and slamming. He was able to find the right colouring or expressive nuance for each word Listen for the color nuance and performance in “Somebody To Love” Every single note that comes out of Freddie’s mouth is carefully placed and belies the emotion of the song The wide array of influences in Queen’s music helped Mercury display the versatility of his voice Their music was informed by hard rock and musical theater, by gospel and disco It was all over the map and each of these styles has different vocal traits that Mercury was able to inhabit flawlessly Listen for the way he can belt it out on the hard rock banger “Tie Your Mother Down” But his vocals feel equally at home in the rockabilly tune “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” Or how about the operatic interlude in “Innuendo” Freddie Mercury can slip in and out of genres seamlessly and sound perfectly comfortable in all of them In 2016 a group of researchers published a study on Freddie Mercury’s voice That study found a few things about him The first is that while Freddie frequently sang in the tenor register. His natural voice was actually a baritone It seemed like no trouble at all for Freddie to jump out of his natural range for most of his career. What’s more impressive that the researchers discovered is his vibrato. A vibrato is a regular pulsating change in pitch that adds some expression and texture to an instrument or vocal. Usually a vocal vibrato moves between the frequencies of 5.4 Hertz and 6.9 Hertz. The study found that Mercury’s went as high as 7.04 Hertz Researcher christian Herbst said on top of this his vibrato was more irregular than others He said this creates a kind of “vocal fingerprint” that really helped Mercury’s voice stand out If you want to hear the vibrato in action check out “We Are The Champions” The study was also interested in the grit and growl that Mercury could add to his voice You can hear that in songs like “I Want To Break Free” By filming the larynx of a singer imitating Mercury they were able to see what his voice was doing they discovered that he was using something called subharmonics Which not only used the vocal folds, but also a body part called the ventricular folds These tissues don’t tend to get used in speaking or classical singing, but they’re actually part of what gives Tuvan throat-singing its unique sound. It’s impossible to know whether Freddie was consciously doing this or it was just his natural instinct But it’s equally impressive either way and of course, I couldn’t end this video without talking about “Bohemian Rhapsody” The song is Mercury’s opus, and that’s because it combines everything that makes Freddie great The song is filled with harmonies that show off the range of Freddie’s voice all at once Though the video shows the band members singing, the opening of the song is a five-part harmony, That’s all multitrack recordings of Freddie As we move into the ballad we get a look at the color and emotion that mercury can bring to a song Every word is carefully placed and emphasized to augment the poignant lyrics Then we get to the iconic operatic midsection In this section we see how well Freddie’s voice meshes with the rest of his band and how he’s able to jump from innocent to sinister As it climaxes we break seamlessly into gritty aggressive hardrock vocals Finally we cut to a fragile emotional outro closing out as Freddie’s harmonies wash over us once more “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a great example of why Freddie is so revered It shows his versatility and his immense talent, but if you really want to appreciate Freddie, you can’t just stop there. Take a dive into Queens back catalogue, and you’ll really appreciate why Freddie Mercury was a true rock legend Hey everyone. Thanks so much for watching this video If you liked it, please like, subscribe and follow me on my patreon feed and if you want to keep an eye on what I’m up to or even just talk to me or ask questions about my video, You can follow me on Twitter at watchpolyphonic

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