Queen fans and music listeners can all agree that Freddie Mercury was undeniably one of the greatest vocalists to ever walk the Earth. But in case any naysayers should ever argue that statement, scientists have analyzed Mercury's singing and speaking voices and have revealed just how unparalleled his talent was.
A group of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers conducted the analysis of Mercury's vocals and published the results in the Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology. Although they could not confirm that Mercury's range covered four full octaves, they did find some unique discoveries about his voice. For instance, despite being commonly known as a tenor, Mercury was more likely a baritone. This assumption is based off of six interviews that were analyzed to find a median speaking frequency of 117.3 Hz. That, plus the story of Mercury turning down an opera duet out of fear that his fans wouldn't recognize his baritone voice, led to the conclusion that the frontman's voice was malleable enough to step out of its base range.
Although without a living test subject, the researchers were left with just past recordings. However, the team did recruit professional rock singer Daniel Zangger-Borch to imitate Mercury's voice. His larynx was filmed at 4,000 frames per second in order to examine just how Mercury's growls and vibratos were created. They concluded that Mercury employed subharmonics, which is a singing style where the ventricular folds vibrate in company with the vocal folds. Most humans do not speak or sing with their ventricular folds with the exception of Tuvan throat singers, which is an art form that requires great practice and discipline.
In addition, Mercury's vocal chords were shown to move much faster than the average person. A typical vibrato fluctuates between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz. Mercury's vibrato was at 7.04 Hz! A perfect sine wave for vibrato assumes the value of 1, which is very close to what opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sang at. Mercury, on the other hand, averaged a value of 0.57, meaning that he was vibrating his vocals to a range that even Pavarotti could not do.
You can read the team's study and analysis here, but we all know that the wonder of Mercury's voice was very clear from the beginning.