Freddie Mercury: Voice Profile and Vocal Range (2022)

Vocal Range: F2 – F5 – D6 (A6)[1]https://therangeplanet.proboards.com/thread/218/freddie-mercury

Vocal Fach: Spinto Tenor (3 Octaves and a major sixth)

Analysis: One of the most prolific and revered vocalists of the 20th Century, Freddie Mercury is a singer who needs no introduction. Known for his impassioned, gritty vocal performances, large vocal range and soaring upper register, Mercury has influenced generations of rock vocalists over several decades. A classically trained pianist at a young age, it’s unclear the extent to which he received vocal training. Regardless, his voice demonstrates clear operatic qualities, in combination with stylistic inspirations from Soul singers like Aretha Franklin. While his legacy in the wake of his tragic death has slightly inflated his stature as a vocalist, Mercury was clearly a skilled and proficient musician.

Described by a peer as having perfect pitch thanks to his piano training, Mercury carried his trained musical ear with him during his live performances. His pitch was consistently centered and unwavering in the wide majority of his range, suggesting not only strong musical knowledge but a strong technical foundation as well. When watching footage of Mercury sing, one can see this technical knowledge at play: a wide, open mouth, conscious of its shape, and good tongue placement with it flat, pressed against his molars as he ascended. However, Mercury almost universally sang his powerful climaxes – and even many lyrical lines – with a rocky distortion, which can degrade one’s voice over time.

A widely reported 2016 study found that Freddie’s vocal cords oscillated quite quickly: while one’s vibrato will typically fluctuate between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz, Mercury’s registered 7.04 Hz. This is not necessarily a positive trait, as fast vibrato can indicate vocal stress, but was attributed by the report as an appealing quality of his voice.[2]The full report can be read here, but its merits as a study of vocal pedagogy should be taken with a spoonful of salt as it relies mostly on interviews and impressions: Freddie Mercury—acoustic … Continue reading Mercury believed the alignment of his teeth aided his voice; while it seems unlikely that this was the case, his infamous overbite probably gave him ideal jaw placement as a vocalist.[3]Sadolin, Katrin. Complete Vocal Technique. “The lower jaw should be pulled inwards compared to the upper jaw,” p. 14.

Mercury’s vocal fach is a point of controversy, but most seem to identify him as a tenor with a notable minority believing him to be a baritone. His voice is known for being aggressive, fiery, and dramatic, with passages sitting quite high, going as high as E5 with a chesty sound, well outside the work of most Pop (or even operatic) Baritones. While Mercury notably “rejected an offer to sing as baritone in an opera duet with the [operatic soprano] Montserrat Caballe because he feared his fans might not recognize his voice,”[4]https://www.irishnews.com/arts/music/2016/04/18/news/freddie-mercury-did-not-have-four-octave-singing-range-research-finds-490676/ it is possible for a vocalist to take roles that fit different voice types or fachs, meaning that he can still be classified as a tenor while being able to reliably handle a baritone part. If classified as a Spinto Tenor – a larger, metallic tenor voice with some baritone qualities – this could encompass both his operatic voice and his work with Queen, which is widely accepted as being tenor repertoire. Even if one contends that he could’ve been an operatic lyric voice, his pop vocals should be considered Spinto work for the field.

While Mercury’s vocal range is widely circulated as being four octaves, there are a number of caveats to this assessment. The notes Mercury hit above soprano C are difficult to qualify and quantify due to the poor quality of live recordings – his voice often gets buried by the rest of the band, and many of these sources being audio-only makes attribution difficult as well. These notes are, when clearly attributed to him, often sang as exclamations and not parts of a melody. With this in mind, while he may not have had a four octave vocal range, his range was still considerable, reaching up to D6 from the low note of F2.

What was Freddie Mercury’s vocal range?

Widely reported as being four octaves, it was likely 3.5, as Mercury’s upper extension was questionable.

What was Freddie Mercury’s highest note?

His highest sung note was a D6, while he “exclaimed” all the way up to A6.

What was Freddie Mercury’s vocal type or fach?

Mercury was a tenor in his work with Queen, although he was offered a Baritone operatic part which he declined out fear that fan’s wouldn’t recognize his voice. He was however likely a Spinto Tenor, due to the tone, size, weight, and high tessitura of his voice.

References

References
1 https://therangeplanet.proboards.com/thread/218/freddie-mercury
2 The full report can be read here, but its merits as a study of vocal pedagogy should be taken with a spoonful of salt as it relies mostly on interviews and impressions: Freddie Mercury—acoustic analysis of speaking fundamental frequency, vibrato, and subharmonics
3 Sadolin, Katrin. Complete Vocal Technique. “The lower jaw should be pulled inwards compared to the upper jaw,” p. 14.
4 https://www.irishnews.com/arts/music/2016/04/18/news/freddie-mercury-did-not-have-four-octave-singing-range-research-finds-490676/

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