Master Vocal Technique Teacher/Coach for Singers, and Published Author



As a voice teacher, I listen to a lot of artists. I never had a favorite singer or band. I have always liked a lot of different artists until about 18 months ago when I watched the movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody”; a movie dedicated to Freddie Mercury and the band QUEEN. I never realized how many hits they had; hits I’d always loved and was so familiar with. And although I’d always known Freddie Mercury had an incredible voice and range, as does every voice teacher I know, I’d already been on a quest to figure out what the qualities of a good singing voice really are, and in this case what, specifically, did this man have that made his voice so beautiful and such a standout.

So I started studying his voice, watching videos, noticing how wide he would open up his mouth and not just for the higher notes, but throughout his range. Come to find out that Freddie Mercury also had four more teeth (incisors) than normal and it is what made him have to open up his mouth so big and wide. Not only did he recognize that this increased his range, but this technique is also a technique that raises the soft palate for a more open throat thereby making it easier for the air and sound to travel freely through the pharynx (which is the tube that starts at the larynx and goes all the way up into the sinus cavities). You can see part of the open tube if you look right behind the back of your tongue and straight to the back wall of your throat. Just below the larynx, this tube morphs into what is called the esophagus. That’s the part through which food travels down until it reaches the stomach for digestion. Why it changes names is a mystery to me and perhaps if I reviewed more science I’d find out why. But since I don’t feel the need to know, I just liken it to a street name that suddenly changes names for no apparent reason…

The pharynx, unless you have a deformity, is a tube totally free of interference. It is also known as the echo chamber because this is where resonance comes from. Coupled with diaphragmatic support, when the sound travels up that tube from the larynx and up into the sinus cavities then the sound and air will reverberate against the cheekbones in your face. This area is also referred to as the mask and acts as your own internal microphone. (Picture wearing a costume ball mask and that is what teachers mean when they tell you to sing in the “mask”).

Another thing that makes a good singer is nice round open vowel sounds — especially as you ascend to the highest notes of your range. When singing really high, it is next to impossible to stay totally true to the vowel sound. All the vowel sounds will eventually transition into more of an AH or OH sound (as in the words FATHER or GO).  Though there is a universal way to spell out the vowel sounds, I spell them out as AH, EH, EE, OH, and OO. AH as in the word FATHER. EH as in the word THEM, EE as in the word TEA, OH as in the word GO, and OO as in the word YOU.  These are Italian vowel sounds. All songs are sung on the Italian vowel sounds. Why Italian?

Italian is the only language in the world that gives way to automatic right shape and placement. It is also true that these vowel sounds are mostly associated with the classical voice and opera genre. A lot of rock stars are classically trained for that reason. Rock, especially hard rock, requires the exact same round resonant vowel sounds and vertical placement as the classically trained voice in order to reach those higher and highest notes in the Rock genre. If not, you are at risk of injuring your voice (nodes, polyps, or nerve damage). Attempted otherwise, it will be extremely difficult to sing and you will find yourself trying to manipulate your voice in unnatural and very uncomfortable ways.

Your body will always alert you when it’s wrong. If you find yourself trying to hit high notes using the force of your breath in an effort to reach them (otherwise known as pushing), squeezing to try to control the flow of air to sustain phrases or to hold out a note for an extended period of time, and/or straining with your neck muscles for reach and it feels like your voice is choking at the top of your neck, then it is wrong. If it is that hard and takes that much work, then it is wrong.  It is that simple.

Another quality is tone. If you are not properly trained or have developed a bad habit because of a style that you are keen on, believing this is adding color and artistry to your voice, then the tone may not be as pleasant as you think. Additionally, if you are not recording your practice and closely listening on playback because you have gotten complacent, you may miss that the tone sounds somewhat distorted, that it might be slightly flat or sharp in pitch, or that you are losing notes in certain sections of your voice; losing notes in the area of your voice that used to be your sweet spots (where you always knew the very best of your singing voice was) and/or losing range.

It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve had a voice that has never failed you in the past and helped you achieve some degree of fame until one day you suddenly realize that you’ve lost a lot of what you used to have without a clue as to why. That is why even if you were born with a great voice, it is important to learn what it is that makes it right and why it makes your voice so good or great so that you never have to face the fear of knowing that you are losing it. There are a lot of pop stars who never took a voice lesson and then two or three years into the prime of their career find themselves in trouble. If they are smart, they will seek out a skilled voice teacher to learn why it all went so wrong and start re-training. If that happens, many will have to go on hiatus for up to a year to two to rehabilitate their voice before they can record a new album and tour again. So it’s always wiser to train.

When I started looking into Freddie Mercury’s voice, he had all that training, and the music of QUEEN is legendary. So much of the singing and songs themselves rooted in the classical genre. The power and know-how of not just Mercury’s voice, but also those in the band who sang back-up, go unrivaled in this genre. A year or so back, I read an article naming Freddie Mercury as the best male singer of all time — over and above the likes of Bocelli and other opera singers. Although I can’t remember which magazine I got this information from, I do remember that I read it because it was a credible and legitimate source.

These days, when I want a boost in mood, “The Best of Queen” is my go-to album. For myself, there is nothing like a great stereo system cranked at full tilt listening to the magnificence of that man’s voice and the extraordinary amount of songs with melodies that not only stick with you, but also transcend time. If you ever want to know what the qualities of a good singing voice really are, you only have to listen to one of QUEEN’s hits to find out.