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Cold, Sweaty, Stressed, Heart Pumping
Fast? It Affects Your Voice! Six Tips ...
November 25, 2014

By Carmi Levy
Senior Writer,

Picture the scene: You're in a studio, and are about to get down to work laying down some voice tracks.

The mic awaits, the producer sits ready at the sound board, and your voice is primed to do what it does best.

Or is it? If you're feeling cold, hot, stressed or otherwise less than 100% before you're scheduled to perform, you may not be able to deliver the goods.

As it turns out, our voices are a lot more sensitive to environmental conditions than we might have otherwise realized. Fortunately there are ways to avoid the risks and maximize your vocal performance no matter the weather. Read on to learn how.


Do environmental conditions like cold, rain, humidity or heat affect your ability to nail a performance? Bet on it.

I honestly hadn't given this one much thought until recently one morning. I had been asked to do a live television interview with Canada AM in Waterloo. The show is usually produced out of the CTV studios in Toronto, but on this morning they were broadcasting from Waterloo, Ontario, about an hour away from their usual home base.

The temporary studio was located in an outdoor parking lot beside a farmer's market. Surrounded by baskets of overflowing fruits and vegetables from the farmers market, it made for a picture-perfect scene in the pre-dawn darkness.

Mother Nature apparently didn't get the memo, though, as the temperatures hovered just above freezing.

So as I waited for the producers to sit me in the chair for the interview, I walked around the darkened parking lot, doing the occasional jumping jack (yes, singular. I was in a suit) in a futile attempt to stay warm.


By the time I clipped on the mic and sat down beside the hosts, I was shivering like an out-of-tune ukulele.

Thankfully, the stool where I sat was covered with an electric blanket. Portable heaters sat just outside camera range, radiating their heat into the brightly lit stage. I settled in and tried to forget I had lost some feeling in my mitten-less fingertips.

But there was work to do, and I didn't have time for discomfort: The clock ticked down to the interview, I shook off the last of the shakes and dove into the discussion.


The post-air review of the segment revealed what I suspected all along: I sounded a little different. Probably not enough for most casual viewers to notice. But I noticed.

And it got me thinking about the things we do to shake off the environment around us just before we perform. Our voices - and our entire bodies - are finely tuned machines that respond in various ways to conditions around us.

When I once rode my bike through a sticky summer's afternoon to do some voice work in a local studio, it took me at least a half hour after arriving for my heart rate to settle, my temperature to return to normal, and for the rest of me to feel like I wasn't about to hyperventilate.

It was time my producer didn't have, so by the time the red light went on, I was still breathing harder than I would have liked, and it took me a few more takes than usual before we could call it a day.


Here are a few suggestions for maintaining balance in those crucial moments before a performance:

1. Avoid strenuous exercise.

If you've decided to jog or cycle to your recording session, you might arrive a puddly, heart-racing mess.

Sure, if you arrive early you'll have enough time for a bird bath cleanup and a quick change, but it isn't exactly the foundation for a successful recording. It's distracting to you, potentially disruptive to the production staff, and not all that conducive to a well-focused work session.

2. Layer up.

If it's cold out, don't be like me and wear a suit. Even though most sound recording happens indoors, commuting through wintry streets could throw some chills your way before you get there.

Dress in layers so you're warm enough while en route, and can then take off what you don't need after arrival.

3. Get fresh.

In warm and/or humid climates, get as much fresh air as possible before you're scheduled to record.

Avoid both hot and humid conditions, as well as air conditioned zones. Transitioning between the two can also be problematic for vocal health, as differences between warm and humid air and cool, dry environments can accelerate dehydration.

If there is a risk of some places being supercooled, bring a sweater to avoid feeling chilled - which can also compromise vocal performance, suppress immunity and lead to other illnesses.

4. Build in time buffers.

Never arrive just before a recording session is scheduled to begin. Leave lots of extra time to cruise in, check in, settle down and transition from outside to inside mode. Because you absolutely don't want to be battling traffic while watching the clock in a panic as you nervously dial the studio to tell them you might be late.

5. Travel early.

In a similar vein, get bitten by the early bug if you're traveling to another city or region for a voice job. If you can complete your journey the night before instead of the morning of, do it. Strolling over to the work site from the hotel is a lot easier than watching a line of thunderstorms force the airline to cancel your early morning flight.

6. Avoid smoke at all costs.

While I certainly feel for folks who smoke - they are, after all, wrestling with one of the most addictive substances known to humankind - I'm also aware of how even small amounts of exposure to second-hand smoke can compromise vocal health and performance.

When you're out and about, avoid standing next to or downwind from public-area smokers. Avoid enclosed areas where smokers might be: Even if they aren't smoking at that moment, a simple whiff of their clothes can easily be problematic for some voice professionals who are more sensitive than others.

My wife, who suffers from asthma and never leaves home without her inhaler, knows this risk all too well. While we've got lots of empathy for smokers, her experiences while out and about have opened our eyes to the large impact even limited second-hand exposure can cause.
Carmi Levy is a technology analyst, journalist and Senior Writer at, the voice over industry website that connects businesses with professional voice talent. At, Levy is responsible for engaging's audience in innovative ways and positioning the organization as a thought leader in the voice community and beyond.


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Comments (1)
J. Valentino
11/25/2014 at 4:37 PM
The best point in this article is the one about being early to a session. That's huge.
The part about smoking is rather cliche and getting tiresome.
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