Playing Wind Instruments Generates Less Aerosol Than Vocalization, COVID-19 Study Finds


Newswise – The aerosol generated by playing wind instruments and brass is less than that produced during vocalization (speaking and singing) and is no different from a person’s breathing, according to new research. The results, published online in the journal Aerosol science and technology, could be crucial in developing a roadmap to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the performing arts, which have been severely curtailed since the start of the pandemic.

The research project, known as PERFORM (ParticulateE RRespiratory matter at InFORM Guidelines for Safe Performance DistancingOrmeRs in a COVID-19 pandemicMic), was supported by Public Health England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UKRI and was produced by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Royal Brompton Hospital.

The study looked at the amount of aerosols and droplets generated when playing wind and brass instruments compared to breathing and vocalization (speaking and singing). The work was performed in an environment without background aerosol particles to complicate the interpretation of the measures, with nine musicians playing 13 wind and brass instruments.

The research team found that the aerosol (wind instruments and brass instruments is similar to that produced by breathing, based on the measurements of several musicians playing the flute and piccolo as well as measures on a range of instruments including clarinet, trumpet, trombone and tuba. Aerosol concentrations generated during instrument play were lower than those associated with high volume vocalization.

Large droplets (> 20 m in diameter) were not observed during instrument play but were observed during singing and coughing. Together, the results indicate that playing wind instruments and brass generates less aerosol than vocalizing at high volume levels.

The aerosol emission concentrations of musicians during breathing and vocalization were consistent with the results of a study conducted last year on a large group of professional singers. No difference was found between the aerosol concentrations generated by professional and amateur performers when breathing or vocalizing, suggesting that aerosol generation is consistent between amateur and professional singers, regardless their vocal training.

Dr Bryan Bzdek, senior lecturer at Bristol University School of Chemistry and corresponding author of the article, said: Restrictions related to COVID-19, as many activities in the performing arts have been and continue to be severely restricted. “

Jonathan Reid, director of the Bristol Aerosol Research Center and professor of physical chemistry at the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, added: “This study confirms that the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are likely to be high during vocalization at high volume. in poorly ventilated spaces. In comparison, playing wind instruments, such as breathing, generates fewer particles that could carry the virus than speaking or singing. “


“Generation of aerosols and droplets while playing with wind instruments and brass instruments” by Jonathan P. Reid, Pallav L. Shah and Bryan R. Bzdek et al. in Aerosol science and technology


Notes to Editors:

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr Bryan Bzdek and Professor Jonathan Reid, please contact Joanne Fryer [Mon to Wed], E-mail [email protected], mobile: +44 (0) 7747 768805 or Caroline Clancy [Wed to Fri], E-mail [email protected], mobile: +44 (0) 7776 170238.

An image of the scientific study is available for download from the following URL:

Legend: Award-winning classical musician and professional trumpeter, Alison Balsom is participating in the PERFORM-2 study. Alison is pictured in an operating room (an aerosol-free environment) playing the recorder in a funnel that allows researchers to measure aerosols generated by playing the instrument.

Credit: Bristol University

The image is for single use only, should be credited and should not be archived.

About Professor Jonathan Reid’s Research Group, University of Bristol

Professor Reid is Director of the EPSRC Aerosol Science Doctoral Training Center, current President of the UK and Ireland Aerosol Society and Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Bristol.

About the Bristol Aerosol Research Center (BARC) Research at the Bristol Aerosol Research Center (BARC) is focused on improving our understanding of the physical and chemical properties of aerosols at the single particle level. Aerosols play an important role in a wide range of disciplines, including atmospheric science, drug delivery to the lungs, the formation of structured micro- and nanoparticles, and the science of combustion.

About the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Department The Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) helps stimulate growth, enrich life and promote Britain abroad. We protect and promote our cultural and artistic heritage and help businesses and communities grow by investing in innovation and making Britain a great place to visit. We are helping to give the UK a unique advantage on the world stage, striving for economic success.

About UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organizations, businesses, charities and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximize the contribution of each of our components, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to ensure that everyone benefits from their knowledge, talent and ideas. Operating across the UK with a combined budget of over £ 8 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

Bristol UNCOVER Group In response to the COVID-19 crisis, researchers at the University of Bristol formed the Bristol COVID Emergency Research Group (UNCOVER) to pool resources, capacity and research efforts to fight this infection.

Bristol UNCOVER includes clinicians, immunologists, virologists, synthetic biologists, aerosol scientists, epidemiologists and mathematical modelers and has connections to behavioral and social scientists, ethicists and lawyers.

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Published by the University of Bristol and Imperial College London, United Kingdom

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