Aerosol and Droplet Generation from Performing with Woodwind and Brass Instruments

Lauren P Mccarthy, Christopher M Orton, Natalie A Watson, Florence K A Gregson, Allen E Haddrell, William J Browne, James D Calder, Declan Costello, Jonathan P Reid, Pallav L Shah*, Bryan R Bzdek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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The performing arts have been significantly restricted due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. We report measurements of aerosol and droplet concentrations generated when playing woodwind and brass instruments and comparisons with breathing, speaking, and singing. These measurements were conducted in a room with zero number concentration aerosol background in the 0.5-20 μm diameter size range, allowing clear attribution of detected particles to specific activities. A total of 13 instruments were examined across 9 participants. Respirable particle number concentrations and size distributions for playing instruments are consistent with those from the participant when breathing, based on measurements with multiple participants playing the flute and piccolo as well as measurements across the entire cohort. Due to substantial interparticipant variability, we do not provide a comparative assessment of the aerosol generated by playing different instruments, instead considering only the variation in aerosol yield across all instruments studied. Both particle number and mass concentrations from playing instruments are lower than those from speaking and singing at high volume, and no large droplets >20 μm diameter are detected. Combined, these observations suggest that playing instruments generates less aerosol than speaking or singing at high volumes. Moreover, there is no difference between the aerosol concentrations generated by professional and amateur performers while breathing, speaking, or singing, suggesting conclusions for professional singers may also apply to amateurs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAerosol Science and Technology
Early online date15 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC, EP/V050516/1). BRB acknowledges the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/P018459/1). LPM acknowledges funding from EPSRC (EP/S023593/1). Dyson, the Atmospheric Measurement and Observation Facility, and the Health and Safety Executive are acknowledged for APS loans. Fortius and Shoen Clinics are acknowledged for the provision of space to conduct the measurements. We acknowledge the performers for their participation in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


  • aerosol generation
  • aerodynamic size
  • airborne transmission
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • woodwinds


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