Impulse dispersion of aerosols during playing wind instruments

PLoS One. 2022 Mar 3;17(3):e0262994. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0262994. eCollection 2022.


Musical activities, especially singing and playing wind instruments, have been singled out as potentially high-risk activities for the transmission of SARS CoV-2, due to a higher rate of aerosol production and emission. Playing wind instruments can produce condensation, droplets of saliva, and aerosol particles, which hover and spread in the environmental air's convectional flows and which can be potentially infectious. The aim of this study is to investigate the primary impulse dispersion of aerosols that takes place during the playing of different wind instruments as compared to breathing and to speaking. Nine professional musicians (3 trumpeters, 3 flautists and 3 clarinetists) from the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra performed the main theme from the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th symphony in different pitches and loudness. The inhaled air volume was marked with small aerosol particles produced using a commercial e-cigarette. The expelled aerosol cloud was recorded by cameras from different perspectives. Afterwards, the dimensions and dynamics of the aerosol cloud were measured by segmenting the video footage at every time point. Overall, the flutes produced the largest dispersion at the end of the task, reaching maximum forward distances of 1.88 m. An expulsion of aerosol was observed in different directions: upwards and downwards at the mouthpiece, at the end of the instrument, and along the flute at the key plane. In comparison, the maximum impulse dispersions generated by the trumpets and clarinets were lower in frontal and lateral direction (1.2 m and 1.0 m towards the front, respectively). Also, the expulsion to the sides was lower.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*

Grant support

This work ist supported by the State of Bavaria, Germany.