Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, CSU engineers led by Professor John Volckens teamed up with musicians and performers to quantify respiratory particle emissions from singing and playing wind instruments that could spread the virus.

The results of their measurements of emissions from woodwinds and brass instruments were published in the journal Scientific Reports, with Dan Goble, director of the CSU School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, as co-author.

Eighty-one volunteers between the ages of 12 and 63 played the bassoon, clarinet, French horn, oboe, piccolo, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, and tuba in a cutting-edge aerosol measurement chamber.

Brass instruments, on average, produced 191% more aerosols than woodwinds. The highest particle counts of brass-playing were even higher than the highest results from singers in a previous study published in 2021, by nearly a factor of four.

Being male was also associated with a 70% increase in emissions from instruments, probably due to lung size and capacity. Louder playing of brass instruments was associated with higher particle counts, but louder woodwinds didn’t increase emissions.