Research and guidance on COVID-19 and musical activity

This page assembles all the information we have found in one place to make it easier for you to refer to. It will never be complete, as new research and guidance becomes available all the time. So do let us know when you come across something not listed here and we will add it.

This page was last updated 14 August 2020

Research available now

  1. Research available now
  2. Various studies (mostly in German)
  3. Ventilation
  4. Practical/miscellaneous
  5. Face coverings
  6. Aerosol transmission

Research underway

  1. Research underway
  2. Guidance issued by UK government, other UK nations, other countries to amateur music groups
  3. Specific and entire guidance

 

Research available now

Most comprehensive collection and analysis of research available with relevance to the playing of music in any context (teaching one to one or groups, professional or amateur ensembles), with risk management measures for mitigation suggested. Includes four pages of links to other research.

  • Paper by Prof Martin Ashley, trustee of the Association of British Choral Directors (abcd), summarising research, there’s also a summary, and a separate sheet on aerosols (see also below).
  • This eagerly awaited US performing arts aerosol study has some preliminary recommendations, which are really useful.
  • A webinar from Australia is very interesting on transmission and research.
  • Here is an episode of Inside Health (BBC Radio 4) with Prof Jackie Cassell on singing (17 minutes in approx.).
  • The European Choral Association has a useful document with links to a lot of research and guidance in other European countries, as they have nearly all now resumed amateur music activity.
  • The ISM bring together of lots of research and guidance, including for music education.
  • An evidence review by the Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. 
  • Research about the Skagit County choir event (which has become well known as originating a lot of cases). It is in fact likely to have been caused by a combination of factors including long rehearsal, close proximity of singers, 75% of singers over age 65, attendance of symptomatic Covid-19 sufferer, lack of ventilation in room, snack sharing and touching the same surfaces (chair stacking), all 3 hospitalised cases had two or more underlying health conditions. The report surmises also (as other studies do) that some people may emit more aerosols than others when speaking or singing. Creating the terms ‘super-spreader’ (for an infectious high-aerosol emitting individual) and ‘super-spreading event’ (for an event which combines a number of high risk factors: crowds, proximity, sharing of surfaces, etc).
  • 'Comparing the Respirable Aerosol Concentrations and Particle Size Distributions Generated by Singing, Speaking and Breathing,' is research supported by Public Health England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and carried out by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Royal Brompton Hospital, including 'Voice Doctor' Declan Costello.

Various studies (mostly in German) 

Ventilation

  • A German study (available in German only) looks at the risks associated with different kinds of rehearsal rooms, recommends mechanical ventilation over windows/doors, that rehearsals be kept to less than 2x 30 mins with at least 15 mins ventilation in between where everyone leaves the room. Also emphasise social distancing and small size of group. 
  • study on the role poor ventilation in enclosed spaces plays in increased transmission.
  • Another study that highlights why ventilation is important in indoor environments to minimise infection via aerosols.
  • Finally, a study that examines the theory that in naturally ventilated indoor environment to minimise infection via aerosols exposure should be less than 20 minutes.

Practical / miscellaneous

  • A German team examine how CO2 concentration relates to presence of other aerosol particles in a room (so therefore how measuring CO2 could help estimate likelihood of virus concentration and thus danger levels).
  • Some researchers have actually come up with a spreadsheet calculator which can help you work out how large your room and how short your rehearsals should be. Download it in Excel and experiment with the ‘master-choir’ tab.
  • You can also download also this PDF version of a calculator, and this German PDF calculator.
  • Interesting research from Japan on how to re-shape the orchestra on stage
  • Many studies reference the fact that transmission appears to be very low outdoors and negligible when social distancing is maintained outdoors; this indoor transmission study focuses on this.
  • Brass Bands England have published results of a study into how covering the bells/ends of brass/wind instruments mitigates the emission of aerosols and droplets.

Face coverings 

Aerosol transmission

A number of studies reference the role of aerosols in transmission of Covid-19 as yet being poorly understood; that it is likely, but there is not yet sufficient evidence.

  • This editorial in the British Medical Journal summarises the science behind the airborne transmission of Covid-19. Also see this article published in Time magazine.
  • Several studies reference that different activities may lead to different levels of aerosols being emitted – sitting quietly, speaking/singing/shouting, exercising all have various levels, but they are all significantly lower than sneezing or coughing. See this Danish study.
  • This study researches which direction and how far aerosols spread from wind/brass/singing. 
  • This study (German only) also talks about how aerosols are thought to penetrate further into your lungs when inhaled than droplets.
  • And this study (German only) examines how the louder the volume, the greater the emission of particles.

Also unknown at present, is how long a dangerous amount of aerosol can survive in the air in an enclosed room if there is no ventilation. Some scientists’ estimate of 3 hrs is dismissed by others, and even how much virus may be carried by an aerosol particle, and how many particles’ concentration would lead to infection.

Research underway

Guidance issued by UK government, other UK nations, other countries to amateur music groups

At the time of writing (14 August), the guidance for England basically forbids group singing or playing of wind and brass instruments in a group, unless professional. Other amateur music groups can only meet in otherwise permitted groups, i.e. from six different households, outside. 

Specific and entire guidance

For group singing, choirs and playing certain brass musical instruments in groups ONLY.

Choir rehearsals have previously been linked to outbreaks in a number of countries (UK, US, Netherlands, South Korea).  In addition, there is some evidence emerging that the playing of brass and some woodwind instruments (e.g. trumpets, trombones, flutes) in groups may be associated with a higher risk of infection due to increased droplet transmission or aerosol emission.  

  • Given the potential increased risk of transmission especially due to group singing, choirs, and playing brass and some wind instruments in groups, the following precautions are recommended: 
    • Choir practice, teaching and performance, brass and wind instruments music group practice, teaching and performance should be done while maintaining very strict physical distancing of a minimum of 2 metres from other people, ideally outdoors, limit duration of indoor practice, teaching and performance with frequent breaks to facilitate regular ventilation of rooms and instrument cleaning (where applicable).
    • Singers, choirs and musicians of brass and some woodwind instruments should consider protective equipment and measures to minimise the potential for droplet or aerosol emission (e.g. instrument covers, screens, face coverings etc). 
    • Where group practice or performances are organised, a risk assessment should be carried out to minimise the risk to the participants and their audience, including bearing in mind the age profile and risk factors of the participants/audience in question.

The Norwegian Music Council has issued practical guidance, e.g. room size, with a great poster (even without fluent Norwegian!). Use Google Translate.

This webinar from Gondwana Choirs in Australia is about how choirs might get back to singing.

Guidelines for amateur groups in Belgium

Austria (choirs)

France (choirs)

German choir association

Guidance from one German state

Another German choir association has brief guidance (in English!)

Swiss guidance (in German)

The Berlin Senate enables choir rehearsals and performances to resume (read guidance from Berlin Choir Association in German, article in English) 
 


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.