Face masks for wind instruments and other inventions

This weekend I participated with the Behotsik orchestra, in the premiere of the zarzuela “Vientos del Norte”. It saddened me that the singers got on stage with the FFP2 masks. Expressiveness is complicated …

So, I have started to investigate safe distances to rehearse with singers, wind musicians, orchestras and bands… I have found very curious ideas. I share them with you right now!

In-person band rehearsal in the COVID era

In-person band students rehearsal. Source: Google Images.

The science behind the wind

Before we start, we are going to put on our scientist glasses. We are not going to talk about windmills , but about wind instruments. Because limiting the dispersion of droplets and aerosols (how far and in which direction they travel) is the key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Studying the safety distance for in-person rehearsals

A study conducted by the Soria band asks to reconsider the currently established safety distance (1.5m-2m) for wind musicians. It turns out that expiratory flows are lower than previously thought, and they are more in line with laminar flow, and not a cloud.

This is because wind players need to sustain the sound for as long as possible.

In addition, the length of the instrument tubes causes the air outlet to be less, since part of the air remains in the instrument (dead space), and exits through various holes (the keys), in addition to the bell.

This same study pays attention to each instrument, which has its peculiarities in terms of air dispersion.

Factors influencing the air dispersion of wind instruments

  • Clarinet: all the air that comes out of the mouth is channeled into the instrument. The tube is full of holes.
  • Saxophone: all the air that comes out of the mouth is channeled into the instrument.
  • Flute / Piccolo: not all the air is channeled, as it passes through the instrument, several drops of air are dispersed outside.
  • Instruments with neck: bassoon, bass clarinet: the curve of the neck makes it impossible for air to flow to the bell, much more than in the case of the flute, for example.
  • Tuba: its tube is very different from the rest, due to its dimensions (length, shape).
  • Trombone: there is no hole from the mouthpiece to the bell.

Things get complicated. Therefore, these musicians have thought of very ingenious ideas to be able to continue rehearsing together:

Blog LumaSuite Ensayo de bandas COVID protección saxoonistas

Band musicians with anti-COVID measures. Source: Google Images.

Blog LumaSuite Ensayo de bandas COVID protección trompeta y trombón

Magnetic face masks for saxophones

At the University of Southern Virginia, wind students wear surgical masks with slits cut out. Look at the photo below the post title.

In the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, they wear a tight-fitting cotton mask, reinforced with a polypropylene layer and with adjustable ties at the back. A flap hangs over the hole, with two magnets that allow the closure on the instrument.

The one in the next photo is designed by a professor at this university. Moreover, it is one of the 80 masks that a dressmaker of opera clothes, who is the mother of that teacher, made for free.

Those who have tried them say that the sound remains practically unchanged.

Bell covers for brass instruments

There are homemade or professional, manufactured with two layers of polyester fabric, leather or fabric.

The rise of these protectors has skyrocketed orders from small businesses. They were dedicated to the typical custom bell covers. Surely you have seen them in the tubas of the brass bands. You can find them for € 17.

Blog LumaSuite Ensayo de bandas COVID protección flauta

Flute player rehearsing with the Wind Defender. Source: KHN.org.

Anti virus solutions for flute players

I present to you this clip accessory for flutes, also called “wind defender”. It was originally invented not to suffer from the action of the wind, when flute players are outdoors.

Its ventilated design limits condensation and interference with air currents. Some flute players wear it with surgical masks on top, to further slow the spread of the virus.

Green tents to rehearse with the tuba

See the invention used by these students of the Wenatchee High School band. This city is in Washington.

They rehearse a bit cramped but at least they can stay together. Their classes were 85 minutes, but now they only rehearse for 35 minutes. Thank goodness.

Blog LumaSuite Ensayo de bandas COVID protección con tiendas verdes

Wenatchee High School musicians. Source: ClassicFM.com.

Silent singers

Finally, we cannot forget that the voice is also a wind instrument. Some authorities have “solved” the problem simply silencing them.

Many non-professional groups, especially those of older adults, have suspended their rehearsals and concerts.

In the photo you can see the rehearsal I was talking about at the beginning of the post :)

LumaSuite Blog Rehearsal of the premiere of the zarzuela Vientos del Norte- Behotsik and Cojo Joven de Santander

Behotsik Orchestra and Santander Youth Choir in the rehearsal of the zarzuela Vientos del Norte. Photographer: Aureo Gómez.

Conclusion: what works best for rehearsing together in the coronavirus era?

This question is tricky, so aside from these exciting inventions, I summarize the three measures that American universities recommend. We want to “see” each other’s faces in our bands!

  1. Wind musicians must always look in the same direction while playing.
  2. They must separate 1.8 m, with a distance of 2.7 m in front of and behind the trombonists.
  3. It is recommended to stop every 30/20 minutes to change the air in the room.
  4. Shorten the duration of band rehearsals, as much as possible.

To learn more about bands

Do you want more information? Take a look at these links: