Flautists should sit three metres away from other orchestra members as their spit particles travel the furthest when playing, a study has found.
Nine professional musicians from the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra were filmed performing Ludwig van Beethoven‘s 9th symphony at varying pitches and volumes.
The aerosol cloud emitted by the wind instrument players – three flautists, three trumpeters and three clarinetists – was analysed by scientists.
Flautists were found to produce the largest dispersion, with their spit particles reaching a maximum distance of 1.88m.
The researchers therefore recommend that the flute section of orchestras be positioned so there is a two to three metre gap between each other and the rest of the musicians when performing for audiences.
Dr Bryan Bzdek, a research fellow at the University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre, said: “This study had its participants inhale e-cigarette smoke to produce an aerosol cloud while they were playing musical instruments. The approach really helps to visualize the dynamics of the air jet produced while playing different musical instruments.
“Any group meeting to play musical instruments together should ensure proper physical distancing and room ventilation, such as opening windows and doors.
“They should minimize the time spent together and take frequent breaks to let the room air out between sessions. They should consider the end of their instrument as an extension of their mouth, and so if the end is not directed towards the floor, it makes sense to increase physical distance to compensate.”