Singing and music: COVID-19 guidelines

Public health measures in force from November 13, 2021:

What guides our recommendations

We know how important music is to so many people’s mental health, wellbeing and enjoyment. Music is important for:

  • brain development;
  • social emotion learning; and
  • cultural connectedness.

To play and sing safely, we need to:

  • understand the risks associated with COVID;
  • control the environment; and
  • rethink sizes of rehearsal, class, performance and activities

There’s limited scientific research on singing and playing of wind and brass instruments as it relates to COVID. But, several groups around the world continue to work on this. We know there’s risk associated with these activities. We have tools to manage that risk, even if we cannot eliminate it.

What you need to know about the spread of COVID-19

The risk of COVID-19 transmission increases when the:

  • number of people you’re in contact with increases;
  • time you spend in contact with them lengthens;
  • smaller the space is that you share; and
  • worse the ventilation in the space is.

This illustration gives some examples of different risk levels. Green means low risk, orange means medium risk and red means high risk.

4 blocks show the risk of exposure to COVID-19 increases when more people spend more time together and in open versus enclosed spaces.

The risk of exposure to the virus depends on:

  • whether the people you’re in contact with are vaccinated or not;
  • number of people present;
  • ventilation considerations (for example, indoor versus outdoor); and
  • sharing of objects, etc.

The figure below shows how different activities emit different quantities of particles into the air. The more particles that are spread, the higher the risk is that an infected person will spread COVID-19. There are a number of factors to consider in order to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our practice and performance spaces which we outline below.

Graph showing particles emitted per second for 12 singers.

Number of emitted particles per second for 12 singers.  Source: Exhaled respiratory particles during singing and talking

Low-risk musical activities

Instruments, such as string instruments and drums that do not involve blowing air into them, do not pose any extra risk.

High-risk musical activities

Singing and playing wind instruments (woodwind, brass, flutes, etc.) are identified as posing a greater risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. This is because there’s the greater potential of spreading droplets when we do these activities. You have to take extra precautions to mitigate the extra risk.

General guidelines

The Chief Medical Office of Health recommends that you read and incorporate the updated Safe 6 plus 1 into your planning.

Remember:

  • We encourage you to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick, even if symptoms are mild.
  • Maintain physical distancing – keep a minimum of 2 metres (6 feet) away from anyone who is not a member of your bubble.
  • In general, space out as much as you can within the room while still being able to practise or perform.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Wearing a mask

Mask use, when combined with the Safe 6, can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Masks are required in:

  • all indoor public spaces; and
  • outdoor public settings when you cannot keep physically distanced.

See wearing a mask in Yukon during COVID-19 for more information. 

Find out the COVID-19 safety guidelines for the venue

Check with the leader of your organisation or owner of the rental venue you’re using for information about any COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

For people who are higher risk

If you’re unvaccinated, or immune compromised you’re at higher risk of complications of COVID-19. Consider alternative ways of participating in musical activities, such as connecting remotely.

Offer or explore virtual opportunities for people who are not able to attend, or who may prefer to participate from home.

If you become ill

If you become ill while at practice, rehearsal or performance you should go home immediately in a private vehicle if possible.

Sharing items

  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as microphones, music stands and music binders.
  • Sharing of instruments, including accessories (for example, drum sticks, mallets and guitar picks) is strongly discouraged.

Ventilation

  • Move activities outdoors wherever possible.
  • When indoors, use bigger spaces with good air exchange.
  • Open windows and doors when possible to increase air circulation.
  • Portable fans should be used with caution to ensure these are not simply dispersing contaminated air around a room.
  • Increase outside air exchange using an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, or consider HEPA filters.
  • Groups should avoid singing in closed and unventilated rooms even with distancing measures in place.

Physical distancing

  • A minimum of 2 metre (6 feet) physical distancing should be maintained at all times between participants (singers and musicians).
  • Participants should face forward while singing or playing their instrument (not in a circle or facing each other).
  • Some instruments will need greater spacing. Trombones should keep a 3-metre (9-feet) distance from those in front of them. This is because of the shape of the instrument.
  • Conductors should maintain a 4-metre (12-feet) distance from the choir or orchestra, or wear a face shield and maintain a 2-metre (6-feet) distance.
  • Performers should maintain a 4-metre (12-feet) distance from the audience, or be separated by Plexiglas or a similar barrier.
  • Distancing recommendations can be relaxed if participants are fully vaccinated.

Figures playing instruments and how much distance needs to be between musicians, as well as the conductor.

Limit numbers

  • Rehearse alone, remotely or in small groups. Assess your personal risk level, if you’re fully vaccinated you can rehearse safely with a larger group.
  • Keep rehearsal time shorter, for example a 30-minute session.
  • Consider bringing smaller groups together for a practice instead of the whole band or choir.
  • Consider bringing smaller groups together for a practice instead of the whole band or choir.
  • Groups of 25 individuals or 50 percent capacity of the space, whichever is less, who provide proof of vaccination may rehearse together.
  • For more information, read:

Cleaning

  • If sharing of instruments and accessories (for example, drum sticks, mallets and guitar picks) is required, these must be sanitized after each use and between users. 
  • Mouthpieces should not be shared.
  • Regular cleaning of instruments, mouthpieces and accessories, as per standard protocol, is essential:
    • instrument brushes should be used were applicable;
    • do not share cleaning cloths or instrument brushes; and
    • while 60 per cent isopropyl alcohol can often be used for disinfecting instruments, musicians should consult manufacturers or other professionals to ensure this will not damage the instrument.
  • If you have to blow into your instrument to clear out the accumulated saliva, blow into an absorbent cloth and not onto the floor.
  • Use your own individual microphone:
    • disinfect microphones between users;
    • microphone covers may be used;
    • covers must be changed between users; and
    • disinfect each microphone before replacing the cover.
  • Perform hand hygiene after cleaning your instrument or a microphone.

Other considerations

If you play live music for ambiance, consider the volume of the music. Lower music volume may allow other people present to more consistently practise physical distancing so they’re less likely to:

  • lean in towards each other; or
  • talk louder to hear each other.

During or after performances, members of a performing group have to maintain physical distancing if they mingle with:

  • audience members;
  • patrons; or
  • venue staff

For more information

Read the evidence review by the NCCEH, COVID-19 Risks and Precautions for Choirs.

Reade Safer Singing During the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: What We Know and What We Don’t

Guidance for Music Classes in British Columbia During COVID-19 (Updated September 13, 2020)