Who knows what the precautions will be in the 'new normal' for choral singers. Hit the Note looks at some of the issues involved with singing in masks.
The certainly seems to significant evidence that singing increases droplet spread, much more than when we are just speaking. The video below demonstrated the droplet spray when moving up through the scales and you can see how the spread is increased for certain consonants.....
Scientists have studied the amount of droplet emitted during various activities and this is shown below.
The graph on the right clearly shows the significant reduction in aerosol spread when wearing a mask. (Ref: International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study). So just from this evidence, it appears masks can contribute to safety. even given the vaccination programme being undertaken, it may well be that we shall have to consider the use of masks for a period during the 'new normal'.
So what are the factors which should be considered when singing whilst wearing a facemask?
One : The Fit of the mask
In order to be effective the mask should fit well around the edges of the mask which should stay in contact with the face. In order to allow for effective jaw movement when singing, the mask will normally have a framework in order to allow for this movement and also prevents fabric from being sucked into your mouth whilst taking in a breath.
Two: Mask 'Breathability'
It is important that the mask allows adequate air to be taken in when singing, unlike normal speaking, the breaths may be short, sharp and sometimes very large intake. The main factor affecting this is the structure of the fabric of the mask. Generally the mask will need to have three layers:
1. The first layer (closest to the skin) should be designed to be comfortable against the skin and to absorb the large droplets generated by the mask use.
2. The middle layer is designed to act as a barrier to help contain the singer’s droplets and to provide filtration.
3. The final layer may add additional filtration but can be cotton provided standard social distancing measures are being followed.
So what is it like to sing with a mask? Have a look at the video below by Joan Fearnley which shows what it is like to sing with a mask. She even has videos showing how to make your own!
So let's hope masks won't be a requirement of the 'new normal' but if they are, we hopefully know a bit more about them now.