How do Armstrong vs. Pearl piccolo models compare? It’s an important question, especially if you’re shopping for your first piccolo or looking to upgrade.
I’ve played piccolos from both brands, and each has unique pros and cons. If you’re interested in either brand, read on to learn more about their similarities and differences.
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Armstrong Piccolo Models
Many players (including myself) start on one of the various Armstrong piccolo models. These piccolos aren’t the most popular, but they’re a great option for beginners and some intermediate players.
Here are some Armstrong piccolos you can choose from.
The Armstrong 204 is probably the most recognized piccolo from the brand. I started on this model back in 2014, and it was the best instrument for me at the time.
It features a silver-plated headjoint, body, and keys, so it almost looks like a small flute. There’s a nice little finger rest to keep your left hand index finger from having to bend too much to hold the piccolo.
At least on mine, there’s no split E mechanism, which is a bit annoying. It also got to be hard to tune after a few years, and the headjoint was a little loose.
Still, it was an excellent piccolo to play in marching band, and I’ve also used it as a backup piccolo. And since it’s a metal model, it has a lip plate and a cylindrical bore, which can help you when you first learn the piccolo.
Another model to try is the Armstrong 307, which has a plastic body. It still has a metal headjoint, so you’ll get a lip plate, which may help you transition from the flute to the piccolo.
This piccolo is suitable for marching band as well as indoor ensembles. The plastic body keeps the piccolo from being too shrill, but you don’t have to worry about wood cracking like with some piccolos.
I haven’t played this specific model, but I know the metal and plastic combo is pretty popular. It’s an excellent choice for students who need a more versatile piccolo than the 204.
When I was in undergrad, I got a chance to play an Armstrong 308 piccolo for a bit. My piccolo needed repairs, but I still had to play the piccolo in marching band, and this was my option.
This piccolo features a plastic body and headjoint, so there’s no lip plate. However, I don’t think you need a lip plate to start learning the piccolo.
Of course, the keys are silver-plated, and the plastic makes this model look like a lot of other piccolos. If you need a piccolo for something like orchestra, this can be a good, affordable option.
Pearl Piccolo Models
Another popular brand for students and advancing piccolo players is Pearl. When my Armstrong piccolo no longer met my needs, I upgraded to this brand.
Here are the two Pearl piccolo models you can buy and play.
The Pearl 105 piccolo is probably the more common model of the two. It’s the one I chose to upgrade to from my Armstrong 204, and I think I made the right choice.
This piccolo features a grenaditte body, which is a type of wood-plastic composite material. Meanwhile, the keys are silver-plated, and you get a split E mechanism.
I chose to get the piccolo with a wave headjoint, but you can also get it with a traditional headjoint. That way, you can get the sound and response that you want.
The piccolo is great for playing inside and outside, and I’ve done both. I also like that the case comes with space for two headjoints, so if you upgrade to a wood head, you’ll have room for it.
The Pearl 165 is a very similar model, but there are some important differences. First, this piccolo features a grenadilla wood headjoint with the same grenaditte body as the 105.
You’ll also get omni synthetic pads on the keys, but they’re silver-plated like the other model. This piccolo features a high E, and you can choose between a traditional and wave headjoint.
Since it has a wood head, I wouldn’t recommend playing it outside. But you can purchase the Pearl grenaditte head separately and store both headjoints in the case.
Armstrong vs. Pearl Piccolo Similarities
When comparing Armstrong vs. Pearl piccolo models, it helps to note the similarities. That way, you can learn if either piccolo brand may suit your needs.
Here are a couple of important factors that both brands share.
Who They’re For
Armstrong might be a little more suited for absolute beginners, while Pearl is good for intermediate players. However, whether you’re new to the piccolo or have a bit of experience, you can find a model you need.
I may have upgraded from an Armstrong to a Pearl, but I’ve used both interchangeably. As I mentioned, my Armstrong 204 has served as a backup to my Pearl 105.
So you can buy a piccolo from both brands and use them for different things. That way, you don’t have to use a Pearl piccolo (especially the 165) outside, so you can use the other piccolo when playing outside.
If you’re shopping for a new piccolo, you’ll find the Armstrong and Pearl piccolo models cost about the same amount. Of course, this can depend on the model and retailer you choose, but they’re pretty close.
The Pearl 165, for example, costs more since it features a wood headjoint that adds to the price. But the other piccolos start at around $1,000 or so and go up a few hundred dollars.
If you’re looking for a used piccolo, you can save a bit of money. Usually, the Pearl piccolos hold their value more, so a used Pearl will cost more than most used Armstrongs.
Armstrong vs. Pearl Piccolo Differences
Of course, it also helps to compare the differences between Armstrong and Pearl piccolos. I’ve enjoyed playing both brands, but the differences can have an effect on the response and sound you can get.
Here’s what you need to know before you buy your next piccolo from Armstrong or Pearl.
Armstrong piccolos tend to use silver or silver plating for the body as well as the mechanism. You can also get a model with a plastic body or a plastic body and headjoint.
That selection is nice because it means you can get a variety of sounds based on the material you choose. Sure, you don’t have as many options as some brands, but it’s a start.
If you choose a Pearl piccolo, your main option is the grenaditte composite material. The keys will be silver-plated, but you can opt for the 165 to get a wood headjoint.
Another difference, at least between the Armstrong 204 and the two Pearl piccolos, is the bore. The Armstrong has a cylindrical bore, which means both ends of the body are the same diameter.
However, many plastic, composite, and wood piccolos feature a conical bore. That means the diameter of the body gets slightly smaller as you reach the end of the piccolo.
The bore can have a slight effect on things like tuning and intonation. So if you’re switching from a metal to plastic model, for example, it can take time to get used to everything.
Can You Play Both an Armstrong and Pearl Piccolo?
You can play both an Armstrong and Pearl piccolo. As I mentioned, it’s great to have a piccolo as a backup, and Armstrong models are great for that.
But you can also dedicate each piccolo to one playing setting. So you may use an Armstrong piccolo in marching band and keep your Pearl on hand for concert band or orchestra.
Are Armstrong or Pearl Piccolos Better?
Neither piccolo brand is better overall, but one may be better for you right now. If you’re a beginner, an Armstrong piccolo might help you since used ones are pretty affordable.
But the better brand can also depend on the condition. An Armstrong may be better right after annual piccolo maintenance than a poorly maintained Pearl piccolo.
If you’re looking for your first or next instrument, you should compare Armstrong vs. Pearl piccolo models. Then, you may find one brand meets your needs way better than the other.