What are the best composite piccolos and why are they worth your money? These piccolos are some of the best intermediate models, and they give you the best of plastic and wood piccolos.
If you’re shopping for an upgrade, consider some of these instruments. That way, you can get a piccolo you’ll love and that you can play for years.
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What Is a Composite Piccolo?
A composite piccolo is a type of piccolo where the material is a fusion of plastic and wood (usually grenadilla). You can get a warm, resonant sound as if you were playing a wooden piccolo.
However, the plastic stabilizes the wood, so cracks aren’t a huge issue. That makes the best composite piccolos perfect for backups, outdoor gigs, or anyone who needs a piccolo but rarely plays it.
Consider some of the best models that use this special material.
One of the best composite piccolos you can get is the Pearl 105. I upgraded to this model from my metal Armstrong after I had trouble blending with the other instruments in the orchestra.
This model uses a specific type of composite called grenaditte. It sounds very similar to wood, and people may not know the difference unless you tell them.
I love how you can choose between a traditional and wave headjoint to get the response you want. Plus, this model feature a split E mechanism to help the high E speak clearly.
Unfortunately, I have found it difficult to get notes like high B to come out consistently. But this piccolo is still a great choice for advancing players and even more serious piccoloists who need an outdoor or backup instrument.
The Pearl 165 is very similar to the 105, but the differences can make or break your playing. It shares the same grenaditte body, but the pads are omni-synthetic pads rather than traditional felt pads.
Another unique feature is that this piccolo comes with a grenadilla wood headjoint. So I wouldn’t use it outside, but it’s a good option if you’re on a budget and want more of the signature wood sound.
Other features are the same as the other Pearl, from the split E mechanism to the choice of headjoint cuts. Of course, the addition of wood increases the price, but that can be well worth it.
And if you want to be able to play this piccolo outside, you can buy a grenaditte headjoint from Pearl. Both heads will fit in the case, so you don’t need any extra storage space.
The GUO Grenaditte piccolo is another composite model that uses the same grenaditte material as the two Pearl piccolos. Like many models, this one features a split E mechanism.
However, it has other features that you won’t find on piccolos in this price range, like a high G# mechanism. You can use that spec to avoid alternate fingerings when playing a high G# or Ab.
Another unique thing about this piccolo is the fact that the mechanism is black like the rest of the instrument. If you don’t like the look of silver, or if your skin reacts to silver or silver plating, this can be a great alternative.
Plus, this piccolo sits in one piece in the case. You can figure out the alignment you need to play the piccolo in tune and not have to worry about messing with it every time you break out your piccolo.
Roy Seaman Storm
Another one of the top composite piccolo models is the Roy Seaman Storm. A sub-brand of Gemeinhardt, this piccolo is a popular alternative to the Pearl 105.
You can get the piccolo with a wave headjoint. I love how the wave headjoint helps direct my air into the piccolo since I have an offset embouchure and don’t play with the most focused embouchure.
Other specs on this piccolo are pretty standard, like a split E mechanism. Also, the G key is offset, which is surprisingly helpful even with the small size of the piccolo.
The Kessler Custom piccolo is 30% wood and 70% plastic. Kessler tested different formulations and went with this one to give you the best resonance and variety of tone colors.
It’s one of the more affordable composite piccolos on the market. Unfortunately, if you want to buy a new one, you can only go through the Kessler website or their brick and mortar store.
For better or worse, this piccolo only comes with the wave headjoint option. It also comes with a split E, so you can more easily play notes in the third octave.
Di Zhao 102
Another one of the best composite piccolos on the market is the Di Zhao 102. It features Pisoni pads and a silver-plated mechanism, and those features can help keep the price from getting too high.
This piccolo is pitched at A = 442, which is slowly becoming the standard tuning. While I haven’t played this model, I’ve heard amazing things about it.
It features a profiled lip plate built into the composite headjoint, which can be helpful if you like the feel of a lip plate. You’ll also get a split E mechanism.
Why Get a Composite Piccolo
As you compare the best composite piccolos, you may wonder what makes this material so special. There are plastic, metal, and wood piccolos, so why should you choose composite?
Here’s what you need to know.
When you play a composite piccolo, you can get a good, warm sound that’s easy to blend with other instruments. You can enjoy a range of tone colors, so the material is suitable for solo and ensemble playing.
I used my Pearl 105 for multiple orchestra concerts and both of my solo recitals as a masters student. It felt and sounded as if I was playing a more advanced wooden model.
They Won’t Crack
The best composite piccolos contain enough plastic to keep the wood from cracking in extreme climates. If you travel a lot or if you live somewhere that gets all four seasons, the material is amazing.
A composite piccolo can also sit in storage for months without developing cracks. So if you’re on the hunt for a good backup piccolo, don’t get a second wood model.
Another thing I love about composite piccolos is that they offer many of the same benefits of wood. However, they’re often a fraction of the price of wood piccolos.
For reference, I spent about five times as much money on my professional Hammig compared to my Pearl. So whether you’re in school or otherwise have a limited budget, a composite model could be a good choice.
How to Choose the Best Composite Piccolo
You can choose from multiple composite piccolo models, which is great. But not every piccolo is for every player, so you should figure out which model suits you the best.
Here are some of my top tips for choosing your perfect piccolo.
Consider Your Flute Brand
First, you may want to look at the brand of your flute, especially if you love how it sounds and feels. Some flute brands make piccolos that are just as good.
Pearl is a great example of this as they make piccolos, C flutes, and low flutes. If you have another Pearl flute, there’s a good chance you’ll like one or both of the Pearl piccolos.
Not all flute brands make composite piccolos, so this isn’t fool-proof. But even if your flute brand doesn’t offer a composite piccolo, they may sell piccolos made of other materials that you can try.
Compare Headjoint Cuts
Many good composite piccolos come with traditional and/or wave headjoint cuts. I’d recommend trying piccolos with both cuts to decide which is right for you.
Then, you can narrow your search to the models that come with the cut you prefer. Some offer both, such as the Pearl 105 and 165, while others only have the traditional or wave cut.
Try a Few
I bought my Pearl piccolo without trying it, so this step isn’t absolutely necessary. However, it can help to test out a few composite piccolos to narrow your search.
For one, it can help you determine if a composite piccolo is the best option for you. Then, you can eliminate models that don’t give you the response or sound you want.
Many music stores offer a return policy or trial period. You can also go in person to a store to test a few piccolos before you spend money on them.
Don’t Ignore Used Models
A new piccolo can be a great choice, but sometimes, you may want to explore the used market. This opens you up to even more piccolo options, especially if you’re tight on cash.
Used piccolos often cost a bit less than their new equivalents. That means you can get more piccolo for your money, so you could get a piccolo with more features.
The best composite piccolos come from brands like Pearl, GUO, and Roy Seaman. Be sure to consider all of these brands and more to help find a piccolo that suits your needs.
Then, you can start trying and comparing your options. And once you find a piccolo you like, compare its intonation with a drone to make sure it’s not too sharp or flat.