If you want the best piccolo, you should consider metal piccolos. They’re easy to ignore because they’re not as prevalent as they used to be.
However, they can be suitable for beginners and even some advancing students. Read on to learn about the best models to consider and if metal is the right piccolo material for you!
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I have to start with the metal piccolo I started on: the Armstrong 204! This piccolo is all silver-plated, so it’s very similar to most student flutes you would play.
It has inline keys, and there’s a nice finger rest for your left hand. Unfortunately, there’s no split E mechanism or any other special specs, but you don’t really need them, especially if you’re a beginner.
I played on this piccolo for a few years for marching band, and it was my backup piccolo after that. The model sounds pretty good, and I still have it in my collection in case I ever need a good metal instrument.
The Jupiter JPC700 is another excellent metal piccolo for students. It has a lot of the same specs as the Armstrong, so the two models may respond or sound almost identical.
This piccolo’s sound projects very well over a large ensemble. That makes it an excellent choice for a marching band or any outdoor performance.
While I haven’t played this specific model, Jupiter makes excellent flutes and piccolos. If you can’t get your hands on an Armstrong, this is a fantastic alternative.
Another one of the best metal piccolos out there is the Gemeinhardt 4SP. As the name suggests, this piccolo is silver-plated, so it’s an excellent option for beginners.
It has the same finger rest and inline keys as the other piccolos I’ve covered. I love how it has a nice lip plate to make it easy to switch from the flute to the piccolo for the first time.
This model is also a bit more affordable compared to piccolos with the same specs. So if you’re on a tight budget, give this model a try.
The Gemeinhardt 4RSP is very similar to the previous piccolo in the list. However, the R stands for Roy Seaman, which is now a sub-brand of Gemeinhardt.
That means this model came from a collaboration between the two companies. Its specs are all the same as the 4SP, so it may or may not be worth buying this model.
I will say it’s not as popular of a model as the other piccolos from Gemeinhardt. So if you want an affordable yet unique choice, this model is for you.
A lot of metal piccolos use silver plating, but the Gemeinhardt 4S is different. It features a solid silver headjoint and body, but the keys are still silver-plated.
The solid silver can help you get a slightly warmer sound compared to a silver-plated model. This model also has a conical bore, which isn’t common among metal instruments.
A conical bore is more common among plastic and wood piccolos, and it could also help you get a different sound. Of course, the presence of solid silver does mean this model costs a bit more.
Why Play a Metal Piccolo
Whether you’re shopping for your first piccolo or an upgrade, you may wonder if a metal piccolo is the right choice. You don’t see a ton of them these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless.
Consider the following reasons why you may want to play a silver or silver-plated piccolo.
Like a Small Flute
If you’ve never played the piccolo before, the switch can be daunting. A metal piccolo can make the switch less stressful, at least mentally.
You’ll get a lip plate to use to help center your embouchure over the embouchure hole. Now, I don’t think this is necessary because most piccolos don’t have one.
However, it can help beginners get over the mental hump of playing the piccolo. That way, you can start to learn the small flute and make good progress on it.
Metal piccolos can withstand almost anything you throw at them. That makes them an excellent choice for playing outdoors, such as in a marching band.
As I mentioned, I used my Armstrong 204 in college marching band for a couple of years. It worked great, and I wasn’t super worried about it in the heat or cold.
If you put your flute through a lot, you probably will do the same with your piccolo. Getting a durable model, at least as a beginner, can help you keep playing without needing excessive repairs.
You may also find a lot of metal piccolos are pretty affordable. They aren’t necessarily the cheapest, especially if you buy a new one, but they’re not as expensive as other models.
Especially when it comes to solid silver vs. wood piccolos, wood will almost always be more expensive. If you’re on a budget, you can choose from a few metal models.
You can get an even better price if you’re willing to shop around and buy a used piccolo. That way, you can make the most of your purchase (assuming the piccolo is in playing condition).
Why Not Play a Metal Piccolo
Unfortunately, there’s a reason why you won’t see a metal piccolo in many professional orchestras. These instruments have their place, but they’re not perfect.
Before you rush to buy one, consider some of the drawbacks of playing a silver piccolo.
Even the best metal piccolos have a tendency to sound quite shrill, particularly in the high register. The shrill tone can make it stand out, which is a good or bad thing, depending on the scenario.
It can also be hard to keep these instruments in tune in an ensemble setting. I ended up upgrading to a Pearl 105 after my Armstrong wasn’t sounding good in an orchestra I was playing in.
If you play in a lot of different settings, you might want to collect a few piccolos. That way, you can use your metal one outdoors, but you can use other instruments when silver isn’t appropriate.
Hard to Blend
The shrill tone and the high register of the metal combine and make it hard to sound good with other instruments. If you play in an orchestra, you may find you stick out a bit too much.
As I mentioned, this happened to me, and I needed a new piccolo. Sure, you can work on blending your sound with the other woodwinds and other sections in the orchestra.
However, you may eventually reach a point where that’s no longer effective. At that point, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth continuing to play your metal piccolo or to use it as a backup.
Not Common Among Professionals
Most professional piccolo players use a wood model as their main piccolo. Wood offers a warm, mellow sound which can be hard to achieve on piccolos made of other materials.
Now, you don’t have to play a piccolo model just because a professional plays it. You should be able to compare as many models as possible and decide for yourself which suits you best.
However, in many cases, that will probably lead you to a wood piccolo. I’d still recommend keeping a metal piccolo in your collection for outdoor gigs, but you probably won’t want to rely on one as you advance.
What About Metal and Plastic Combo Piccolos?
If you want the lip plate from a metal piccolo but the warmth of plastic, you can find combo piccolos like the Yamaha YPC-32. I haven’t played this type of piccolo that much, but they’re great for students.
You can still get your sound to project, such as in a large ensemble. However, the plastic keeps your sound from being too shrill and punchy, so you can blend with other players.
If you want a more professional combo piccolo, you can get the Yamaha YPC-82. It features a solid silver headjoint and a grenadilla wood body.
The best metal piccolos range in price but are all relatively affordable. While most are silver-plated, you can find the occasional solid silver model.
Be sure to consider the pros and cons of a silver piccolo. That way, you can make sure you get the instrument that best suits your playing style and goals.
Need help tuning your new metal piccolo? Head to the piano keyboard and drone!