What’s the best piccolo model to use when playing outside? As much as I love my Hammig 650/3, I’d never expose it to the elements.
You should look for an affordable model that sounds good and won’t crack. That way, you can play all of the outdoor gigs you want.
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1. Armstrong 204
The Armstrong 204 is the very piccolo that I started on right after the end of my freshman year of college. While I didn’t need an outdoor piccolo at the time, it was a student model so a good starting point.
This piccolo is all silver-plated, so it really looks like a tiny flute. That means it also features a cylindrical bore as opposed to a conical bore like most piccolos.
A year after I got the piccolo, it came in handy when I joined a college marching band. The metal allows your sound to cut through large ensembles, so it’s perfect for the football field.
2. Yamaha YPC-32
One of the most popular outdoor piccolo models is the Yamaha YPC-32. While I’ve never played on myself, some of my fellow marching band piccolo players played this model.
They sounded great on it, and it’s warm enough that you can also use it indoors. The plastic body helps make the sound a bit more versatile than an all-metal model.
So if you’re looking for one piccolo to use in all settings, this is a great choice. Yamaha is known for making excellent instruments, and the YPC-32 is no exception.
3. Jupiter JPC700
The Jupiter JPC700 is another amazing option for beginners, especially if you need a metal piccolo. I haven’t played the model, but I love how it can project well over an ensemble.
It features a hand rest for the left hand, so you don’t have to squeeze your hand to fit on the smaller bore of the metal. I’d recommend this model as an alternative to the Armstrong.
Since the specs are similar, you can get a similar sound and response. But if the Armstrong piccolo doesn’t suit you, the Jupiter might work better.
4. Jupiter JPC1000
Another model I’d recommend when looking for the best piccolo is the Jupiter JPC1000. I’d compare this piccolo to the Yamaha since it features a metal headjoint and a plastic body.
That setup makes it an excellent choice for marching band and concert band. So if you need a piccolo that you can use all of the time but can’t quite afford a Yamaha, give the 1000 a try.
I’d also note that on the used market, you may see this piccolo listed as the 303. That’s the old model number, but they play the same (as long as the piccolo is in working condition).
5. Jupiter JPC1010
The Jupiter JPC1010 is very similar, as the model number may suggest. But instead of just a plastic body, the headjoint is plastic too, so it sounds less bright and shrill compared to other models.
Of course, that makes it a good choice if you need to play indoors. However, it’s also suitable for playing an a concert band or a similar ensemble but in an outdoor concert.
Now, the plastic headjoint doesn’t have a lip plate, which can be tough for beginners. Still, I prefer the sound of a plastic piccolo, and I actually like the lack of a lip plate when I play.
6. Gemeinhardt 4PMH
Gemeinhardt is yet another fantastic piccolo brand, and the Gemeinhardt 4PMH is a standard choice. This piccolo is most similar to the Yamaha YPC-32 and the Jupiter 1000 since it has a metal headjoint and plastic body.
I’d recommend this model to many students and amateurs. This piccolo has all of the standard specs you’d find on student models, so it’s a great, versatile option.
Now, I don’t have personal experience with the piccolo, but I’ve heard a lot of great things. Many people love the model, and it’s a good choice if you play a Gemeinhardt flute.
7. Gemeinhardt 4SP
The Gemeinhardt 4SP is another one of the big contenders for the best piccolo to play outdoors. I like how the body and headjoint are silver-plated, so you can project your sound.
Plus, it has a hand rest for the left hand and a thumb rest for the right hand. That can make it easier to hold the piccolo, particularly if you have large hands.
This model is useful for playing in a marching band. But you can also use it in other ensembles or when playing the piccolo as a soloist.
8. Gemeinhardt Roy Seaman Storm
A lot of other outdoor piccolos use plastic and/or metal for the body and headjoint. However, the Gemeinhardt Roy Seaman Storm is a composite model.
That means the makers somehow fuse plastic with grenadilla wood. The plastic helps stabilize the wood to keep it from cracking, so you can safely play it in any climate.
Meanwhile, the wood offers a warmer sound compared to plastic or metal. So if you play in an orchestra or band that does a lot of outdoor concerts, you can still sound good without risking damage to your primary wood piccolo.
9. Pearl 105
The Pearl 105 is another one of the piccolos I played, and it’s what I upgraded to after outgrowing my Armstrong. One of the first concerts I played it on was an outdoor orchestra concert in 90 degree heat.
This piccolo held up super well, and it lasted me for another three years for both indoor and outdoor gigs. I love how it has a split E mechanism, and the keys are placed in a way that’s more ergonomic to hold.
What’s more, you can choose between a traditional and wave headjoint cut. I went with the wave, and I love how it helps direct your air into the instrument, which is nice if you have an offset embouchure like I do.
How to Choose the Best Piccolo for Outdoor Playing
I’d recommend all of the above models for your next outdoor gig. However, it’s still up to you to choose a piccolo that works for you and your needs.
The most important thing you can do when shopping for the best piccolo for outdoor gigs is to avoid wood models. You can get a wood-plastic composite model, and I think that’s the most versatile choice.
However, I’d avoid wood piccolos, like the Yamaha YPC-62 or the Hammig 650/3. While I’ve played and loved both of those models, they’re best for indoor stages and practice rooms.
You should also avoid piccolos with solid wood headjoints, like the Pearl 165. I had my wood headjoint crack, and I wasn’t even playing outside, so I wouldn’t risk it.
Keep It Cheap
Regardless of the material you select, you should look for a cheaper piccolo. A lot can go wrong when you play outdoors, from water damage to dropping the piccolo on a hard surface.
The less you spend on the piccolo, the less of a problem it will be if something breaks. I’d recommend spending no more than about $1,500 on a piccolo you plan to use outside.
That way, if the worst does happen, you won’t be out thousands of dollars on the instrument. And the repair shouldn’t cost as much as it would for a professional piccolo.
Stick With Reputable Brands
Now, you can take it too far when it comes to buying a cheap piccolo. I’ve seen countless cheap piccolos on Amazon that come from no-name brands.
These piccolos seem like a good deal, especially for outdoor use. It’s a lot easier to justify replacing a $150 piccolo than a $2,000+ piccolo if it gets damaged.
However, it’s not worth it. Those piccolos are known to break shortly after you buy them, so you may not even get that much use out of the piccolo, and it will just be a waste of money and time.
Consider Your Flute Brand
I’d also recommend looking piccolos from the brand of your C flute. All of the piccolo brands I covered above make flutes, so if you play, say, a Pearl or Yamaha, you may like the piccolo from the same brand.
The construction will usually be pretty similar. So if you like one model, there’s a decent chance you’ll like a piccolo from the same maker.
That’s not always true, but it’s at least worth trying. You might luck out and find the perfect piccolo to use outside.
Try a Few Piccolos
If you don’t like the piccolos from the brand of your C flute, you should try a few models. Look at different brands and materials to find a piccolo that works for you.
Like any other backup piccolo, this model may not get used a lot. However, that means it’s even more important to select a piccolo that responds easily to your playing.
You probably won’t practice it a lot, so you can’t afford to get one that needs a lot of intense practice.
Don’t Forget Band Requirements
When looking for the best piccolo for you, I’d also check with your band director on any specific requirements. For example, I know that some band directors want all piccolo players to use an all-metal model.
That way, the piccolos will look more visually similar to the flutes. This isn’t always the case as the band I played in didn’t specify materials, but it’s still good to consider.
Go for a Used Piccolo
Finally, I’d look into used piccolos, especially if you have a small budget for your next outdoor piccolo. When I got my Armstrong, it was used a cost a third of what it would have when new.
While a lot of the best outdoor piccolos are already cheap, it never hurts to save a bit extra. These piccolos generally don’t hold their value, so you could save anywhere from $100 or more.
If you have an outdoor gig, I’d recommend leaving your wood instrument at home. Instead, look for the best piccolo for outside use.
Then, you can still get a good sound as a soloist or in an ensemble. However, you won’t have to worry about your more expensive model breaking or cracking.
Just make sure you use a drone to ensure the piccolo you buy is in tune.