Do you want to buy a piccolo that you’ll love to play now and months down the line? You should know how to set up a trial so that you can compare a few piccolos easily.
If you’re ready to get your first piccolo or upgrade, a trial is great. That way, you shouldn’t have to worry about buyers remorse from getting a piccolo that doesn’t suit you.
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Determine Your Budget
The first thing you should do before buy a piccolo is figure out the finances. Some piccolos cost around $1,000, while others can top $8,000 or even more.
Knowing how much you can or want to spend will help you choose the piccolo models for your trial. Or the music store you select can help choose some models to send you.
Either way, having a budget can help you keep from overspending on your new instrument. And you won’t have to try a piccolo you can’t afford and risk falling in love with how it plays.
Consider Your Playing Level
Another factor that can help you set up a trial to buy a piccolo is to know your playing level. If you’ve never played the piccolo, you should look at beginner models.
Intermediate piccolos are good if you have a bit of experience playing the small flute. And of course, if you already play the piccolo a lot and want the best possible instrument, a pro model is great.
Think about your goals with the piccolo as well. Even if you’re advanced, buying an expensive piccolo isn’t always worth it. If you don’t play the piccolo much, you might want an intermediate model instead of a pro one.
Research Piccolo Models
Next, you should look into some piccolo models that work for your budget. Consider what brands sell piccolos you can afford and what models are available to you.
Take a look at the specs as well and consider if some piccolos offer more specs than others. You don’t always need the fanciest specs, but some keys come in handy.
While most flute shops can help choose models for you, it’s nice to know what’s out there. Then, you can know what to expect when you request a trial.
Think About Your Current Piccolo
I’d also recommend thinking about the piccolo you play right now. Consider the brand and if they make more advanced piccolos that you might enjoy.
On the other hand, if you aren’t the biggest fan of your current piccolo, you may want to avoid that brand. You could end up getting a better sound if you get a piccolo from a different company.
It also helps to think about the brand of your C flute. If that company makes piccolos, you might sound good on them if you already play a regular flute.
Compare Trial Options
Before you schedule a trial, research the big flute shops. Most shops, at least in the US, offer in-home trials where they’ll mail flutes to you. However, you should know:
- How long the trial will last
- How many piccolos you can try at once
- If you have to put down a deposit
- The shipping method/speed
- If you have to be home for the delivery
Some trials are longer than others, and one store may send more piccolos than another. When I bought my professional piccolo, I did so through a trial with the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company.
My professor set up the trial, but that shop was probably the closest, so shipping was easier. But if you live in the northeast, Flute Center of New York and Flutistry Boston may suit your needs.
Schedule Your Trial
After you choose what store to go through, you’ll want to contact the flute shop. You can usually do this online or over the phone, so check out the company’s website to see how to get a trial.
Since my flute professor set up the trial I did, I’m not quite sure how you’ll proceed next. I assume you’ll probably give them your address, a list of the models to try, and perhaps a security deposit.
Then, you can get an idea of when the piccolos will get to you. If possible, try to be home to sign for the instruments, or find time to get to the courier’s closest location to pick them up.
Prepare Some Excerpts
Before your piccolo trial arrives, you should prepare the music you want to play to test out piccolos. I’d recommend choosing something slow and something fast.
You should also make sure to test out the entire range of the instrument as well as all dynamics. Orchestral excerpts are great options, but you can also use etudes or exercises or even simple scales.
Preparing them before your piccolos get to you gives you time to practice any that you haven’t played. Then, you’ll be able to focus on comparing the piccolos rather than playing the right notes.
Narrow Your Options
Once you get a set of piccolos, give them all a try. Be sure to compare them to your current piccolo if you’re looking for an upgrade, so you can be sure the new piccolo will sound different enough to be worth the cost.
You should also eliminate any piccolos that you don’t like as much. In some cases, it will be easy to eliminate a piccolo, especially if you have trouble getting a sound or if the tuning is off.
However, you may need more time to narrow your choices. Take as much time as you can to compare the models in your trial, and don’t be afraid to ask your store for another group of piccolos if you don’t like any the first time.
Contact the Store
Near the end of your trial period, contact the store you ordered the trial from. Let them know if you want to buy any of the piccolos and ask how to proceed with your purchase.
When I bought my piccolo, I had to call the store and give them my payment information. Then, I returned the models to my professor who then sent them back to the store.
Even if you don’t want to purchase any of the piccolos, tell the store that. Ask what you need to do to get the piccolos back to them safely and efficiently.
Gather Your Materials
If you do want to buy a piccolo, be sure to gather your materials before you contact the store. Write down the serial number, brand, and model of the piccolo you intend to purchase.
Check the headjoint as well to see if it has a serial number, which mine did/does. Having the serial numbers can help the store track what piccolo you’re buying more accurately than just the model number or name.
Prepare to pay for the piccolo over the phone or using the store’s website. They may have a method they prefer, so make sure you have enough money on your credit or debit card.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More
As I mentioned, you might not like any of the piccolos you get in your first batch. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to ask the store to send you some more options.
You can get different models or brands, or you might want to get the same piccolos but with different headjoint cuts. If the store also sells aftermarket headjoints, you can ask for those.
Then, you can get more options to test out on your own time. The more piccolos and headjoints you get to try, the better the chance you’ll have of finding a setup you love.
Can You Do a Piccolo Trial as a Beginner?
You can do a piccolo trial as a beginner, especially if you’re already pretty good on the flute. However, you might want a private teacher to help you with the trial.
They can test the instruments, and you won’t have to worry about trying to get a sound. If you can’t do that, look into some good beginner piccolos, which should work for you without you having to do a trial.
What Are Some Good Orchestral Excerpts to Try Piccolos?
I’d recommend playing excerpts like Stars and Stripes Forever or any of the Shostakovich symphony solos. You can play almost anything from the Wellbaum book Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo.
Of course, if you’re learning any excerpts now, use those for you trial to buy a piccolo. That way, you don’t have to learn new music from scratch.
How Many Piccolos Should You Try Before You Buy a Piccolo?
There’s no standard answer for how many models to try before you buy a piccolo. For my first two piccolos, they were the only models I tried, but I ended up liking both of them.
However, for my professional piccolo trial, I got to try five or six models. You should try enough piccolos to find one that you like the sound and response of, and that number can change with each trial.
Will You Buy a Piccolo Through a Trial?
You can buy a piccolo in multiple ways. One of the best things you can do is to do a piccolo trial first to compare models and choose the right piccolo for you.
If you want to learn more about doing a trial, send me a DM on Instagram, and I’ll help you get started!