Are you ready to start playing the piccolo or get an upgrade? You should consider how to choose a piccolo so that you will look forward to playing it rather than dread practicing.
There are tons of piccolos, so choosing the right one is critical. Keep reading to learn what you should think about as you test and compare various models.
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
Start With Your Level
First, you should think about your level as a piccolo player. If you’ve never picked up the instrument, you should look for a beginner model since it will be easier to use to get a sound.
When you’ve played the piccolo for a while, you can look at intermediate piccolos. These are similar to beginner models, but they may have a few extra specs, or they might use composite materials instead of plastic or silver plating.
Now, if you’re serious about the piccolo, you can look at professional models. These are almost always made of wood, and they tend to be handmade, plus you can get solid silver keys and other specs.
Look at the Specs
Next, you should look at the specs of each piccolo model you’re considering. Think about the materials of the headjoint, body, and mechanism and consider if you like the sound.
If you want an intermediate or professional model, think about special features, like a split E mechanism. You can also look at the cut of the headjoint and see if it’s easy for you to play.
At the professional level, you can also look into piccolos made of different woods, such as cocus or grenadilla. That way, you can get the sound and response you need out of your instrument.
Review the Headjoint
I briefly mentioned this, but take a look at the headjoint cut. Many piccolos feature a traditional headjoint, which has a small, round opening where you blow.
However, other models have a wave headjoint, which can help direct your air into the piccolo. This is great if you tend to use a lot of air when you play.
I have a wave headjoint and love it, but you might prefer a traditional cut. Either way, test both options to see which suits you and your playing better.
Consider Aftermarket Headjoints
You might find a piccolo that feels good under your fingers and sounds okay. Nothing seems to sound better, but you aren’t quite in love with how the model sounds.
Instead of giving up your searching, choose a piccolo headjoint from a different maker. Mancke and Hernandez are two popular headjoint makers for both piccolos and flutes.
You may find you like the sound of a piccolo much better with a different headjoint. And you can even get a new headjoint for your current piccolo if you don’t want to upgrade.
Decide on a Budget
Of course, you need to figure out how much you can afford to save for a piccolo. Part of how much you need to save will be based on the level of piccolo you want.
However, you should look at your finances to narrow down a good budget. Some piccolos cost less than $2,000, but others can come close to $20,000.
Having a budget can help you search for a model that suits your needs. You’ll be able to try different models without risking falling in love with a piccolo that you can’t afford.
Test the Piccolos
If you think you may like a certain piccolo, you need to try it. This is the most important step in how to choose a piccolo because it can confirm that the model will suit you.
Sometimes, a piccolo may sound great on a recording. But the person playing it might have the right embouchure to get a good tone on the instrument.
When possible, test the piccolo before you commit to buying it. If you can’t do a trial, you should only buy the piccolo from a store that offers a return policy in case you don’t like it.
Think It Over
After trying a few piccolos, take a bit of time to think over how the trial went. If you can, hold on to a couple of the models you really like for another day or two.
Play the piccolos the next day to see if you still like them. Sometimes, you may fall in love with a piccolo when you first try it due to the excitement of possibly getting a new instrument.
But after you sleep on it, you may play it again and not like it as much. Don’t be afraid to spend more time comparing piccolos to find the one that you like the best.
Unless you get lucky, you might not find the perfect piccolo on your first try. That’s normal, and it’s okay not to buy the first piccolo you try (or any of the first five you try).
You should keep shopping around, so check other music stores as well as online marketplaces. Then, you may be able to find a piccolo that will suit your playing.
Shopping around can also give you time to save a bit more money. Having more money will give you more choices, so you might get a piccolo that you couldn’t quite afford at first.
Include Used Models
It can be tempting to just look at new piccolos because they’re new, and the metal may be shiny. However, that can limit you and your options when selecting an instrument.
Used piccolos tend to be a little more affordable than similar models are that are new. Depending on the model, you could save anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more.
Just make sure the used piccolo is well taken care of. If it needs maintenance, the upfront savings may be for nothing once you factor in repair costs.
Ask for Recommendations
Another thing that can help you decide how to choose a piccolo is to get recommendations. Ideally, the suggestions would come from a flute or piccolo teacher that you’ve studied with.
Your teacher may understand your playing style, so they can recommend models that would work for you. Random players might just recommend the models they love and play, and that’s not the most helpful.
If you need to ask others, let them know what flute and piccolo you have and if you like them. That can help others figure out what you like to help give better suggestions.
How to Choose a Piccolo: A Case Study
Knowing how to choose a piccolo is essential so that you can get the best instrument for you. There are tons of piccolos on the market, and not every model works for every player.
Here’s how I chose each of the piccolos I’ve owned over the years to help you choose your next instrument.
I got the Armstrong 204 at the end of my freshman year of college. After playing flute in concert band, I realized I needed to get a piccolo if I wanted to get serious about the flute.
But I couldn’t afford to spend more than a few hundred dollars. I lucked out even more in that my parents were able and willing to buy this piccolo for me as an early birthday present.
Having a tight budget significantly reduced the number of piccolos I could choose from. But my flute technician came across a used 204, and I went to her place to try it and decided to get it.
My Pearl 105 is the first big instrument that I bought from myself (not counting penny whistles and recorders). I got it after graduating college since I no longer had access to a school-owned wood model.
That summer, I was playing in a community orchestra, and I had the piccolo part in Beethoven Symphony No. 5. The Armstrong piccolo wasn’t staying in tune well, so I needed to upgrade fast.
When I was a senior in college, my flute professor said she thought the model would be a good fit for me. So I rounded up the bit of savings I had at the time as well as some Visa gift cards and bought the Pearl.
The Pearl 105 served me well during my break between college and grad school as well as much of my master’s. But at the end of grad school, I wanted to upgrade, and I chose the Hammig 650/3.
In my last semester, my flute professor ordered a massive group trial from Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company. I tried almost half a dozen piccolos and some aftermarket headjoints.
But I settled on the Hammig with a wave headjoint. It was easier for me to get a sound with that cut than the traditional cut, and I sounded better on both Hammig models in the trial than the other brands.
How Will You Choose a Piccolo?
Every player should learn how to choose a piccolo. Whether you’re looking for a beginner or professional model, you can use a lot of the same steps.
That way, you can get a piccolo that you enjoy playing and that meets all of your needs.