If you’re looking to better your piccolo playing, you should compare intermediate vs. professional piccolo models. Then, you can determine if it’s time for an upgrade.
Not every piccolo is for every player, so what has worked for me might not work for you. Be sure to consider how intermediate and professional instruments differ to help choose your next model.
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What Is an Intermediate Piccolo?
An intermediate piccolo is a piccolo that has more features than a student model. In many cases it shares specs, materials, and other aspects with professional piccolos.
However, intermediate models are still usually made, at least in part, by machines. That helps make these piccolos more affordable than professional instruments.
But you can still get a good sound, and you can use these instruments to improve once you grow out of your student model. That way, you don’t have to break the bank on a more expensive piccolo.
Most intermediate piccolos either use wood or some sort of wood-plastic composite. You can occasionally find a solid silver piccolo in this range, but I don’t know many players who use metal piccolos past the student level.
When it comes to the keys and mechanism, intermediate piccolo models usually use silver-plated keys. That helps keep the price relatively affordable.
You might also see some straight-up plastic piccolos in the intermediate range. These aren’t as common as composite models, but they exist.
At the intermediate level, piccolos tend to have more specs than student models. The most common spec I’ve encountered in this range is a split E mechanism.
Like on the flute, the piccolo’s split E helps you play the high E without it cracking. That can help you play more smoothly, so you can focus on other parts of the music.
A lot of intermediate piccolo models also feature an offset G. Unlike on the flute, you don’t usually get to choose this option, but it can be handy if you have small hands (pun intended).
A lot of musical instrument brands make intermediate piccolo models. I’ve played brands like Pearl and Yamaha, and I’ve tried models from Lyric, Burkart Resona, and more.
Other brands in this category include Gemeinhardt, Roy Seaman, and Di Zhao. As with any major purchase, I recommend trying a few piccolos in your price range from different brands to make sure you choose one that meets your needs.
Some intermediate piccolos cost around $1,000 to $1,500. However, you can find intermediate piccolos that cost as much as $3,000, depending on the brand, materials, and specs.
The price will also depend on the condition since used piccolos tend to sell for a lot less than their new counterparts. When buying a used piccolo, be sure to account for any repairs you’ll need to pay for.
Who It’s For
I’d recommend intermediate model piccolos to people with some piccolo experience. If you’ve played on a student model or have borrowed a piccolo of any level, you can get a step-up model.
That way, you’ll have more specs and options to choose from. You can compare a few different models so that you can get a model that will meet your needs.
What Is a Professional Piccolo?
A professional piccolo is one that is even more advanced than an intermediate model. Piccolos in this range are almost always handmade, so they can get quite expensive.
Professional piccolo models tend to have more specs and customization options. Many of them will come with a variety of headjoint cuts that you can choose.
Also, a lot of serious piccolo players will swap out their headjoint. If you don’t like the one that comes with your piccolo, a headjoint is an easy upgrade.
Most professional piccolos use some sort of wood for the body and headjoint. Grenadilla is by far the most common, but you can also find piccolos that use cocus wood, rosewood, and other materials.
If you’re not a huge fan of wood, you can find some solid silver or even the rare solid gold piccolo. Also, the keys on professional piccolos may be either silver-plated or solid silver.
There are a lot of options to choose from. My professional piccolo has been my biggest purchase so far, and I tried multiple models and headjoints to see what worked for me.
Professional piccolos have a lot of the same specs as intermediate piccolos. You can expect to get a split E mechanism and usually a sort of offset G.
However, professional models come with other options. For example, my Hammig 650/3 features a high G# mechanism, so I can play that high note without having to rely on alternate fingerings.
Some professional piccolos even feature a vented C key. Others may have gold tenon rings instead of just silver tenon rings.
Brands that make professional piccolos include Burkart, Powell, and Hammig. Yamaha also makes some professional piccolos, but I’d recommend those more for people who aren’t piccolo specialists.
Other brands at this level include Nagahara, Pettry, Keefe, and Bulgheroni. You can find piccolo headjoints from Hernandez and Mancke, as well as brands that make full instruments.
Professional piccolos start at around $5,000, though Yamahas cost a little less. Other instruments can cost as much as $10,000 or even $20,000.
The most expensive piccolo I’ve come across is a Powell Kingwood model with gold keys. But most professional models are around $10,000 or less, which is nice.
Who It’s For
I’d recommend a professional piccolo to anyone who’s serious about the instrument. In my journey, it took until the end of my master’s degree to upgrade.
So you don’t need to get a professional piccolo as soon as you start school or become serious about the piccolo. I’d say it’s more important to have the money.
You can make a good intermediate piccolo work while you save up for the best professional piccolo for you.
Intermediate vs. Professional Piccolo Similarities
When comparing intermediate vs. professional piccolo models, it helps to learn what they have in common. The two levels of piccolos share a lot of factors.
Here’s what you can expect from piccolos at either level.
Intermediate and professional piccolo models use a lot of the same materials. Grenadilla wood is probably the most common material at both levels.
Meanwhile, intermediate models and some entry-level professional piccolos use silver-plated keys. Of course, there will be some differences, such as composite piccolos at the intermediate level.
However, if you’re looking for a good wood piccolo, you can choose an intermediate or professional one. Then, you can get a warm sound that’s perfect for playing in an orchestra or any other ensemble.
You may also find that intermediate and professional piccolos share many of the same specs. As I mentioned, the split E mechanism is very common at both levels.
As with the materials, some specs differ, and professional piccolos usually have more spec options. But more and more intermediate models are starting to come with both traditional and wave headjoint cuts.
That way, you can get the response you need based on your lips or your playing preference.
Another similarity between intermediate vs. professional piccolo models is the available brands. Yamaha, Burkart, and Powell are a few brands that make piccolos at both levels.
So if you’ve played and loved a Burkart Resona, there’s a good chance you’ll like a Burkart Professional piccolo. Of course, you can also switch to a new brand if you find one that works better for you.
And some brands make either intermediate or professional piccolos, not both. Since I played a Pearl piccolo, I had to switch to a new brand when I upgraded.
Intermediate vs. Professional Piccolo Differences
Another thing to think about when comparing intermediate vs. professional piccolo models is how they differ. Sure, the two types share many factors.
But the following differences could make or break your purchase.
One of the most significant differences is the fact that professional piccolos are mostly or entirely handmade. To help keep costs down, intermediate piccolos involve some level of machine making.
That allows companies to produce more piccolos and to do so more affordably. Then, they can sell those instruments for a fraction of the price of their handmade instruments.
However, a handmade piccolo will be more unique, even if it shares specs with other models. It can be worth paying for that higher quality when you’re serious about the piccolo.
Of course, the first difference you’ll notice is the price of intermediate vs. professional piccolo models. Intermediate piccolos tend to cost about $1,000 to $3,000.
However, professional piccolos start at $4,000 or $5,000 and can easily top $20,000 at the highest end. On the used market, professional piccolos also tend to hold their value a bit more than intermediate piccolos.
But in either case, buying used can be a good way to save money.
At the professional level, you’ll find a greater variety of options, from specs to materials. Sure, you can start with a standard grenadilla piccolo with basic specs.
However, you can look into other woods, at least for your headjoint. That allows you to get the sound and response you want, which is crucial when you’re spending thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, I’ve only seen one or two differences between intermediate piccolos. Some may sound different, but the options aren’t as vast.
Best Intermediate Piccolos
If you find that an intermediate piccolo will better suit your needs, you should consider some of the best models. There are tons out there, so I’d recommend trying a few.
However, maybe you can’t spend time trying instruments. If that’s the case, here are a few models you can buy.
When I was ready for an intermediate piccolo, I bought a Pearl 105. It features a grenaditte (composite) body and headjoint, and the mechanism is silver-plated.
There’s a split E mechanism, and you can choose between a wave or traditional headjoint. I went with the wave headjoint, and it has helped me get an amazing sound and response.
Unfortunately, some high notes, like high B, don’t always want to respond. But with practice, you can make this piccolo work, and it got me through almost all of graduate school.
If you’d prefer an all-wood piccolo, I’d recommend the Yamaha 62. I believe this is the model I borrowed when I was in college, and it sounded nice in ensembles and when I played solo stuff.
Since it’s a wood piccolo, it’s a bit more expensive than the Pearl. I’d also only recommend it for playing indoors because the wood can crack in extreme heat or cold.
The low register can also be a bit stuffy, so you may need to work on your tone down there. Overall, this piccolo is a good choice for advancing students.
The Lyric piccolo is a relatively new model, having only joined the market in 2017. I’ve tried this model a few times, and I think it sounds and responds very well.
However, it’s not significantly different or better than the Pearl piccolo. If you’re upgrading from a student model, though, the change will be much more apparent.
For better or worse, this piccolo only comes with a wave headjoint. But that can make it easier for some flute players to get used to playing the piccolo.
The Burkart Resona is another excellent wood piccolo at the intermediate level. It originally launched as the Global piccolo, so you may find some used ones under that name.
Either way, this model uses grenadilla and has a split E mechanism. You can choose from either a traditional or wave headjoint, so you can get the sound and response you want.
As with the Lyric piccolo, I didn’t hear or feel much of a difference from the Pearl. So it didn’t make sense for me to upgrade, but it can be a nice change from other models.
Best Professional Piccolos
The world of professional piccolo models is massive, so I can’t cover every brand or model in this list. However, there are a few professional piccolos that I’ve tried and enjoyed.
Here are some models I’d recommend, especially if you don’t have the largest budget for a new piccolo.
I chose the Hammig 650/3 as my professional piccolo, and I love it. It features grenadilla wood and silver-plated keys, which is similar to many intermediate models.
But like other professional piccolos, this one is handmade. It also features a high G# mechanism so that you don’t have to memorize a bunch of alternate fingerings for that note.
You can also get the Hammig 650/2, which is the same but without the G# mechanism. Either way, you can choose from traditional and wave headjoint cuts, and I got a wave cut.
If you’re looking for a more advanced version of the Resona, consider a Burkart Professional. Like other Burkart models, it’s an American-made instrument.
This model is handmade and uses grenadilla wood along with a solid silver mechanism. That will make the instrument more expensive than the Hammig that I have.
You can choose between three headjoint cuts, including a wave. I’m not quite sure what the other cuts look like since it’s been a couple of years since I tried this model.
The Yamaha 81 is an excellent professional piccolo for doublers or for flute players who aren’t piccolo specialists. It’s very similar to the intermediate Yamaha, but it’s a bit more expensive.
I tried one of these when I was trialing professional piccolos, and it was fine. However, since I am very serious about the piccolo, it didn’t make sense for me to get it when there were other models available.
If you’re on a tight budget, this may be the best piccolo you can afford. In that case, I’d say you should go for it, and you can make it work while you save up for something even better.
The Powell Signature is another amazing professional piccolo to consider. I first tried one over a year before I upgraded to a professional piccolo, and I thought this would be the model I’d choose.
It uses grenadilla wood, and it’s one model where you can opt not to get the split E mechanism. You also get to choose between a traditional or wave headjoint.
This piccolo is a bit expensive for what it is, but you can save money if you get a used one. Then, you can get the model without having to break the bank.
Should You Buy an Intermediate vs. Professional Piccolo?
You should consider where you’re at with your piccolo playing. If you’re still fairly new, I’d recommend you get an intermediate piccolo, at least for now.
But if you have more experience (and the money), you can get a professional piccolo. Then, you can choose the best possible instrument for you.
Where Can You Buy an Intermediate or Professional Piccolo?
You can buy an intermediate or professional piccolo from a variety of places. Many flute specialty shops carry a big selection that you can choose from.
Other options include online from general or other music retailers. If you want a used piccolo, you can also look on social media and resale sites.
Comparing intermediate vs. professional piccolo models can help you choose the right instrument for you. Be sure to look at everything from the materials to the cost.
Then, you can compare the best brands and models within each category. If you know what you’re looking for, you can buy the piccolo and start to improve your playing right away!