Do you need a new piccolo or a new piccolo headjoint? Consider if a traditional or wave cut is better for you.
Both headjoint styles are useful, and some players prefer one, while others prefer the other. So give both a try, and consider the differences to help choose.
Before we get into the comparison and selection tips, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
The most significant difference between a traditional and wave piccolo headjoint is the design. Like the name suggests, traditional headjoints have been around for longer.
On them, the embouchure hole is typically an oval or round shape. The headjoint maker doesn’t do anything to change the hole where you blow into the instrument.
However, a wave piccolo headjoint has a wave design on the side of the embouchure hole opposite from your lips. That wave helps direct the air into the hole to help you get a sound.
The different headjoint designs affect how air flows into the piccolo. If you play on a traditional headjoint, you’ll have to make the hole between your lips smaller to direct the air correctly.
Wave headjoints are a bit more forgiving, so they’re good if you tend to put a lot of air into the piccolo. You still need to have a good aperture, but you don’t have to be as precise to get a good tone.
The volume of air you put through a piccolo can also differ depending on the headjoint style you choose. Because you use a smaller hole with a traditional piccolo headjoint, the air volume is a bit lower.
But if you get a wave piccolo headjoint, you can use more air. The headjoint cut will help get the air where it needs to go. Then, you can make an excellent sound as you play.
In both cases, you’ll use less air than on the flute. But it can help to have a wave headjoint. You’ll have more leeway when blowing, so you can work more on your sound.
How to Decide Between a Traditional and Wave Piccolo Headjoint
When shopping for a new piccolo or an aftermarket piccolo headjoint, you should consider the type of headjoint. That way, you can make sure the instrument will be a good fit for you.
Personally, I tend to gravitate towards the wave piccolo headjoint cut. But you may like the traditional style better. So don’t just take my recommendation.
Consider the following factors as you tests piccolos and headjoints. Then, you can get the best setup for you.
Try Both Cuts
To help choose the right piccolo headjoint, try both a traditional and a wave style. If possible, try both cuts from the same maker, such as Pearl. That way, you can minimize the differences between the headjoints.
If you find you like one style better, it will be easier to tell that it’s because of the cut. But if you try a traditional piccolo headjoint from one company and a wave from the other, it won’t be as clear.
You should also try headjoints of the same material. That way, you can make sure the difference isn’t because you like grenadilla better than grenaditte or another material.
Try Multiple Options
Another thing that can help you find the best piccolo headjoints is to try multiple wave and traditional cuts. Look at headjoints from a few different companies to see if you like one the best.
Every piccolo maker is a bit different. So maybe you prefer a traditional cut from one maker but a wave headjoint from another. Trying different brands can help you find the best piccolo and headjoint combination for you.
Be sure to look at piccolos in your budget. Then, you’ll be able to choose an instrument that you love and can afford.
Test the Full Range
As you look at different piccolos, give them all a full test. Make sure you play down to the lowest note and up to the highest. That way, you can see if any notes are hard to play.
You should also play both soft and loud to see if you need to work too hard to play at one dynamic. If it’s too hard to play soft or loud, that piccolo may not be for you.
And you should test fast and slow passages. While that can affect your fingers more, you also need to be able to adjust your air accordingly.
Ignore Others’ Opinions
You can get opinions from others when it comes to finding piccolos to try. But at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is yours. If you don’t like a piccolo headjoint cut, it won’t matter if others love it.
I’ve seen a few debates in flute and piccolo groups about traditional and wave cuts. Some people have a firm stance either way. While it can help to know what others think, you need to try headjoints yourself.
If you can, go to a music store or a flute event to try multiple piccolos at once. Alternatively, you can order a few piccolos online for a trial. Then, you can get them sent to you to test out.
Trust Your Gut
When you first pick up a piccolo or try a new piccolo headjoint, pay attention to your initial reaction. You may need to try a few more piccolos to find one you like.
However, your first instinct may be worth following. If you try a few piccolos and can’t decide which is best, go back to what you try first. You may find it’s the best option for you.
If you don’t have any strong feelings with the first piccolo, you can try others. But once you do get a strong feeling for or against a model, listen to that as you determine which piccolo to buy.
Buy the Other Style
You may buy a whole new piccolo and later realize that the stock piccolo headjoint doesn’t work for you. At that point, you can buy another piccolo, but that can be expensive.
Fortunately, makers like Mancke and Hernandez offer aftermarket headjoints for the piccolo. That means you can add the new headjoint to your current piccolo body.
If you want to do that, get a headjoint in the cut that’s different from what you have. Then, you can test and compare both of them. You can try the new cut out and see if you want to make the switch.
Will You Play a Traditional or Wave Piccolo Headjoint?
Both the traditional and wave piccolo headjoint cuts have pros and cons. And neither cut is better for everyone. Be sure you try both styles of headjoint to see which you like.
Then, you can get a good piccolo headjoint that meets your needs.