Your piccolo is playing only Bb a half step down. But you have a concert in a week and need to keep up with practicing for your performance!
A few things can keep your piccolo from playing Bb when it’s supposed to. Read on for a few causes and their solutions plus ways to prevent the problem.
Before we get into it, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
1. There’s a Water Bubble
Your piccolo can develop water bubbles as the condensation builds up inside your instrument. If you don’t swab out your piccolo often, the condensation will stay there.
Water bubbles can form in almost any of the tone holes on your piccolo, including the tone hole that differentiates Bb from A natural. When you’re having trouble producing a Bb, I’d check for water bubbles in the A tone hole.
If one’s there, it’s pretty easy to get rid of, and you’ll know what to do if it happens again.
You can get rid of a water bubble in a few ways. First, I’d recommend using a piccolo swab and cleaning rod to clean the inside and get any condensation out.
Another option is to blow on the tone hole in question, in this case the A tone hole. You should be able to see the water bubble pop, and then you’ll be able to get the correct pitch to come out.
How to Prevent It
The best way to prevent water bubbles in your piccolo is to swab the inside regularly. At the very least, you should swab your piccolo after every rehearsal or practice session.
If you’re practicing for more than an hour, try to swab your piccolo at least once in the middle of the session. That way, you can keep spit and condensation from building up.
2. The Key Is Sticky
Another reason why your piccolo is playing only Bb a half step down is that the A key is sticking to the Bb key. I haven’t had this happen, but I know of at least one player who has struggled with this.
She said that the piece of cork that keeps the A key and Bb key from scratching fell off. All that was left was a bit of residue that held the cork on.
When the residue got warm, it would become sticky. So as this player would try to play a Bb, the A key would come down with the Bb key, no matter which Bb fingering was used.
If you find your A key and Bb key are sticking together, your best bet is to take your piccolo to a repair technician. The tech can replace the cork if it’s gone missing.
That way, the metal keys won’t hit each other and make an annoying noise. And you should be able to get back to playing each note as normal.
How to Prevent It
Make sure you take your piccolo to a repair tech for its annual COA. That way, your tech can check for any issues before they become a serious problem.
If you’re looking to buy a new piccolo, make sure you stick with a reputable brand. Try to avoid super old piccolos when shopping on the used market.
3. The Mechanism Has a Problem
Another thing that could make your piccolo play only Bb a half step down is the mechanism. Piccolo mechanisms are very finely tuned to allow you to play the correct notes.
So if something goes out of adjustment, that could affect only one note or multiple notes. Maybe a spring came loose or you need to tighten or loosen a screw.
You may be able to fix this problem on your own, so you can get back to playing. But there’s a better solution.
If you’re confident you know exactly what’s wrong, you can use a screwdriver or multi-tool. However, you could also do more harm than good to your piccolo.
I’d recommend that most people take their piccolo to a technician if the mechanism has a problem. For a quick repair, you can find a general tech nearby, but it never hurts to send it to a piccolo or flute repair specialist.
How to Prevent It
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent the mechanism from going out of adjustment. But you can take your piccolo in for its regular COA every year.
You can also avoid leaving your piccolo out of its case unattended where it could get knocked around. That way, you can keep it safe between trips to the technician.
Is Your Piccolo Playing Only Bb a Half Step Down?
When your piccolo is playing only Bb a half step down, it can be frustrating. For better or worse, a few things may be causing the issue, and some solutions are easier than others.
Make sure you review the possible causes and their solutions. That way, you can prevent the same problem from occurring in the future.