Are you looking to get a wood piccolo to use alone or in an ensemble? You have a lot to consider before you upgrade from your current instrument.
Wood models can be great for some players but too much to handle for others. It’s okay if you don’t decide a wood piccolo is for you, but you have to make that decision.
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Why Get a Wood Piccolo
If you’re looking to improve your playing, a wood piccolo can help. While you still have to work on your skills, better equipment will make that other part easier.
Here are a few advantages you can experience if you buy a wooden instrument.
Especially if you’re upgrading from a metal piccolo or a plastic piccolo with a metal headjoint, you may find the tone is much warmer. You can get such a good sound, which can make playing much more fun.
The warm, full tone makes it easier to blend with others in orchestra or another ensemble. I’ve also found it’s easier to experiment with different tone colors on a wooden piccolo.
Now, some models will offer a different tone from others. It can depend on the cut of the headjoint, the specific wood, and other factors.
Like it or not, there tends to be a subconscious view on wood piccolos vs. other materials. Wood instruments tend to be thought of as more professional compared to plastic and metal models.
There are some metal piccolos, specifically solid silver ones, that are at the pro level. But for the most part, metal and plastic piccolos are more suited towards students.
That doesn’t mean you can’t advance with those instruments. However, if you want to play the piccolo as a job, it can be well worth investing in a wood model.
Regardless of the material, professional piccolos offer more spec options than beginner piccolos. For example, some piccolos have a split E mechanism, and that’s a pretty common spec.
However, you’ll only find specs like a G# facilitator or a vented C key on wood piccolos. If you want those special keys, you’ll need to splurge on a more expensive instrument.
Now, there are some wood piccolos that are pretty basic. But when it comes to customizing your instrument, a wood piccolo will give you more choices than you’d have with plastic or metal models.
Grenadilla wood is probably the most common wood for piccolos and other wooden woodwinds. It sounds good and looks good, so it’s a nice choice for many players.
However, more makers are starting to use other woods, such as cocus, olive wood, or rosewood. Those materials can have a slightly different sound from grenadilla, which may be a good thing.
If you’re looking at wood piccolos, be sure to test out different woods. You might find that another materials suits you better than the standard grenadilla.
Start With a Headjoint
Another great option with wood piccolos is that you can get just a wood headjoint. This is worth trying if you already have a plastic or composite piccolo since it’s relatively easy to make the headjoint fit.
Before I bought my wood piccolo, I tried some wood headjoints on my composite instrument. The headjoints sounded pretty good, but I was holding out to get a full instrument.
If you don’t want to get a full wood model, a headjoint is a great option. You can get a warmer tone and perhaps a better headjoint cut for you without spending as much money.
Why Not Get a Wood Piccolo
While a wood piccolo can be an excellent choice for some players, it’s not for everyone. Like any instrument, there are a lot of downsides to buying a wooden model.
Before you shell out that much cash or set aside savings, consider if this investment is for you. And it may not be for you now but could be a good choice in the future.
Here are some drawbacks to think about when looking for wood piccolos.
One of the most obvious cons to getting a wood piccolo is the cost. Plastic and metal models can cost less than $1,000, and some will cost more than that.
However, the cheapest (reputable) wood piccolo starts at around $1,500 new. You can find used piccolos that are a bit cheaper, so a used wood piccolo may start at around $1,000.
But you can find plenty of wood piccolos that are a lot more expensive. I’ve seen some models that come close to $20,000, but the majority cost between $2,000 and $8,000.
Any piccolo requires daily maintenance at home and yearly maintenance from a professional tech. However, wood piccolos require even more care than a plastic or metal instrument.
You can’t just pick up a wood piccolo and play. I mean, you can do that, but it can easily cause the wood to crack. Then, you’d need to pay hundreds of dollars to fix the crack.
Wood piccolos also require oiling, and you can oil the headjoint yourself with something like almond oil. If you aren’t ready to take that on, you should consider waiting to get a wood model.
Speaking of cracks and maintenance, repairing a wood piccolo requires specific skills. You can’t just take your instrument to the local music store when you need a repair or a COA (clean, oil, adjust).
If anything goes wrong, you need to find someone who specializes at the very least in woodwind repair. Ideally, you’d take your piccolo to a flute repair technician.
Those professionals will know what to do to fix your instrument correctly. You could take it elsewhere, but you run the risk of the repair not going well and having to pay even more to correct it.
Not Much Playing
I’d only recommend getting a wood piccolo if you play the instrument regularly. If you only play it once or twice a year (or even once or twice a month), it’s not worth it.
As I’ve mentioned, wood piccolos require a lot of care, and they’re expensive. You can still get a good piccolo if you’re a casual player, and you should get the right model for you.
However, it’d be a better choice to get a plastic instrument that you can pick up and play whenever. Then, you won’t have to worry about not getting the most use out of a wood model.
Wanting a Backup
Maybe you already have a wood piccolo but want a second one as a backup. You never know what can happen to your main instrument, so it makes sense to have a few extra options.
If that’s the case, you should get a good plastic or composite piccolo as a backup. That way, the piccolo can sit in storage until you need it without too much worry about the instrument developing problems.
You still need to take good care of that piccolo when you do play it. However, you won’t have to spend as much time maintaining the piccolo if it doesn’t use wood.
Composite: A Wood Piccolo Alternative
A small but growing category of piccolos uses composite materials for the headjoint and body. One excellent example of this is the Pearl 105.
That model specifically uses a material called grenaditte, which is a combination of grenadilla and plastic. The grenadilla lets you get the warmth of wood, but the plastic keeps it from cracking.
Composite models can sound a lot better than metal and even plastic instruments. They’re also more affordable than even some of the cheaper wood models.
When Should You Get a Wood Piccolo?
You should get a wood piccolo after you’ve proven to yourself that you will take the piccolo seriously. If you’re in school or are still young, you may want to talk it over with your parents.
When you’re married or in a serious relationship, talk about it with your partner. While it’s your decision, it helps to talk about it with others so that you can make the right choice for you.
How Do You Choose a Wood Piccolo?
A lot goes into choosing the right wood piccolo for you. First, you need to set a budget so that you don’t overspend and run your finances into the ground.
You also have to think about the brand. While there aren’t a ton, I have seen a couple of wood piccolos from what appear to be knock-off brands, so they probably won’t play as well as you’d hope.
Finally, make sure to try the piccolo before buying. Don’t just play the model, play the specific piccolo that you intend to purchase to determine if you like how it feels and sounds.
Will You Get a Wood Piccolo?
Getting a wood piccolo, especially your first one, is exciting! But before you rush into the purchase, consider if it’s the right choice for you right now.
If not, wait a while and reassess your situation in a few months. Then, you can make sure you don’t waste your time or money on something that isn’t the right fit.