Do you want to play the piccolo but can’t decide what model to get? Consider playing a metal piccolo, at least to help you learn the basics.
You can always upgrade later, and you can keep your metal instrument as a backup. Playing a metal piccolo is great, but it’s not for everyone, and it’s not for some people for all of their piccolo playing journey.
Before we get into whether you should play a metal instrument, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
Why Play a Metal Piccolo
Playing a metal piccolo can be a great option for many musicians. It might not be for everyone, but before you write it off, consider a few benefits.
You may find the material is the right choice for your needs.
Many flute players will choose to play piccolo in marching band during high school or college. But there are other outdoor performance opportunities, from orchestras to flute choirs.
If you want to play in any of those ensembles, you need a good piccolo for the outdoors. A wood piccolo can crack, especially if it experiences extreme temperature or humidity changes.
I played the piccolo in college marching band, and I played it in an orchestra the summer after college. Having a good piccolo that can withstand the elements helped a lot.
A metal piccolo isn’t always the cheapest, but they tend to fall into the more affordable price brackets. You’ll find some cheaper plastic and plastic/metal combo models.
However, most of the metal instruments I’ve seen are much cheaper than wood piccolos. They’re also more affordable than some composite models.
If you look at used piccolos, the price gets even lower, especially for a metal piccolo. The used Armstrong 204 I got sold for about $275, less than a third of the price it would have been when new.
Good for Students
I started on the Armstrong as my first piccolo, and it worked out well. Having a lip plate made it feel a bit more like a flute, which I think helped me start to learn the smaller instrument.
Now, I play a wood piccolo without a lip plate, and I don’t need a lip plate anymore. Still, it was nice to play a similar material to the material of my regular flute.
If you’re nervous about having to play the piccolo, find a metal model. You’ll need to practice, but the design and materials could help you along the way.
The materials and design can also make a metal piccolo easier to transition to from the flute. Most piccolo players continue to play the flute, so swapping between them is important.
Especially at first, switching between a metal flute and a wood piccolo can be difficult. You can learn, and I and many others have done that.
However, maybe you don’t play the piccolo that often. If that’s the case, get an instrument that will make things easier for you.
Why Not Play a Metal Piccolo
While there are a few good reasons to play a metal piccolo, there are just as many reasons not to. I loved my metal instrument, but I eventually needed something different.
Before you splurge on a new piccolo, consider why metal might not be the best material for you.
Metal piccolos can sound a bit more shrill compared to their plastic, composite, and wood counterparts. The piccolo is a high-pitched instrument, and it can stick out easily.
Other materials are better for not sticking out too much. You could get a metal instrument to work, but you’d need to work a lot harder at it.
Flutes used to be wood, and metal helped them project in an orchestra. That development helped the flute, but it’s not as useful when it comes to the piccolo.
Hard to Blend
The shrill tone also makes it hard to blend a metal piccolo with other instruments. I played the piccolo part in Beethoven Symphony No. 5, and that part had a lot of Cs above the staff.
It was hard to get the piccolo to sound in tune and to sound good with the rest of the orchestra. So I made it a priority to upgrade to a better model, and that helped me tremendously.
I didn’t spend a ton on my Pearl 105 piccolo, but it sounded amazing in the orchestra. That model also got me through another year out of school and most of my grad degree.
Another thing that can throw you off when you play a metal piccolo is how you have to hold it. The bore on the inside is pretty similar regardless of the material.
However, metal is much thinner compared to plastic and wood. So the outside is also a lot smaller, and your hands may have to squeeze a bit to be able to hold the instrument.
Now, many metal piccolos have a finger rest for the left hand and a thumb rest for the right. But even then, it can still be a bit of a challenge to balance your piccolo, especially if you’ve played a plastic or wood one.
Metal piccolos may be getting better each year, but some don’t have as many specs as other piccolos. For example, my Armstrong 204 doesn’t have a split E, which is almost on piccolos standard these days.
You also probably won’t find more advanced specs, such as a G# mechanism, on a metal piccolo. If you want those features, you’ll have to splurge and get a wood model.
There may be some exceptions, so be sure to review the list of specs before buying any piccolo. But keep in mind that you might have to make sacrifices if you really want a metal instrument.
What Are Some Good Metal Piccolo Models?
Gemeinhardt also makes one or two metal piccolos that you can try out. If you’re looking at more advanced instruments, Haynes has some good metal options.
Where Can You Find a Metal Piccolo?
You can find a metal piccolo from any music or flute store. Since most are beginner models, they’re usually more readily available than a lot of wood instruments.
Another option is to buy one directly from someone selling their piccolo. You can also go through a flute tech who happens to sell instruments, and that’s how I got my Armstrong.
Should You Buy a Used Metal Piccolo?
I think buying a used metal piccolo is an excellent choice for many players. You can save money, which is nice if you aren’t sure how much you’ll play the piccolo.
Similarly, there are a lot of metal options on the used market. So you may have an easier time finding a good piccolo if you consider new and used ones.
Will You Play a Metal Piccolo?
Playing a metal piccolo can be a great way to help you learn the instrument. You can also be heard and use the instrument in outdoor gigs without the risk of cracks.
However, the metal can sound shrill and make it hard to blend with others. Be sure to consider the pros and cons to decide if a metal piccolo is right for you.
If you still have questions, head to the resources page for more information about all things piccolo!