Do you want to become a professional flute player? Are you having trouble getting gigs? Consider if you should specialize in the piccolo.
While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, it can be a good choice for some players. You can access more gigs and keep from getting lost in a sea of people who mainly play the flute.
Should you specialize in the piccolo?
Before we get into it, this post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Benefits of Playing the Piccolo
Playing the piccolo to any degree offers a ton of benefits. You can play more music, get more performance opportunities, and have fun while doing it.
But what if you really love the piccolo? You don’t have to treat the piccolo as something you play out of necessity. Instead, you can take it more seriously, and you can even become a piccolo specialist.
How I Decided to Specialize in the Piccolo
Deciding to become a piccolo specialist was a tough choice. It’s something I still debate occasionally. I wonder if it was the right thing for me.
But I did go through a process to help come to this point. Here are few things you can think of as well to decide if you should specialize in the piccolo.
Competition on the Flute
In college, I faced quite a bit of competition from other flute players. I was good friends with some of them, but they were still going after the same parts in ensembles as I was.
I’m far from the best flute player, so the odds of me getting a principal part were probably slim. But since I focused a lot of the piccolo, I was able to get a lot of piccolo parts.
I was the main piccolo player in wind ensemble during my senior year. And in graduate school, I was the third flute/piccolo player for the university orchestra. I wouldn’t have had those roles without the small flute.
My Love for Piccolo
Probably the best reason why I decided to specialize in the piccolo is because I love it. There’s something about playing something so small and getting to “float” above an orchestra or band.
As a soloist, you can explore a lot of fun repertoire. Sure, you could play those same pieces on the flute, but the piccolo has a bit of a different timbre due to its range.
Even if you do face a lot of flute competition, you may not want to become a piccolo specialist if you don’t like the instrument. Instead, specialize in other ways, such as on low flutes or the traverso.
I’d Been a Doubler Before
I played alto sax before I even started learning the flute or the piccolo. Woodwind doubling was the reason I decided to start playing the flute. I knew how to balance multiple instruments in my practicing.
Because of that, I had a leg up when it came to doubling on flute and piccolo. I didn’t have to worry about how to manage practice time or how to make enough time for both instruments.
While I don’t really play the saxophone any more, the skills I learned from playing it and the flute have helped me now. I can manage a performance that involves the flute, piccolo, and even the alto flute.
What to Consider Before You Specialize in the Piccolo
If you want to become a piccolo specialist, that’s great. You can enjoy a lot of the benefits of playing the instrument. And you can build a name for yourself without having to compete with as many musicians.
However, you should consider the following things before you go all in as a piccolo specialist.
You Have to Love It
If your main reason for specializing in the piccolo is to make more money or book more gigs, don’t do it. You need to love playing the piccolo to specialize on the instrument.
Think about it. You’ll need to practice the piccolo regularly to be able to perform well as a piccolo specialist on a gig. People will lose trust in you if you show up and can’t get a good tone.
Make sure you have the desire to work on your piccolo chops. Otherwise, you’ll waste your time and the time of anyone who may hire you to play.
Combine It With Another Focus
You don’t have to have a secondary focus. But specializing in another area, such as orchestral playing or contemporary music, can help. If you don’t get a piccolo-related gig, you can still do something you’re good at.
For me, that meant writing and creating content. Even though I have a more general flute blog, I decided to start a piccolo-specific blog to position myself as an expert.
That’s especially important now since I haven’t gotten many gigs lately. But even when I do get to perform as a piccoloist, I will have my focus as a writer to serve as a backup.
Start Playing ASAP
Whether you’ve played piccolo before or not, you need to add it to your practice routine as soon as you can. That way, you’ll be able to learn and improve on the instrument to build up your skills.
After you build up your skills, you can use that to your advantage to help get a gig. You don’t need to practice the piccolo for hours a day, but you need to practice consistently.
Make time for the piccolo, and don’t feel bad if it cuts into your flute practice. You’ll need to maintain your flute playing, but you won’t need to practice it as much if you know how to practice efficiently.
Get the Best Instrument You Can
You should also look into upgrading your piccolo if you can afford to do so. Having a better instrument will give you a good chance of getting a better sound, so you can play the piccolo more easily.
Now, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a piccolo. But you may not want to stick with a student model forever. If you can’t afford an upgrade now, start saving up so that you can get one later.
Eventually, you’ll be able to get a professional piccolo. Then, you can set yourself apart from other flutists and even other piccolo specialists.
Best Piccolos for Aspiring Piccolo Specialists
If you want to specialize in the piccolo, you have plenty of instruments to choose from. But not all piccolos are the same, so you should start with a good model.
The instruments I’m listing are perfect for intermediate players. You don’t need a ton of money to purchase them. So they’re also great for students.
Here are a few piccolos to try as you learn the instrument.
I played a Pearl 105 for over three years, including through most of my masters degree. It was affordable, and it’s a composite model, so you don’t have to worry about the wood cracking.
But it sounds very similar to wooden models. That makes it an excellent choice for use in orchestra or band. And you can play it on a solo or chamber recital.
You may even be able to start finding work as a piccolo specialist with this as your main piccolo. And if not, be sure to keep it around. I now use it as my backup piccolo when my main one needs maintenance.
If you want a slightly more advanced model, go for the Pearl 165. This model has a composite body, but the head is solid wood. That can give you more of a wood sound, but it’s still lower maintenance.
Because of the wood headjoint, it does cost a bit more. This model also has slightly different pads from the 105. However, the other specs on the body are the same.
If you want an affordable option with some wood, you can’t go wrong with a 165. You can use the piccolo for a long time, and it should hold up. Plus, you can get a composite headjoint to use in extreme weather.
Gemeinhardt Roy Seaman Storm
The Gemeinhardt Roy Seaman Storm is another excellent backup piccolo for specialists and a great main piccolo for aspiring specialists. It features a composite body just the the Pearls.
Like the Pearl 105, this piccolo features a composite headjoint. That makes it an excellent option for playing inside and outside. And it features a professional scale to get the instrument in tune.
If you don’t like the Pearl piccolos, you should try this one. It’s in a similar price range, but the different brand has a different sound and feel. So you might like this model.
Will You Specialize in the Piccolo?
If you want to set yourself apart as a flutist, you may want to specialize in the piccolo. But doing so isn’t the right choice for everyone. Be sure to consider everything about it before you focus on the small flute.