If you just bought a piccolo, you may think the spending money part is over. Unfortunately, you may need to spend money on a COA, but what is a COA?
It’s the basic maintenance that you need to get for your flute and piccolo at least yearly. Read on to learn more about how COAs work and how to find a good technician to do the job.
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
What Is a COA for Piccolo?
Just like for the flute, a COA for piccolo is what a flute technician does to maintain your instrument. It’s like the standard oil change and other maintenance you get done on your car.
However, COA stands for “clean, oil, and adjust,” so it involves those three aspects to improve the condition of your piccolo. The tech will take it apart and clean all of the parts more than you can at home.
Then, they’ll oil the mechanism to make sure it doesn’t lock up. If you have a wood piccolo, the tech will also oil the wood to keep it from drying out. Finally, they’ll adjust the mechanism and any other parts that need it.
Why You Need a COA
Now that you know what a COA is and what goes into it, you may wonder why you need it. As I mentioned, it’s like the maintenance you get for your car.
It’s just as important to keep your piccolo in playing condition. Then, you won’t have to buy a whole new piccolo a year after you got the instrument you play now.
Consider the following advantages of getting a COA on your piccolo regularly.
More Advanced Maintenance
You can do a lot to clean and maintain your piccolo at home. Of course, you can clean the piccolo, and you can oil the headjoint yourself if you’re careful.
However, you can only do so much to keep your instrument in tip-top shape. Over time, for example, the cork can wear down and need replacing.
And the keys might need oiling, but you shouldn’t attempt that yourself. Taking your piccolo to a professional technician can help you get your piccolo back to playing its best.
Keep Your Piccolo in Good Shape
Of course, you can also keep your piccolo in better shape with professional care. Even if you swab your piccolo every time you play and make sure it stays in its case otherwise, that can only do so much.
If you want to make your piccolo last for years, you need to make sure it gets a COA regularly. Now, the frequency can depend on how much you play it.
But every year or so is a good interval of time to go between professional tech visits. Then, you could keep your piccolo going for a few extra years compared to if you never took it in for a COA.
Improve Selling Price
Eventually, you may want to sell your piccolo, such as to help pay for an upgrade. However, older piccolos don’t always hold their value as well as newer ones.
Fortunately, you can slightly increase the value if you pay for a COA right before you start listing your piccolo for sale. That means you can get more money for the instrument to use toward an upgrade.
It can also attract more potential buyers. I know that if I was on the hook for maintenance as a buyer, I’d be less likely to purchase an instrument than if it recently received a COA.
How to Find a Piccolo Repair Technician
Before you take your piccolo just anywhere for a COA, you should look for the right technician. Ideally, you’d take or send your piccolo to a piccolo or flute repair specialist.
At the very least, you should have a woodwind technician work on it. That way, you don’t have to worry about a general instrument technician making mistakes since they might not have a lot of experience repairing piccolos.
Here are some steps you can take to find a good piccolo repair technician.
Start With Flute Shops
Most of the major flute shops in the United States have a repair team on staff. That means you can take your piccolo to those stores and have them do a COA on it.
Unfortunately, some of these shops charge quite a bit of money compared to other technicians. However, I know some shops offer a special deal to customers who bought a piccolo through the store in question.
So if you buy from Flute World, for example, you can pay for a maintenance package. Then, you can send your piccolo there when it needs a COA or other repairs.
Consider Music Stores
Another option is to take your piccolo to a more general music store. I would only recommend this if you have a beginner piccolo and need basic maintenance or repairs.
As I mentioned briefly, these stores might not have flute or piccolo repair specialists on staff. That means they may not work on piccolos much or at all.
However, if you need a COA or a quick repair, a general music store might be your only option. Like flute shops, these stores may also offer a discount on repair work if you buy your piccolo through them.
Ask for Referrals
When I was looking for a flute and piccolo repair tech, I got a referral from my flute teacher. I’ve taken my instruments to the tech in question for years, and she does a great job.
Asking for referrals is a great option if you’d prefer not to ship your piccolo out for repairs. You can see if there are any techs within driving distance, and you can contact the tech to see what their availability is.
Referrals are also helpful when you move to a new area. You may have a good technician back in your hometown, but if you don’t want to have to travel or ship your piccolo, you can see if there’s someone closer.
Go to a Piccolo Maker
You can also take your piccolo directly to the company that made it. For example, I know that Pearl has a repair technician on staff, so I could send my Pearl 105 to him.
A lot of piccolo makers are also at flute conventions, so you don’t even have to ship the instrument. You can schedule a repair ahead of time to make sure they’ll be able to get the COA done.
At worst, you can bring the piccolo to them, and the company can ship it back to you. That way, you don’t have to worry about packing the instrument correctly.
How Often Does Your Piccolo Need a COA?
Your piccolo may need a COA as often as every six months if you play the instrument for multiple hours a day. On the other hand, if you rarely play it, you could go a year or longer between COAs.
Consider how often you play it and how much you play per day when you do play the piccolo. But don’t ignore the instrument because it might tell you when it needs maintenance, especially if it suddenly becomes much harder to play.
Should You Attempt a COA on Your Piccolo?
Unless you’re a flute and piccolo repair technician, you should never attempt to do a COA yourself. At best, you won’t improve the condition of the instrument.
And at worst, you could damage your piccolo more and require even more expensive work from a professional. It’s not worth the risk, so just schedule a COA now.
How Can You Maintain Your Piccolo at Home?
The best way to maintain your piccolo at home is to swab it out after every practice session, Use a swabbing cloth with your piccolo’s cleaning rod to get the condensation out of the instrument.
You can also use pad paper to blot sticky keys and get them to open and close normally again. If you have a wood piccolo, you can use almond oil on the headjoint (NOT THE BODY) to oil it between COAs and keep the wood from cracking.
Lauren Carr from Flute Authority has an awesome, quick tutorial that I follow whenever I need to oil my headjoint.
How Much Does a COA Cost?
A COA can cost different amounts depending on the piccolo you have and where you take the piccolo. Some larger flute shops charge more because they have to account for their repair teams.
However, individual techs can charge a bit less since they only have to pay themselves and cover the cost of materials. Speaking of which, you may have to pay more if the tech discovers that you also need to replace multiple pads since that takes more materials and time.
You can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $400+ depending on the tech or store.
Is It Safe to Mail Your Piccolo for a COA?
I’ve been fortunate enough to not need to mail my piccolo for repairs yet. However, I know a lot of musicians mail their instruments for a COA or other work, and they haven’t had any issues.
Personally, I’d avoid mailing my piccolo if at all possible, but you sometimes have no other option. If you need to mail your piccolo, make sure the instrument is insured and that you pay for mail insurance in case it gets lost in transit.
If it’s a wood piccolo, I’d avoid mailing it during the summer or winter. And I’d recommend paying extra for one-day shipping so that it’s not sitting somewhere without climate control for too long.
Many flute and piccolo players have wondered, what is a COA? A COA is a clean, oil, and adjust that a professional tech performs on your instrument.
Regular maintenance is crucial to keeping your instrument in good condition for longer. Be sure to find a good tech you trust to work on your piccolo now and in the future.