I’ve had some non-musician acquaintances confuse my piccolo for an oboe or even a clarinet. So it got me thinking, why are piccolos black?
The reason mostly has to do with the construction of a given piccolo model. After all, not all piccolos are black, but they can be just as good.
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Why Piccolos Are Black
The main reason why piccolos are black is due to the material of their headjoint and/or body. A few different materials can make the piccolo look black.
Here are some popular examples that you need to know.
Most plastic piccolos that you’ll come across use an ABS resin, also known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. A popular example model that uses ABS plastic is the Jupiter 1010.
Plastic piccolos are great for students because they’re usually pretty durable (assuming they’re from a reputable brand). They’re also suitable for use indoors and outdoors.
So even as you advance, you can keep a plastic piccolo in your inventory as a backup or for outdoor gigs.
Probably the most popular piccolo material is grenadilla wood (also known as African blackwood). It’s the standard wood for most professional piccolos as well as quite a few intermediate instruments.
Wood can offer a warm, gorgeous sound, so it’s perfect for use in an orchestra. Unfortunately, it does come with some risks, especially if you play in different climates.
If you take your piccolo from a warm room to a cold room, the wood can crack, for example. Then, you’d need to spend money on repairs.
Grenaditte is the material of popular piccolos like the Pearl 105 and the GUO New Voice. It’s basically a combination of grenadilla wood with plastic, so you get the benefits of both materials.
For example, the plastic stabilizes the wood, so it’s perfect for playing indoors or out. But the wood offers an even warmer sound than what you can get with most ABS resin models.
Other Composite Materials
Some other piccolos use composite materials for the body or headjoint. However, they don’t advertise the material specifically as grenaditte.
But they share many similarities with grenaditte in that these piccolos are black.
Other Piccolo Colors
Not all piccolos are black, and there are some other common colors. One color isn’t the best color for all players because we all have different preferences and styles.
Consider the following colors a good piccolo can come in when shopping for your next model.
After black, silver is probably the next most common color for a piccolo. For one, some models combine a plastic or wood body with a silver-plated or solid silver headjoint.
But other piccolos are all metal, and they either use solid silver or a layer of silver plating over nickel silver. A good example of this is the Armstrong 204, which is the piccolo I started on.
Silver piccolos look the most like small flutes, but they have smaller outer bores compared to most wood or plastic models. But they also usually come with a finger rest to make holding the piccolo easier.
When it comes to wood piccolos, you may also find that some look more brown than black. This is true among rosewood and cocus wood models.
You can also find a few piccolo headjoints with a brown hue. In most cases, these woods look like light shades of brown, but the exact color depends on the wood.
The specific shade can also depend on where the wood comes from and other factors.
Another color of piccolo is gold, and this is even more rare than gold flutes. For better or worse, gold is actually quite common among the cheap piccolos.
They’re never going to be solid gold, but they may use gold-plated keys along with a silver-plated body.
Some boutique professional piccolos also use gold-plated keys but with a wood body and headjoint. Gold adds a bit of warmth, especially if it’s also on the tenon rings or in the riser on the headjoint.
Sadly, there are more piccolos in random colors than there should be. If you search for cheap piccolos online, you’ll find some that are blue, green, pink, or even red.
These colors may look cool and unique, and they are… However, that doesn’t mean these piccolos are worth your time or money.
A lot of the cheaper piccolos are cheap for a reason because they’re not made very well. The colored lacquer may easily rub off within a few months, and you also can’t expect to get the best sound for the low prices those brands charge.
Are Black Piccolos the Best?
Black piccolos are pretty common, and it could be the best color for you. For example, grenadilla wood piccolos are popular among professionals.
However, there are also other woods in different colors, such as brown, or even a reddish hue. You may even find that a metal piccolo is a good choice, especially for students.
The color doesn’t matter as much as the sound and response you can get.
Some piccolos are black because they’re made of plastic, wood, or a wood-plastic composite material. However, other good piccolos are made of silver or even a brown wood, such as rosewood.
Be sure to try a few models in your budget to find the best piccolo for you. And don’t focus too much on the visual color; the tone colors you can produce are much more important.
Now, head to our piccolo drone to make sure whatever piccolo you play is in tune!