If you play the piccolo enough, you’re bound to have it go out of tune at some point. You’ll then ask yourself, ?why is my piccolo playing sharp?”
This can happen for a variety of reasons, and each reason comes with at least one solution. Read on to learn about piccolo tuning issues and how to correct and prevent them.
1. The Headjoint Is Too Far In
If you find that all of the notes on your piccolo are sharp, there’s a good chance you pushed the headjoint too far in. This shortens the overall tube of your piccolo and raises the pitch of the instrument.
Pushing the headjoint too far in is pretty common, especially if you’re used to pushing your flute’s headjoint all the way in. You may also push a piccolo head in too far if it’s a new headjoint.
Maybe your last headjoint did have to go as far in as it could. But if you just upgrade heads or piccolos, your new setup could be different.
Of course, the solution to this problem is to pull the headjoint out. You may need to experiment with where you place the headjoint, and you should figure out if you need to roll in or out to get the piccolo in tune.
Sadly, you’ll need to tune your piccolo every time you play it. However, you can figure out where everything is supposed to go so that you can start as close to in tune as possible.
How to Prevent It
The best way to keep from pushing your headjoint too far in is to use a tuner. Get to know your specific piccolo because every instrument is slightly different.
Get a feel for how much space there is between the end of the headjoint and the part of the body that meets the tenon. Then, you can set up your piccolo to be in tune very time you get it out.
2. The Room Is Warming Up
Even if your piccolo is in tune at the start of a practice session or performance, the tuning can change. The room may warm up, particularly if you’re in a small performance space but have a sizable audience.
As you play, your piccolo might start to get sharper and sharper. The degree to which this happens can vary between performance spaces, so you may need to experiment with how you adjust.
What works in one performance space to correct a sharp piccolo might not work somewhere else.
The best solution to a room warming up is to pull the headjoint out just a bit and tune again. Adjust the position until you match up with the tuner or other musicians around you.
During a long performance, it helps to tune between any piece where you or another player switches instruments. It’s also a good idea to tune after an intermission or before any pieces with major solos.
How to Prevent It
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent a room from warming up and causing your piccolo to play sharp. You could do most of your practice and gigs outside, but that’s not practical either.
It’s best to learn to go with the flow and to tune your piccolo frequently. That way, you can make sure you stay in tune throughout a rehearsal or performance.
3. The Note Is the Problem
Occasionally, you’ll find that your piccolo is playing sharp but only a couple of notes. Some notes are naturally sharp on the piccolo, while others are naturally flat.
If your intonation is all over the place, it could be that you need to get used to the piccolo. And what’s more, not all piccolos have the same tuning between notes.
Just because your old piccolo played one way doesn’t mean the new one will be the same.
I’d recommend printing off a piccolo or flute fingering chart. Start by tuning one note, such as A, and mark a 0 next to the A on your fingering chart.
Then, tune each note and go down chromatically then up chromatically. For each note, mark a – for any note that is flat and a + for any note that’s sharp on your piccolo.
Keep that chart on hand as you practice the piccolo, and learn how to use your air to adjust the pitch for each note.
How to Prevent It
If you’re shopping for a new piccolo, you can check the intonation for all of the models you want to try. Then, you may find one piccolo is more in tune for you than the others, so you can buy that one.
Other than that, you can’t really prevent certain notes from being sharper or flatter than others. Luckily, the solution of checking the intonation and learning to correct it is relatively easy.
4. The Piccolo Is Always Sharp
You might find that no matter what you do, your piccolo always plays sharp. Pulling out the headjoint all the way might help a little bit, but the pitch is still higher than it should be.
This can happen with a lot of cheap piccolos since they don’t have much quality control. But sometimes, you’ll find a lemon from even the most reputable of brands.
Or maybe you bought a piccolo tuned to A=444, but you play in a lot of groups that tune to A=442 or 440.
If you find that you have to pull out the headjoint to the point where it’s not secure, you shouldn’t be playing that piccolo. The best option is to save up and buy a new one.
That way, you can get a model that’s more in tune and easier to get in tune when it’s sharp or flat. If possible, check a piccolo against a tuner before you buy it or at least before the return period ends.
How to Prevent It
The best way to avoid a piccolo that will always play sharp is to try the piccolo before you buy it. You can do this at the music store or with an at-home trial.
Another option is to buy a piccolo and take advantage of the return period. Then, you can test out the piccolo and get your money back if it’s not in tune.
5. The Piccolo Is in Db
Another reason why your piccolo is playing sharp all of the time is that it’s in Db, not C. This isn’t a super common problem, but my flute professor in grad school told a story of it happening.
One of her fellow piccolo players couldn’t get their piccolo in tune. When she tried it, she figured out it was a Db piccolo, so it was sounding a half step higher than a C piccolo would.
If you’ve come across a vintage piccolo, there’s a chance the key is the issue.
If you find you have a Db piccolo on your hands, a quick solution is to transpose everything a half step down. That way, you can get through the rehearsal or lesson.
However, a better solution is to search for a C piccolo, which most models are nowadays. Then, you won’t have to transpose, and you can play standard piccolo rep more easily.
How to Prevent It
When trying piccolos, make sure to use a tuner to ensure that it’s in C. Of course, if you have perfect pitch, you should be able to determine the pitch without a tuner.
You should also look at the product listing on the retailer’s website and even the piccolo maker’s website. Consider if it says that it’s in C or Db, and don’t be afraid to ask about the key if there’s no information in the listing.
“Why Is My Piccolo Playing Sharp?”
A lot of players may wonder at some point, “why is my piccolo playing sharp?” Piccolos can play sharp for a variety of reasons, from not tuning before you play to changing temperatures in the environment.
Be sure to consider some common reasons for a sharp piccolo so that you can correct it. Still have tuning issues? Learn what you can do about water bubbles in your piccolo!