Well, March Madness is officially over, and Villanova reigns supreme this year. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, a familiar image began to appear of that poor piccolo player from ‘Nova two years ago after their heartbreaking loss, playing with tears streaming down her face. Remember it? She quickly went viral and even appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Well, this image began to recirculate last night, next to a photo of a happier version of herself after last night’s win. Well, I hate to tell you…but it was photoshopped. Roxanne has since graduated Villanova, and the image was taken from her appearance on TV. But in any case, it got me thinking…why in the world was she playing on a metal piccolo in the first place??
Now, dear readers, before you continue on, please note: this is an opinion piece. There are plenty out there who will disagree with my opinion on this matter, which is that metal piccolos give the instrument a bad name. Respectful disagreement is always healthy in any forum. I do not carry metal piccolos in the flute shop; if a school or individual wants to order them, they are available on special order only.
Traditionally, metal piccolos have been the choice in the past for an outdoor or pep band setting. Wood instruments are not favorable for outdoor use, as I have written about before, and many feel that the metal (generally a nickel-silver alloy with silver plating on top) instruments have a bright sound that can cut through the sound of a band. In my opinion, the sound is generally TOO harsh and bright, especially for students with less experience playing the instrument. I also think that the metal instruments have been a default choice because they look and feel the most like a flute, with the key set up and the traditional lip plate shape. For students who may struggle with the traditional flat lip opening, a wave headjoint is a great alternative. I actually sell more wave headjoint styles nowadays than traditional ones; I feel that it helps direct the player’s air better and controls the large amount of air going through the instrument. However, every student is different, and I encourage you to have students try different piccolo options.
So if not metal, then what? My first choice is always a composite, or Grenaditte, piccolo. This material is made from plastic with wood shavings mixed in, so it has a warm yet resonant sound with the durability of plastic. For schools or individuals who do not have this option in their budget and need the least expensive quality instrument possible, I recommend a regular plastic/resin instrument. These instruments are also available with a metal headjoint for players who really want a lip plate; I do not like these as much but they are much better than an all-metal instrument.
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