How to Choose a Piccolo

The piccolo is a hotly debated topic in the flute community. Some flutists love it, others hate it. I have yet to come across people who don’t have some amount of love or hate for the instrument.

If you are in the group of piccolo lovers, then you have probably thought about learning how to play it. Maybe you even want to jump right in and buy your own. No rental program. You know the piccolo is for you.

Killer Harmony | How to Choose a Piccolo

Now, if you haven’t played flute for very long, piccolo is probably not something you should be starting. Focus on the flute first to build those fundamental skills, such as tone and technique. Then you can learn the piccolo.

If you already have a firm grasp on the flute and you want to learn the piccolo, keep reading. I have some tips for how to choose a piccolo.

NOTE: This post includes affiliate links. To read my full disclosure policy, click here.

Determine your budget.

This is a biggie for any major purchase. You have to know how much money you are able and willing to spend on a piccolo. If you can only afford to spend $600, that narrows your search considerably.

If you have a bigger budget, you can look at a wider range of piccolos.

Thinking about your budget keeps you from trying piccolo outside of your price range. It also keeps you from finding “the one” for thousands more than you can afford. You avoid the disappointment of loving an instrument that is too expensive.

Now, if you are searching for your first piccolo, you don’t need to spend a lot. Some great models can be found for around $400.

If you are looking to upgrade your piccolo, you will have to spend a little more. Just as with an upgraded flute, an upgraded piccolo will cost more than a student model.

Determine your needs.

What will you be playing piccolo for? In what environment(s) will you be playing? Do you have the patience to maintain your piccolo?

These are just a few questions you can ask yourself when choosing a piccolo.

If you will be playing outside a lot, an all silver (or silver plated) piccolo is a smart choice. These piccolos are very durable, and they can project quite far.

Another great choice for outdoor performances is a plastic piccolo. Plastic piccolos are good, because they aren’t affected by the weather as much as wood, but they still blend well.

If you only plan to play indoors, and you can spend a lot of time maintaining your piccolo, go for a wooden model. These are more expensive, but they sound very mellow, and they blend with other instruments.

My current piccolo of choice is the Pearl pfp-105e. It is made of “grenaditte” which is a material made of plastic resin and grenadilla wood. This piccolo is great, because I can play it both inside and out. I get all of the benefits of a wood piccolo, but it doesn’t cost as much.

Know what you are getting.

While I did buy my piccolo online (who doesn’t love Amazon Prime?!), I was smart about it. I knew that Pearl was a reputable brand, and I had heard great things about the specific model I was considering.

Not only that, my flute professor recommended that model to me. I did not buy blind (deaf?).

All of that helped me choose a piccolo that was right for me.

If you are going to buy online, make sure you can either return it or complete a trial period. The best case scenario is buying in person, but that is not always possible.

Or, maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have been given a recommendation for a specific brand. Or maybe you even know someone who has one, and you were able to test it out.

The main thing is: DON’T BUY CHEAP. While you definitely don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a piccolo, you do need to invest a little bit of money. The cheaper the piccolo, the more problems you are likely to encounter.

So spend the money upfront on a piccolo that is reliable. Get something that you know you will use.

Don’t be afraid to rent at first.

As with any new instrument, you might not end up liking the piccolo. You might prefer flute. If you are unsure of enjoying playing the piccolo, don’t hesitate to start on a rental instrument.

It will be much easier to return a rental instrument at the end of a set period (usually a month) than to try and return a purchased instrument. Rental contracts often give you the option to stop renting at any time.

With a purchase, it’s up to you to either return it soon enough or find someone to sell it to.

Renting can be very cost effective, and some programs let you upgrade or cancel at any time. If you find after a few months that you want to own your own piccolo, you can purchase the one you are renting or buy another model and return your rental one.

Get a second opinion.

If you are buying in person, the sales person might try anything to get you to make a purchase. If you are not sure, take it to someone else. Ask your flute teacher or another flutist to come along.

Usually, people will be more inclined to give an honest opinion if they aren’t trying to sell to you. Also, having someone you trust give their opinion means that you don’t have to consult only yourself.

So…

Have you purchased a piccolo before? What model or brand did you choose? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to comment if you want to see a review of my piccolo!

Intermediate Flute Exercises (+ Free Download)

If you are an intermediate level flutist, you have probably started to learn about the concept of warming up. What is a warm up? Why is it necessary? These are just a couple of questions you might have. I have flute exercises just for you.

Killer Harmony | Flute Exercises (Download) for flutists

As a music grad, I have learned a lot about how to prepare yourself to play flute. That includes how to warm up my lips and my body so that I don’t injure myself.

But not everyone has the luxury of taking private lessons and learning all about warm ups. If you don’t warm up, like for a work out, you have a greater risk of injuring yourself. So, to avoid that, here are some tips for warming up.

(Plus a free download of some flute exercises!)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Stretch out.

This one is for your body. If you don’t stretch your muscles, they could tense up during play. This is especially true if you aren’t using a proper stance or hand position.

Giving your muscles a short stretch can help relieve possible pain, and you will be more flexible during your practice session.

Roll your shoulders, flex your elbows and wrists, and stretch out your neck. If you will be sitting, stretch out your back so you can maintain a better position for yourself and your flute.

Put your flute together.

This isn’t exactly a warm up, but it’s still something to think about. the way you put your flute together can have a major impact on your flute practice.

When assembling your flute, DO NOT touch the keys or the mechanism. Doing so can cause the keys and rods to bend. Bent keys lead to leaky keys. Leaky keys result in a flute that can be annoying at best and unplayable at worst.

Always assemble your flute (and hold it) by the smooth parts around the barrel and (for the foot joint) the end of the flute.

Long tones.

Long tones are the bane of many flute players’ existence. It can be super boring to just play one note for as long as possible. But long tones can help you in many ways.

If they are the first thing you play, they will help you create your sound for the day. You don’t have to worry about crazy finger patterns. All you have to focus on is creating the proper embouchure.

The best starting note for long tones in the B in the middle of the staff. It’s a fairly open note, but both the left thumb and index finger are down. This means that the flute is easier to hold in place than other more open notes.

Harmonics.

The harmonic series is something that every flutist should learn and understand at some point, so now is a good chance to learn.

Since flutes don’t have an octave key like other woodwinds, we have to rely more on the harmonic series to play higher notes. Let’s take that B again.

The B in the middle of the staff (B4) is the lowest B on flutes with a C foot. It is also the lowest note with that same fingering. So, it is considered a foundation.

This note is the start of a harmonic series. The B above it (B5) has the exact same fingering, except you need to change the air so that you produce a higher pitch. That is a perfect example of harmonics on flute.

Other notes in the same harmonic series are F#6 and B6.

To learn more about the harmonic series, check out Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute.

Octave leaps.

Because we have to work more with our lips to achieve notes in different octaves, it is important to work on octave leaps or octave jumps.

This is where you start on one note and then leap up or down to the same note in a different octave. Octave exercises help build lip strength as well as better air support.

I don’t practice octave leaps as much as I should, but they are essential when you are still fairly new at the flute. You should also be able to play any note as a starting note, because you want to be prepared for anything.

Some composers like to write music that starts out on a difficult note. (Pun intended.)

Chromatic scale.

All scales are important, and you should know the majors, natural minors, harmonic minors, and natural minors. But one scale that often gets neglected is the chromatic scale.

The other scales all fit into one key signature, but the chromatic scale includes every note. So while you might learn your Bb major scale along with an etude or solo in that key, the chromatic scale gets left behind.

It’s important to know the chromatic scale, because there are some chromatic passages (especially in newer works), and it is a great way to test your knowledge of the entire range of the instrument.

So…

Now that you know what you should do to warm up, where can you find all of those exercises? I decided to create a PDF of these exercises, and I’m offering it up FOR FREE!

Just subscribe below, and you will get access to a free download of all the exercises mentioned in the post!

Download the exercises here.

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Flute Deals & Rebates: Fall 2017

Buying a new instrument can be expensive, and coupons or other deals can help bring down the cost. So, I wanted to talk about a few flute deals and rebates that are going on now. If you want to buy a new flute, now is the time to do it. There are multiple rebate programs going on right now.

NOTE: I am not affiliated with any of these programs. I just want to share the information with you if you are in the market for a new flute.

Killer Harmony | Savings & Rebates for Flutists Fall 2017

I found all of these deals on FluteWorld, but you can qualify for these programs if you purchase a new instrument through a reputable dealer. Each of the programs have varying terms and conditions, so I will link to an information page where you can learn more.

So, let’s get started!

Jupiter’s Banding Together Celebration

Jupiter is a well known musical instrument brand, and flutes are just part of what they make. They have quite a few models that will qualify for this program, and the best part is the savings are instant.

This is not a rebate program.

You won’t have to wait to get your savings.

The Banding Together Celebration runs from October 1 through December 30, 2017. A few select Azumi flutes are also part of the savings program.

Qualifying Instruments

Piccolos: JPC 1000, 1010, & 1100E

Flutes: JFL 1000RBO, Azumi AZ1, AZ2, & AZ3

Alto Flutes: JAF 1000, 1000U, 1000X, 1100E, 1100UE, & 1100XE

Bass Flutes: JBF 1000

Contrabass Flutes: JCF 1000

More Information

Pearl Flutes

Pearl Flutes is offering a cash back mail in rebate for their Quantz flute line. These flutes are great for students who are outgrowing their first instrument. While I have not personally played any of these models, I do love my Pearl piccolo.

You will have to send in the rebate form in order to get your savings, but for $50, that is worth it. Any bit of savings helps.

This program runs from October 1, 2017 through January 15, 2018.

Qualifying Instruments

Flutes: PF-525, 665, & 765

More Information

Trevor James Step Up Rebate

I know a lot of people (online anyway, lol) who love Trevor James flutes. I have their 10x student model, and it sounds better than other student flutes. For this program, you do have to fill out a rebate form.

If you want to buy a Trevor James step up flute or low flute, you are in luck!

This rebate program started October 1, and it ends December 31, 2017.

Qualifying Instruments

Flutes: Cantabile, Virtuoso

Alto Flute & Bass Flute

More Information

Step Up to Yamaha 2017 Promotion

Yamaha is a very well known musical instrument brand. They are also another brand offering a promotion for any step up instrument purchased.

I have never played a Yamaha flute, but I know they are common for beginners. Some people love them enough to upgrade to a more advanced Yamaha model.

The Yamaha program is a rebate program. Some models will get you $50, others $100.

The program runs from October 1 until December 31, 2017.

Qualifying Instruments

Piccolos: YPC 32, 62*, & 81*

Flutes: YFL 362, 382, 462, 482, 577*, 587*, 677*, 687*, 777*, 787*, & 800 series*

Low Flutes: Alto & Bass flutes*

More Information

Please Remember!

Every flutist has different needs and what works with one flute might not work with another. Always try before you buy if you can, or make sure you can return the instrument if you are not satisfied.

Each of these brands make high quality flutes, and I would not recommend these programs if I didn’t trust these brands. However, you should still test out the models you are interested in. We all have different mouths, and we all have different needs when it comes to our instruments.

So…

I’m considering getting an alto flute from one of these companies, and if I do, I would love to do a review. Let me know if you would like to see that!

Are you in the market for a new flute? Do you think you will check out some of these instruments? Let me know in the comments!

How to Start on the Piccolo

For flutists, there is one instrument that always brings up a heated debate. That instrument is the piccolo. It seems like you either love it or you hate it. There is no in-between.

I, personally, love the piccolo. It adds a little something to my musical life. Though there are many people out there who would rather play alto or bass flute and leave piccolo in the dust.

Killer Harmony | How to Start on the Piccolo for Flutists

If you are part of the “love it” group, or you are just interested in the piccolo, this guide is for you. I am sharing all of my tips and tricks for starting on the piccolo. I will cover everything from the different piccolo materials to prices to actually getting a sound.

So, here is my big beginner’s guide to starting on the piccolo.

Get a quality instrument.

Piccolos come at all different price points, but that doesn’t always mean they are equally as good. You get what you pay for, especially with musical instruments.

You can find cheap piccolos on Amazon and others sites for around $100, but those models won’t last. They are cheap for a reason. Do not be tempted by the seemingly good deals.

Sources for quality instruments include music stores, online music websites, and (if you’re smart about it) Craigslist. There are tons of different flute and music online stores where you can buy a good new or used piccolo.

If you are unsure of whether you will stick with it, look into renting a piccolo. Just as with flute, some music stores offer piccolo as a rental instrument.  That way, you can return the piccolo if you don’t want to continue.

Here are some more tips for finding a quality instrument.

Consider your budget.

You shouldn’t skimp on paying for a new (or new to you) instrument. The instrument you buy should be good quality, but it should also fit your level. As a beginner, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a piccolo.

If you are looking at used instruments, you can expect to spend anywhere from $300-800 for a beginner model piccolo. If you prefer to buy a new instrument, your budget should be a bit higher. You can expect to spend around $500-1000 on a new student range piccolo.

Materials, Materials.

Piccolos, even beginner models, come in different materials. You have all plastic, all silver plated (like student flutes), and a combination of the two. The material you choose can be determined on your use for the piccolo.

Will you be playing in marching band? Do you plan to play mostly indoors?

Another thing to consider is the presence or absence of a lip plate. Some flutists feel more comfortable with a lip plate and thus want a metal headjoint. I believe that there is no difference, and having a lip plate is more of a placebo affect. You’re used to having one on flute, so it’s easy to think having one on piccolo will make it easier.

I started out on an all silver plated Armstrong 204 piccolo. I found a used one for a great deal. But all silver plated piccolos are not that common. The most common set up for beginners is a plastic body and silver plated headjoint.

Plastic gives a darker sound than silver plated, so it is usually preferred for indoor performances. Having a silver plated headjoint can make the switch less intimidating for some, since it feels similar to the flute. These models are also more budget friendly.

My all silver plated piccolo, new, would cost around $1000. Plastic and metal combos run for about $600.

Assembling the piccolo.

Putting the piccolo together is similar to the flute. The main difference is that there are two pieces for the piccolo, while a flute has three pieces. The piccolo is also smaller, and most models connect with a cork. One exception is all metal piccolos.

You want to be really careful when assembling the instrument so that you don’t bend any keys. That is more difficult on piccolo, because you don’t have as much smooth space as on flute.

Once you have your piccolo ready to go, be aware of how you should hold it when not playing. The piccolo is small and so is the mechanism, which means it can bend very easily. Hold the piccolo closer to the top, and put most of the weight on the side without the keys.

Making a sound.

The piccolo is placed in a similar way to the flute: across the chin just below the opening of the lips. However, the piccolo should be placed a bit higher on the lips than flute.

The piccolo is smaller, so it needs to be closer to the lip opening for you to make a sound. When you go to play a note, you can’t always use the same method as for flute.

If you finger low A on piccolo, for example, pretend you are playing middle A on flute. This will help you get a sound out. Those notes sound the same, because the piccolo plays an octave above the flute.

It is for that reason that it is important to be confident on flute before you start playing piccolo. The piccolo plays higher, and you need to know how to form an embouchure and use your air to compensate for that difference.

For some players, it can take time to make a sound on piccolo, but keep at it. If you are having trouble, then warm up on flute first. Work on the second and third octaves of the flute, because those octaves overlap with the piccolo.

After you have worked on your flute playing, you can then switch to piccolo. Some of the concepts and techniques will transfer with time.

What to play.

A good place to start for the piccolo is to go back to your beginner flute books. Most of the exercises will work on piccolo, because the written range is (almost) the same. The Rubank elementary method for flute/piccolo is also a good book to use if you haven’t before.

You can also use most of your flute music for piccolo, assuming there are no low C’s or C#’s. The piccolo only goes down to (written) low D, so be mindful of that when choosing what to play.

As you progress on piccolo, you can then move to more advanced flute exercises and specific piccolo books. Some of my favorite piccolo books include Trevor Wye’s Practice Book for the Piccolo and Patricia Morris’s Piccolo Study Book.

Should you play piccolo?

This is somewhat of a loaded question, but I wrote a post a few months back on reasons why you might want to play piccolo. You can read that post here.

But the short answer is: do what feels right to you. I’m not here to tell you yes or no. I’m here to give you the information you need to decide for yourself.

So…

Do you play the piccolo? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to leave any music or flute related questions down there. I might just answer them in a future post!

Tools & Resources for Self Taught Flutists

If you have ever taken private flute lessons, you know that they can be quite expensive. I wrote a post a few months back asking: Are private lessons necessary? Now, I want to share some tools and resources for self taught flutists, because lessons aren’t always realistic.

Killer Harmony | Tools & Resources for Self Taught Flutists | Cover Image

Since finishing my degree in music performance, I have significantly decreased how often I take private lessons. They are no longer included in tuition costs, and it can be hard to schedule them. Now that I have a full time job, scheduling lessons is even harder.

So, I want to share some of my favorite tools and resources that can help you improve your flute skills, even if you aren’t taking lessons.

YouTube

There are dozens of videos on YouTube that can help you learn everything from the basics of the flute to advanced techniques. There are many flute and general music YouTubers who post tips and tutorials on various music topics.

One of my favorite flutist-YouTubers is Joanna Tse, or JustAnotherFlutist. She posts tutorials and flute reviews as well as funny stories that make her super relatable. I haven’t been able to find any other flutists on YouTube as funny as her.

Then, of course YouTube is also a great place to find free recordings of music you might be working on. When you don’t have a teacher to demonstrate how a phrase or piece should sound, recordings are a great option.

You can listen to multiple recordings to get different interpretations, and you can use different ideas to create your own sound. Even if you do take lessons, YouTube is the best place for free recording. Plus, the video format usually (not always) allows you to see the flutist in action.

Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute

If you are at the intermediate level or above, these books are perfect for you. Trevor Wye includes some text to describe how different exercises should be worked on.

The six books in the omnibus edition include: tone, technique, articulation, intonation & vibrato, and breathing & scales. The last book covers advanced exercises, and that one has a ton of reading material.

I use some of his tone exercises for my tone warm up, and it is amazing how those exercises help. The exercises in his other books are also great for improving in those areas of flute playing.

Trevor Wye’s Proper Flute Playing

Wye also wrote a book that goes with his practice books, except that it is meant for reading. There are no exercises, but he does go into different concepts of flute playing.

If you want to read about how to play the flute well, get this book. Proper Flute Playing talks about almost anything related to the flute.

Taffanel & Gaubert Daily Exercises

This book is really only for advanced flutists, but it is super helpful. If you have worked through various beginner and intermediate books, and you have started on Trevor Wye’s books, this is another resource to look into.

This is another book that work out of almost every time I pick up my flute. I have worked on some of the exercises so much that I know them by heart. That’s how good this book is.

The T&G book has 17 different scale exercises including different patterns and finger twisters that can be played in each key. It is a relatively expensive book for what you get; my copy cost about $20. But for advanced flutists, it is worth it.

If you are a beginner, these exercises are going to be intimidating, so I would recommend working through some beginner method books and then the Trevor Wye book before jumping into this one.

Amazon

If you want a one stop shop for a lot of music stuff, Amazon is (almost) perfect. While you should definitely avoid most of the lower cost instruments, they also carry sheet music and flute accessories.

I have purchased many different pieces from Amazon as well as my piccolo swab and all of my various flute and piccolo stands. If you are an Amazon prime member, you also get free two day shipping.

The great thing about Amazon is that you can use it as a resource for more than just music. You can get all of your flute accessories, clothing, and even groceries from one website. It’s amazing.

Blogs, like this one

Of course I have to mention my blog as a resource for self taught flutists. While I do want to branch out from the music niche a little, I do still plan on writing posts about music in the future.

There are a few other bloggers who write about music and the flute, such as Jennifer Cluff and Bret Pimentel. They are both super interesting to read. Pimentel is a woodwind doubler, so if you play any other woodwinds, he is definitely a good resource.

But, reading this post, you have obviously stumbled onto my blog. So, have a look around, and I hope you find something that piques your interest.

So…

Do you have any other favorite resources for flute? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to follow me on Instagram (@killerharmony) for behind the scenes pics!