Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

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Arlee
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Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by Arlee » Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:43 pm

I was recently told that wooden piccolos are the only pics which should be used in an orchestra setting. The reason given for this was that the silver ones tend to be to harsh/shrill sounding for a professional orchestra. My thought is a good player should be able to get a variety of sounds/textures out of their pic. However, I was wondering if any of you have come accross this line of thought before, and if you think it has any truth to it.

Thanks :)

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pied_piper
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by pied_piper » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:27 pm

There is some truth to that, but not necessarily because of the wood vs. silver. Most professional level piccolos are made from wood, but they also have a conical bore. Most metal piccolos have a cylindrical bore. In the piccolo's range, the conical bore imparts a sweeter tone, while the cylindrical bore tends toward a shrill tone. The material may have some impact on the sound, but the effect is slight when compared to the different bores.

The player can alter and control the tone through changes to the embouchure and air stream, but the bore is also a key component. If you survey all of the piccoloists in professional orchestras, you will find that nearly all of them play a wooden, conical bore piccolo.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
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wkzh
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by wkzh » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:31 pm

pp wrote:The material may have some impact on the sound, but the effect is slight when compared to the different bores.
Actually, as far as I have read, it's the other way around: Different bores don't impact the sound, it's actually due to the difference in maximum size of the tone holes. Other than that, the conical bore achieves nearly the same effect as the taper in the headjoint of a cylindrical bore flute. Of course, having a cylindrical bore would mean you could have larger tone holes, and is likely why it's "shriller."

Apparently Boehm didn't work on the cylindrical piccolo because he was having poor results, and his successor who developed the Boehm piccolo stuck to the conical bore. Nowadays more and more top-notch flutemakers are offering cylindrical piccolos, such as Eppler, Nagahara (I think), Sankyo and Lopatin. If the bore were the reason for undesirability, I think these people would not have invested so much into these piccolos.

Apart from that, the surface geometry of silver and wood are different: wall losses at higher frequencies of wood are definitely higher than that of silver, so although the mechanical properties of the two materials are not of much relevance (provided both are sufficiently rigid), their finish will play a part.

IMHO, having a "sweet tone" is not a requirement. Why can't a piccolo play with a blaring tone sometimes when the context calls for it? Does anybody complain that the organ flue pipes are made of metal and are cylindrical hence are too shrill? Actually, yes, and hence they use other stops to produce the desired tone. You can't actually say that nobody uses cylindrical piccolos because it's shrill unless you've experienced such a performance yourself.

There IS a limit to how flexible an instrument's tone is. It will only go THAT far. The player's flexibility is limited by the instrument, and the difference is whether the player can exploit the maximum potential of the instrument (which sadly, is often not the case). So why not... just get both piccolos? Just like the Chinese dizi, they just carry a whole set of di everywhere they go... Of course, that's not economically viable, and I think the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

Another thing is that... I think wooden piccolos look cooler... they just... look cooler. Like hey, why wouldn't you want an instrument that looked cooler?
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

Arlee
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by Arlee » Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:54 am

wkzh wrote: IMHO, having a "sweet tone" is not a requirement. Why can't a piccolo play with a blaring tone sometimes when the context calls for it? Does anybody complain that the organ flue pipes are made of metal and are cylindrical hence are too shrill? Actually, yes, and hence they use other stops to produce the desired tone. You can't actually say that nobody uses cylindrical piccolos because it's shrill unless you've experienced such a performance yourself.
The person I was talking to didn't you "can't" get a sweeter softer tone out of a metel piccolo, just that it was harder to do and harder to get the timbre to fit in with most orchestras. Basiclly that it was just less desireable.

Having one of each is not really an option for me at this point but maybe someday ;)

I was also wondering, why do so many wooden piccs have a "bubble" in the headjoint?

wkzh
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by wkzh » Fri Oct 29, 2010 8:16 am

Arlee wrote:The person I was talking to didn't you "can't" get a sweeter softer tone out of a metel piccolo, just that it was harder to do and harder to get the timbre to fit in with most orchestras. Basiclly that it was just less desireable.
Basically, limited flexibility (if I may add a local interjection, "lah"). I believe musicians should get instruments that cater to their needs, rather than musicians cater to their instruments' limitations. After all, it's called an "instrument" for a reason, isn't it? If a musician can make better music on one instrument compared to another, why not use the better one? Practical reasons, perhaps, e.g. $$, life's full of compromises. Of course, mastery and perfection are still on the musician's part, so "better instruments" are no reason to slack off!

Bubble... I think it's a mechanical thing, makes it less likely to get permanently damaged? I don't know, I'm not familiar with piccolo construction.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

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pied_piper
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by pied_piper » Fri Oct 29, 2010 1:25 pm

There are many factors which affect the tone of a musical instrument. Bore shape is certainly one of those, but also tone hole sizes (as wkzh mentioned), headjoint embouchure cut, player's embouchure, and others.

Those who are interested can read this for a short explanation of how bore shape affects the sound: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bore_(wind_instruments)

For a more in-depth explanation, read Arthur H. Benade's Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics. Excerpts are available on Google books:
http://books.google.com/books?id=cCW5Ng ... &q&f=false

Regarding the bubble style piccolo headjoint, it's partly style/appearance, and another part for reinforcement. Having thicker wood around the joint may reduce the chance of breaking.
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wkzh
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by wkzh » Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:06 am

pp wrote:Regarding the bubble style piccolo headjoint, it's partly style/appearance,
As I said, it looks cooler :wink:

As pp also said, embouchure's a major factor. Even if everybody had the same embouchure, fatigue's a problem.

About tone holes... anybody ever heard Lopatin's squareONE piccolos? As in, heard one play.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

Arlee
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by Arlee » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:22 am

So I went ahead and got a diMedici Pic on trial from fluteworld. Here is a link to info about it/a picture.

http://www.fluteworld.com/index.php?act ... 0&ppk=picc

What I am wondering is this is the first time I have played a pic without a lip plate before so it feels a little weird and I noticed when I was playing the other day that could feel a lot of air hitting my left arm while playing but if I angled down more the tone got a little airy. I was wondering if this is normal and if it is just an aspect of I need to get used to playing without a lip plate.

Also I was wondering if anyone could point me to some good info on care for a wood flute/picc. I know the care has to be a bit different than it is for metal.

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pied_piper
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by pied_piper » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:43 am

You might not have the piccolo positioned high enough on you lip. Without the embouchure plate, there is less contact with the lip to provide feedback for the proper position. Experiment with the position and see if that helps.

Regarding the care of a grenadilla piccolo:

1 - Don't leave it in a car, especially during extreme hot or cold weather.
2 - If it has been in a very cold environment (during travel, etc) don't immediately play it. Give it time to gradually warm to near room temperature before playing. (Better yet, don't let it get real cold) This one's important. If you play a very cold wood picc, the bore will warm up faster than the rest of the instrument. If the bore gets warm too quickly, the inside will expand faster than the outside and that could cause it to crack.
3 - Always swab it out after playing. I prefer a good cloth swab over those that are like fuzzy tails - many leave lint behind in the bore. Never leave a swab inside the piccolo or the case. Store it outside the case.
4 - There's debate over whether the piccolo bore should be oiled to prevent moisture absorption. Some modern wood piccolos are treated and don't need bore oiling. Follow the manufacturers directions on whether to oil or not. Regardless, I suggest that you don't attempt to oil the bore yourself. Bore oil can be absorbed into the pads and ruin them. If your wood piccolo needs bore oiling, leave it to a professional technician during a COA.
5 - Wood piccolos have cork on the tenon joint. Once a month (or as needed) apply a very small amount of high quality cork grease to make assembly easier.
6 - Don't grip the keys when assembling the piccolo. Instead, hold it by the wood above the mechanism while assembling.
7 - Always store it in the case. Don't leave it lying around.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

Arlee
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by Arlee » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:04 pm

Thanks pp, that addressed most of my concerns with care. One of the neat things is it came with cork grease and the case has a spot in it specifically for that :) I do find it hard to not grip the keys when putting it together and that is my only real complaint so far. I am uber careful with my instruments and probably am more cautious with them than strictly required, but there is just not much room to hold the body without hitting the key mechanism.

I figured I might not be positioning the pic correctly and will definitely try positioning it higher when I get home from work today :)

wkzh
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by wkzh » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:32 pm

Arlee wrote:What I am wondering is this is the first time I have played a pic without a lip plate before so it feels a little weird and I noticed when I was playing the other day that could feel a lot of air hitting my left arm while playing but if I angled down more the tone got a little airy. I was wondering if this is normal and if it is just an aspect of I need to get used to playing without a lip plate.
Actually, from a purely mechanistic point of view, whether you have a lip plate or not does per se not affect your playing angle. I also find that whether there's a plate or not does not affect positioning: that is a conditioned response. I myself find it stranger to have to position my embouchure on a head without a lip plate.

I think what is more of concern is the embouchure cut, more specifically the cut on the exterior of the head. Some heads come with "waves" or "wings" that are meant to focus the air, or that the sides of the embouchure hole are markedly higher than the front/back. And I find that that's independent of whether there's a lip plate or not: Burkart, for example, has heads that has no lip plates but have these two protrusions. That, definitely, will affect air flow to a large extent, and in turn affect how one shapes the embouchure.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

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MissyHPhoenix
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by MissyHPhoenix » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:17 am

Do you like your DiMedici?
Missy

Why Be Normal????

Arlee
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by Arlee » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:33 am

MissyHPhoenix wrote:Do you like your DiMedici?
So far yes I do really like it. I have only had it for a few days though I am really enjoying it. The only thing really is I have had some positioning issues due to not having a lip plate. i know logically that probably should not make a difference but it feels very different than other piccolos I have played. But the suggestions pp gave have helped a bunch so I feel like that is just user error on my part ;)

Also this Pic has a split E on it. I have never had a flute or a pic with that before so i was eager to play with it more extensively. I definitely am a fan so far.

As of right now I am pretty certain I am going to be keeping it.

wkzh
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by wkzh » Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:07 am

Arlee wrote:The only thing really is I have had some positioning issues due to not having a lip plate. i know logically that probably should not make a difference but it feels very different than other piccolos I have played.
Yes! I find that very peculiar too! I experience it myself, it's very strange... Haha I shall go procure a spare piccolo head tomorrow that doesn't have a lip plate and I'll get back to you.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

b_zop18
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Re: Wood Piccolo vs Silver Piccolo

Post by b_zop18 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 7:28 pm

i've recently started playing a wooden gemeinhardt piccolo in my band and i've noticed that the higher notes tend to be flat. is it a brand thing or do i need to adjust something? i play an emerson flute, so i'm not sure if its the brand or what is going on.

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