Flute/piccolos ?s


Hello Mr. Smith,
First, let me say I have enjoyed your helpful & informative posts on all things flute and piccolo. I have read your posts on wooden piccolos, used vs. new etc. I have gone to a Flute World a couple of different times in the past several years and have been overwhelmed by the choices, not to mention cost.

While I would love a Hammig picc, I can't justify the cost at this point in my life (retired music teacher) when there are house repairs etc. Reading your posts re: buying a good used piccolo make total sense so I'm more inclined now to make a purchase of the used variety.

If you had to pick between a used Zentner and a Boston Legacy Ironwood piccolo, which direction would you lean or are they about even in quality/workmanship etc.?

Also, is a split E a viable option on a piccolo? The Zenter comes with the split E mechanism. You have stated that it is not your preference for flutes. (I opted not to have it on my Altus 1107.)

The Hammig comes with a g# facilitator key. I've not found very much information on this to explain the function (other than it helps with tuning?). Can you expound on this g# facil. key? And if a person were to purchase a piccolo of that quality, it the g# f.key a wise investment? Just curious.

Hi there, Jean!

I'm so glad that you've found my past answers informative, and I hope you'll find my response to you helpful!

As you know, I think that used instruments are a great option, provided that you can be certain of their condition before a purchase becomes final.  You're extremely lucky to have FluteWorld near you so that you don't have to worry about that.

With regards to your question about getting a Zentner vs. a Boston Legacy, I think they're both great options in an affordable price range.  I find the Zentner piccs blend exceptionally well into an ensemble, but the Boston Legacy piccolo has a bit of extra sparkle and cut that you might find preferable.  As with all things instrument-wise, whatever you like is what you should buy.  You really can't go wrong with either of these options.

The Split E is perfectly viable on piccolo, as it is on flute, but as with the flute, it is not necessary.  My primary instrument, which is a custom piccolo by a well known American maker, does not have a Split E.  My backup piccolo does.  I have never had problems with production of the high E on either.  As with the Split E on flute, the player and their abilities are much more important to reliable high E production than this mechanism.  Because piccolo models generally either have a Split E or do not (rather than it being marketed in both variants), I encourage you simply to play the options that fit into your budget and buy whatever you like without regard to whether a Split E is present.  It won't cause any problems to have one, and it sounds like you're accustomed to playing a flute without a Split E, so you shouldn't miss it if you choose an instrument without.

As for the High G# Facilitator, this is a very interesting option that can certainly make a noticeable difference in an instrument's performance.  It's also referred to as a half-closing thumb key, and does what you might expect from that name.  When the G# lever is pressed for the highest G#, the additional linkage partially closes the thumb key, which reduces venting and causes the note to speak more easily.

Piccolo has several notes that require alternate fingerings, and most piccolo players will find that adding the right hand middle and ring fingers when playing highest G# will significantly aid response, but can be a bit clumsy in certain passages.  The High G# Facilitator eliminates the need to add fingers, which frees the player to rely on the standard G# flute fingering without concern.  It's perfectly possible to play G# without adding fingers or having a half-closing thumb key, but getting instant response, especially a pp dynamics, can be a challenge.  The High G# Facilitator solves this acoustical problem without the need to change from the standard flute fingerings.

The downsides here are that depending on the design of the mechanism, it can impact response of the highest C, and it can take a bit of finagling to get this option set up optimally for a given instrument and player.  However, this final point is really only an issue for your repair tech, and a minor one at that.  Most casual players will never be called on to play the highest C, but it is something that comes up in more advanced literature, so consider your goals and playing style (as well as the design of the particular piccolo in question....this may not be a concern) before making a decision about whether the High G# mechanism is for you.  As you've noted, only relatively expensive piccolos will offer this as an option, however, so unless you're looking for something a little higher priced than the Zentner or Emerson, you probably won't really need to worry about this bit of gadgetry.

I hope this is helpful, and I wish you luck in the piccolo hunt!  If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask!



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Herbert Smith


I can answer questions about almost any flute-related topic.

I have trained professionally as a flute repair tech and music educator, and have a broad range of experiences as a performer. I also have experience with a huge array of flutes with any imaginable material or specification, and can comment on the quality of various instruments, as well as guide people through the flute-buying process. I'm willing and able to discuss various flute gadgets (Valgon rings, Foster extensions, etc.) as well.

I'm very familiar with piccolo, alto, and other harmony flutes (including those in unusual keys, such as Eb flute, Db piccolo, G treble, Ab alto piccolo, Flute D'amore, Contrabass, etc.).

I am also glad to offer advice on how to approach difficulties within pieces of music, offer teaching tips to those who give lessons, or answer just about any other flute-related query you can throw at me!

Please note, however, that I am not an appraisal service, and will not provide estimates of value. Please do not ask me about the value of your flute. I also must decline to date instruments based on their serial numbers.


I'm a professional repair tech with years of experience, and a veteran high school band director. I've maintained a successful studio for private flute lessons for many years, and have performed professionally in just about any imaginable venue.

I have bachelor's degrees in music education and performance from highly regarded universities, and have trained with one of the best flute techs/flute makers in the US.

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