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When I was looking to upgrade my piccolo, a Pearl piccolo guide would have been super useful. However, I’m glad that I get to share my experience with others who are piccolo shopping.
The two Pearl piccolos are among the best models for students and intermediate players. They’re so good that I was able to get into grad school and perform two solo recitals using a Pearl piccolo. But are they right for you?
Bottom Line Up Front: Pearl piccolos, especially the Pearl 105, can be a good fit for many players. But I’d recommend you try the piccolos or at least have a return option if you want to buy one.
Pearl Piccolo Models
Pearl is one of the few flute companies that makes pretty much every common size of flute from piccolo to contrabass. The two piccolo models both fall into the upper beginner to lower intermediate range.
After starting on an Armstrong piccolo, I upgraded to a Pearl. My college flute professor thought this brand might be a good fit for me, and she was right.
I was able to play on a Pearl for a year or so after college and through two years of my master’s in music. Here’s what you should know about the two Pearl piccolos.
I bought the Pearl 105, and it’s an amazing piccolo for a lot of different types of players. This model uses grenaditte, which is a combination of grenadilla wood and plastic.
You’ll find pointed key arms on the Eb and G# keys, while the rest use Y arms. The trill keys and Bb lever are higher than on other piccolos, which can make them easy to locate when playing.
There’s a split E mechanism, which helps you play the third E more easily. You get to choose between a traditional headjoint cut or a wave cut, which is what I chose and prefer.
Unfortunately, while this piccolo comes with a cleaning rod, it’s not the best. It doesn’t look pointy, but the needle end of the rod ate through a silk piccolo swab, so I use a Valentino piccolo wand to clean the inside.
- Good for students
- Composite model
- Ergonomic design
- Nice sound
- No wood
- The tone is a bit thin at times
The other model is the Pearl 165, and it’s very similar to the 105. One of the most obvious differences is that the 165 uses a grenadilla wood headjoint with a grenaditte composite body.
A wood headjoint can help you get a warmer tone, and it’s a nice upgrade. While I haven’t played this specific model, I have used wood headjoints on my 105, and the sound is a bit different.
Another spec that’s unique to the 165 is omni-synthetic pads. From what I can tell, these pads tend to last longer, so you can save money on maintenance for your piccolo.
You’ll get the same split E mechanism and choice of a traditional or wave headjoint. And because of the wood headjoint, you will have to pay more for this piccolo.
- Wood headjoint
- Multiple headjoint cuts
- Warm sound
- Easy to play
- Good pads
- A bit expensive
- Not totally safe to play outside
Pearl Piccolo Headjoints
Not only can you buy a Pearl piccolo, but you can buy a headjoint by itself. This is a fantastic option if you already have a Pearl piccolo but aren’t quite happy with the headjoint.
Maybe you got the wave head and would prefer a traditional headjoint. I’ve thought about buying a wood headjoint to use with my Pearl, and I came close to doing so a few years back.
No matter what you want to change, the Pearl headjoints are nice because you know they’ll fit your instrument. You won’t have to ask a flute tech to adjust the headjoint to make it fit your piccolo.
I like the Grenaditte Headjoint, especially if you think you’ll need to play a Pearl piccolo outside. It’s the headjoint that comes with the 105, but you may buy it if you get the 165.
That way, you’ll be able to use your wood headjoint in an orchestra. However, the composite headjoint is safer to play outside, such as in a marching band.
I’ve only ever seen this headjoint for sale through Flute World. What’s nice though is that you can either buy the headjoint outright or order an in-home trial to make sure you like it.
You can order one with the traditional cut and another with the wave cut. Compare how they sound on your Pearl piccolo to decide which one you should keep.
- Good sound
- Easy to play
- Composite material
- Hard to find
- Not compatible with other piccolo brands
I have yet to try the Grenadilla Headjoint from Pearl, but I imagine it sounds like many other wood headjoints. If you already have the Pearl 105, this is a nice upgrade since you know it will work pretty well.
Like the other model, you can buy or try this headjoint through Flute World. You can choose between the traditional and wave cut to get the response you want.
However, this isn’t the best headjoint to buy separately if you also need to buy a Pearl piccolo. After doing the math, buying the 105 and this headjoint would cost about $500 more than buying the 165 and the composite headjoint.
But if you already own the 105, you may still want to upgrade. You can do so with your initial purchase or do so later on.
- Good upgrade
- Easy to play
- Nice wood
- Different headjoint cuts
- More expensive than some other aftermarket headjoints
- Not for beginners
How to Choose a Pearl Piccolo
With the various options available, you have a lot to consider to choose a Pearl piccolo. If you don’t take any other advice from me, don’t buy any piccolo (Pearl or otherwise) on a whim.
The piccolo can sound amazing when played well. But if you don’t have the right model for you, you’ll struggle to get a good sound, and that can make you hate the instrument.
Here are some of my best tips you should think about before buying a Pearl piccolo.
Consider Your Current Piccolo
When I bought my Pearl, I had been playing an Armstrong 204. It was an okay piccolo, but it was all silver-plated, and it wasn’t the easiest to blend with other instruments.
At the time, I was set to play the piccolo part in Beethoven Symphony 5. The piccolo plays a lot of written C6s (above the staff), and my Armstrong wasn’t cutting it.
However, you may have a piccolo that you somewhat like, so you might stick with that brand. Since I couldn’t make my piccolo work, I needed something good yet affordable and able to get to me fast.
If you’re new to playing the piccolo, think about the flute you play on. Pearl makes some amazing flutes of different sizes, so if you have and like one, there’s a good chance you’ll like the piccolo.
Try Both Headjoint Cuts
If possible, you should test out both Pearl headjoint cuts. Even better, try both cuts on both the grenaditte and grenadilla headjoint models.
Unfortunately, I was only able to test the Pearl 105, so I could only try the grenaditte headjoint with a wave cut. But I lucked out and ended up loving how the instrument sounded.
However, I know it would have been better for me to try all kinds of headjoints. That’s particularly important when buying a professional piccolo, but you can go without it when shopping for a Pearl.
Think about the Use Case
You also have to consider when and where you plan on using the piccolo. My debut performance on my Pearl happened indoors, but I had to play it outside a couple of weeks later, and this was in the middle of August.
Since I live in the midwest, that performance was on a hot, sunny evening. It was so bad that one of the other musicians got heatstroke.
Had I bought the 165, there’s a good chance the headjoint would have cracked due to the extreme temperature. But the composite piccolo didn’t do that.
If you think you may need to play your piccolo outside, go with the 105. You can always buy a wood headjoint later if you want something better for indoor performances.
Know Your Budget
Both Pearl piccolos are at good prices, especially for the specs they have. However, the 165 is going to be more expensive due to the wood headjoint.
I had graduated college a few months before I got my Pearl, and I’d barely gotten my first paycheck. That meant that I couldn’t afford the other model.
Luckily, I had some Visa and Amazon gift cards saved up to buy the 105. So I ended up saving over $200 on the purchase price, but I was able to still get a good piccolo.
Be sure to think about your current budget. If you just finished school, consider waiting until you have some income so that you don’t drain your savings on a piccolo.
Determine How Much You’ll Play
If you don’t play the piccolo much, you should go with the Pearl 105. For one, it’s cheaper than the 165, so you don’t have to spend as much to get a good instrument.
Also, you won’t have to worry about the piccolo developing problems when it’s in storage. If you realize that you need to start playing it for a gig in a few weeks, you can do so.
Even if you play the piccolo regularly, this is a fantastic model. You can get a nice sound, and it’s great for playing in an orchestra, wind ensemble, or flute choir.
Look Ahead at an Upgrade
One of my favorite things about the Pearl 105 is that it’s a nice backup piccolo. Since I upgraded to a wood model a couple of years ago, I didn’t get rid of my Pearl.
Instead, I keep it in storage with my other backup instruments. If I need to send my main piccolo to my repair tech, I still have a good instrument that I can use to practice or perform.
Having a backup piccolo that doesn’t have any wood is vital. The wood could crack when the piccolo sits in storage, so I’d recommend the 105 if you may upgrade to a different piccolo in a few years.
Try Other Brands
As much as I love my Pearl piccolo, I understand that not every player feels that way. To make sure you get the best piccolo for you, be sure to consider other brands.
Try those piccolos if at all possible so that you can hear how they sound and feel their response. Some good brands to test include Di Zhao, Gemeinhardt, Jupiter, and Roy Seaman.
Look for the plastic or composite piccolos from these companies to get the best possible comparison. If you can only test one other brand, I’d recommend Roy Seaman since a lot of players tend to compare them to Pearl.
Other Piccolos to Try
To help you choose the best piccolo models to compare to a Pearl, I found some good options. Some of these piccolos may suit you better than a Pearl.
Maybe you have a tighter budget and need a more affordable option. Or perhaps Pearl just doesn’t suit your playing, so you want a few alternatives.
I made sure to choose piccolos with similar specs from reputable brands. If you want to hear the following piccolos, I recommend watching JustAnotherFlutist’s piccolo trial:
The Jupiter JPC1010 is an excellent plastic piccolo, and that includes the body and headjoint. It features silver-plated keys to help keep costs down, so it’s a good affordable choice.
This model sounds great and can be easy to play for some people. Jupiter also makes flutes, so you may have played a student model, so you might also like this piccolo.
One thing I like about this piccolo is that it doesn’t have a cork on the tenon. That means you don’t need to use cork grease to help assemble or disassemble the instrument.
- Sounds great
- Easy to play
- Decent price
- No cork on the tenon
- No wood composite materials
- No split E, from what I can tell
Another fantastic alternative to the Pearl piccolos is the Gemeinhardt 4P. Like most piccolos in this range, it features a plastic headjoint and body along with silver-plated keys.
There’s a conical bore, which is standard among most plastic and wood piccolo bodies. Like the Jupiter, this is a good option for some players but not others.
If you need a good piccolo to play outside and inside, give this model a try. You may find it meets your needs, but you should also compare it to other piccolos.
- Good sound
- Nice specs
- Easy to play
- Not the most professional
- Can be hard for some
Di Zhao 102
The Di Zhao 102 is probably the most similar to the Pearl models since it uses a plastic-wood composite material. It also features a silver-plated mechanism and Pisoni pads, which is a professional pad brand.
Now, this piccolo is pitched at A = 442, so it may be a bit sharp if your orchestra tunes to A = 440. However, many ensembles are using 442 for the tuning note, so it might be an issue.
I love that this piccolo comes with a case that has a shoulder strap. That can be nice if you just need your piccolo for something like marching band and don’t need to bring your flute as well since you don’t need to use a bigger flute bag.
- Great materials
- Nice sound
- Comes with a shoulder strap
- A bit more expensive
- Somewhat high tuning
What Makes Pearl a Good Piccolo Brand
When looking for the right piccolo, you should research the brands. Pearl makes a ton of different flutes, but their piccolos are one of the more famous parts of the company.
I’ve played a Pearl piccolo, C flute, and alto flute, and they’re all great instruments. However, there are a few things that make Pearl stand out when I think about other piccolo models.
Composite is their Specialty
Many other piccolo brands just use plastic or ABS resin when making piccolos. However, Pearl is one of two brands that I know of that use grenaditte (the other being GUO).
Both Pearl piccolo models use the same material for the body. While the 165 has a wood headjoint, the company doesn’t make any full wood piccolos.
Now, this may seem like a bad thing since wood piccolos are popular. But I think that allows Pearl to focus on making good piccolos for players who need something affordable and that won’t crack.
Ergonomic Key Design
If you get a chance to look at a Pearl piccolo, you may notice the key layout is a bit different from other piccolos. As I mentioned, the trill keys and the Bb lever sit higher up.
You don’t have to struggle to find those keys when you need them. Also, the two thumb keys are pretty big and easy to switch between when you want to use the B or Bb thumb.
There’s also an offset G key, so your left ring finger doesn’t have to reach as far. And the E and D keys are a bit offset from where the pad closes the tone hole, so the piccolo is more comfortable to hold.
I also like the large Eb key for your right pinky. It’s in a good spot for playing the main register, but it’s close enough to the end that you can move your pinky to lower the pitch of the low D.
I’ve heard some flute players complain about how Pearl cases are unnecessarily large. However, that works in your favor when it comes to the piccolo case at least.
This piccolo case has room for two headjoints. So whether you buy a second Pearl headjoint or one from another maker, you’ll have a place for all of your gear.
I’ve tried wood headjoints from Hernandez and Mancke with my Pearl piccolo. While I haven’t bought headjoints from those makers, I’m sure I could fit the headjoint in my Pearl case.
Aftermarket headjoints come in soft cases that you have to remember to bring with you. But if you have this piccolo case, you won’t have to worry about that.
Another advantage of the Pearl piccolo models is that they respond well. While I don’t have direct experience with the 165, playing my 105 has always been relatively easy.
You don’t have to struggle too much to get a good sound throughout the range. However, I do think there are some notes at the top or bottom of the range that could sound better.
The end of the piccolo has such a small diameter, that notes like low D and E aren’t as full as they could be. Also, playing notes like high Bb or B takes a lot of effort.
FAQs about the Pearl Piccolo Guide
Answer: Pearl piccolos are best for beginners or students who want something better than a metal or plastic model. Or maybe you’re like me and have a metal piccolo but need an affordable upgrade.
I’d also recommend Pearl to casual players or woodwind doublers. The Pearl piccolos can help you sound good, but you don’t need to take as much care of them as you would a wooden model.
Answer: You can buy a Pearl piccolo from a variety of flute and music shops. I bought mine from Amazon, but I made sure that Amazon was a reputable dealer so that I could get a good instrument.
Another option is to buy directly from Pearl, and the company is sometimes at flute conventions and festivals. If you want a used Pearl, you can look for one on places like Facebook Market, but I’d recommend asking for pictures and recordings to make sure the piccolo is in good condition.
Answer: The Pearl piccolos are very good, and they sound similar if not better than piccolos with the same specs. I have yet to see another model with a composite body and a wood headjoint though.
However, I have compared the Pearl 105 to wood models from Lyric and Burkart Resona. Those piccolos cost much more but don’t sound that different, so you can save money by going with the Pearl.
Answer: One potential drawback, depending on your preferences, is the fact that these piccolos aren’t wood. They sound like wood, and you can play them in many different settings.
However, if you want a wood model, you need to look elsewhere. Also, regardless of the material, Pearl isn’t for everyone, and I’ve heard that with a lot of Pearl flutes, you either love them or hate them.
Final Note on the Pearl Piccolo Guide
As I finished college, my flute professor recommend Pearl piccolos to me. But it still would have been nice to go through a Pearl piccolo guide to make sure the brand was for me.
I lucked out, but you may not. So before you buy the Pearl 105 (my favorite), compare the two models, headjoint materials, and headjoint cuts.
That way, you can make sure a Pearl piccolo is the right option for you.
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