Flute maintenance is something every player should learn. Even if you’re a beginner, you need to at least know the basics.
The right care can help make your flute last longer. And you can go longer between trips to your flute technician, so you can save money. But flute and piccolo care can differ.
Before we get into the differences, this post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more.
How Piccolo and Flute Maintenance Are the Same
Since the flute and piccolo are from the same family of instruments, the maintenance for both is quite similar. If your flute or piccolo is having some issues, you or your technician might be able to use the same techniques.
Either way, you should know a few ways in which piccolo and flute maintenance relate to each other.
Swabbing the Inside
One of the most obvious ways maintaining your flute and piccolo is the same is that you should swab the inside after playing. Ideally, you’d swab it even more often, especially if you play a lot.
You can find flute and piccolo wands that are long enough for you to swab without disassembling the instrument. Or you can use a standard cleaning rod with a Beaumont flute swab or a Hodge piccolo swab.
Swabbing the inside of your flute or piccolo doesn’t take much time. But doing it regularly can keep condensation from building up. That can then help keep mold from developing.
Like any instrument, you need to be careful when handling your flute and piccolo. And you need to be especially careful when assembling or disassembling each instrument.
Avoid pressing on the keys when you put your flute or piccolo together. You should also avoid pressing on the lip plate or embouchure. Don’t stick your finger in the embouchure hole to pull the headjoint out of your case.
Doing any of those things can require more professional flute maintenance visits. If you have to take your flute in more often, it will cost you a lot. So since you can avoid those issues, you should.
Getting a COA
Even if you take the best possible care of your flute or piccolo, you may still need to take it in for a COA (clean, oil, adjust). Musicians who play a lot should take their flutes in once or twice a year.
If you don’t play your flute or piccolo much, you might be able to go longer. But if your flute starts to sound like it’s not playing well, you may need a professional to fix it up.
Sometimes, a trip to your flute tech can help your instrument play better. Then, you won’t feel like you have to spend thousands on a new flute or piccolo.
How Piccolo and Flute Maintenance Differ
While there are a lot of similarities, piccolo maintenance and flute maintenance have their differences. Before you try and use your flute care techniques on your piccolo, consider if they’ll work.
Here are some differences you should know.
Warm Up the Wood
You can find some wood flutes, and I know at least one player who has a wooden model. But wood piccolos are much more common. If you have a wood piccolo or flute, you need to warm it up carefully.
With a metal instrument, you can blow into the headjoint before playing. That’s usually safe, but it’s not as safe on a wooden headjoint.
If you want to keep the wood from cracking, you need to warm it up more slowly. A good way to do that is to hold the headjoint loosely. Then, your body heat can help warm up the wood from the outside in.
Cork or No Cork
Some piccolos, especially those with wood or plastic bodies, have a cork on the tenon end of the body. If yours does, you’ll need to occasionally add some cork grease to keep the cork from drying out.
When the cork dries too much, you may need a technician to replace it. And if it dries a bit, it might also keep you from getting the headjoint on or off the body.
Since most flutes are made of metal, they won’t have this problem. You have to keep that in mind when switching between your flute and piccolo. That way, you can make sure to care for the piccolo well.
Oil the Wood
If you have a wood instrument, you’ll need to oil it. This can help keep the wood from drying out and causing cracks. Of course, more piccolo players need to worry about this compared to flute players.
But if you have a wood flute and plastic or metal piccolo, the situation would be swapped. Either way, you need to take your instrument to a professional.
However, you can use something like almond oil to oil the headjoint. Be sure to ask your flute tech how to do this properly. That way, you know what areas are safe to oil and which to avoid.
Which Flute Maintenance Techniques Will You Use?
There are a ton of flute maintenance tips out there. While some of those apply to the piccolo, others don’t. But you’ll also find piccolo maintenance tips that won’t work on your flute.
If you want to learn more about piccolo care, head to Piccolo Perfection.