We're in the thick of the summer months now, and we had a question on our Facebook page asking about piccolos and heat. When the temperature is high, they may seem to "misbehave" or be rather "uncooperative." Why is this? Well, the major component to keep in mind is that wooden piccolos have bodies made of a natural material that expands and contracts with temperature changes. Granted, you will feel the most drastic changes when the temperatures are in the extremes. For instance, imagine that you are at home, and the temperature outside is well into the upper 90s (Fahrenheit) or above. You sit down to practice in an area that is not air conditioned, and your piccolo and headjoint will not go together. What should you do?
If you find that it is so hot that you cannot get the headjoint on your piccolo, don't force it. It's simply a case of the wood swelling (or expanding) slightly because of the high temperature. Give it some time and try to let the piccolo "cool down" a bit before you play it. Once the air around the piccolo is cool enough, the wood of the piccolo will contract, and you will be able to play it. Also, keep in mind that you do not want to expose the instrument to an extreme temperature change. If you are outside performing in the heat, you would not want to come into an air conditioned room and start practicing immediately.
Maintaining even temperature (and humidity) is important for wooden instruments. In fact, it is key! The swelling and contracting of wooden piccolos can happen with wooden flutes as well. So, if you have a wooden instrument, treat it with care, and don't take it to extremes in terms of temperature changes. It will thrive in comfortable and consistent temperatures and humidity.