Are you tired of hearing myth after myth about the piccolo? You should know some piccolo facts and the truth behind some of the biggest negative stereotypes.
Whether you’re a piccolo player or know one, it’s important to understand the piccolo and what it actually is. Read on to learn more about the smallest member of the flute family.
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1. It’s the Highest-Pitched Instrument in the Orchestra
We’re starting off this list with one of the more obvious piccolo facts. The piccolo has the highest range out of all of the standard orchestral instruments.
Sure, the violins, harp, and piano can all play pretty high, and even the flute can as well. However, the bulk of the flute’s sounding range is above the treble clef staff.
That means it’s going to come through when you play with an orchestra. If you like those higher notes, you’ll love playing the piccolo, and you can be a soloist of sorts without being named a soloist.
2. It Comes in Different Materials
When many people picture a piccolo in their minds, they may have one image of how a piccolo looks. For some people, that might be a piccolo with a metal headjoint and a plastic (or maybe a wood) body.
Others might picture a full wood or plastic model. Both groups are correct, and there are even more options, including full silver-plated, solid silver, and even gold piccolos. Just don’t buy the cheap gold plated piccolos you find on Amazon.
I’ve played piccolos with a variety of materials, from silver-plated to all grenadilla wood. And when it comes to wood, grenadilla is far from the only option; cocus, olive wood, and kingwood are some popular choices.
3. It Comes in Different Keys
Most piccolos you find today are in the key of C, and that makes it easy to play flute music on the piccolo. However, you’ll also find the occasional piccolo in Db.
These piccolos were most popular around the turn of the 20th century, so any that you find will probably be used. Still, a Db piccolo is great, especially if you want to play Stars and Stripes Forever with a band.
If you learned it in the orchestra key, the Db piccolo lets you play that written key. But you’ll sound in tune with the semitone transposition for a concert band.
4. It Doesn’t Always Sound Shrill
When you first learn how to play the piccolo, you may not sound the best. But that doesn’t mean you’ll always sound that way, and you can actually sound very lyrical on the piccolo.
Over time, you can practice your fundamentals, such as tone and technique. Eventually, you may start to get better at the instrument, so you won’t sound as shrill.
You may even be able to sound sweet, and it could be hard for listeners to differentiate your flute and piccolo playing. Just be sure you practice consistently so that you can make good improvements.
5. It’s Not Impossible to Tune
“How do you tune two piccolos? You shoot one!” Has anyone every told you that joke? It can be true, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you practice your piccolo regularly and get a good instrument.
Also, any instrument can be difficult to tune. The piccolo is just more obvious because it’s so high-pitched that the difference between in tune and 20 cents off is much more significant.
But with the right tuner, you can learn how to tune your piccolo. You can also figure out the tendencies of different notes to learn how you need to adjust your embouchure to compensate.
6. Any Flute Player Can Learn the Piccolo
If you’ve played the flute for a while, learning the piccolo is a natural next step in the process. Having your foundations in place on your flute can make a huge difference in your initial success on the piccolo.
Now, you can learn the piccolo first, but it may be much more difficult. The flute is more forgiving, so you can make mistakes without it being as obvious.
But if you’re able to fix those mistakes on the flute, you can transfer most of your knowledge to the piccolo. Then, you can enjoy both instruments and all of the benefits they offer.
7. It Can Help You Get Gigs
Whether or not you specialize in the piccolo, playing it well can help you get more performance opportunities. You may come across a gig that’s mostly flute, but there may be a small piccolo passage.
If you don’t play the piccolo, you could lose that gig. Depending on where you live and who the other flute players are, you may not even need to be the best piccolo player.
Sometimes, you just need to be a bit better than your competition. Then, you can get a spot in an orchestra or any other ensemble that requires your flute and piccolo skills.
8. It Can Damage Your Hearing
One of the less pleasant piccolo facts is that it can affect your hearing if you aren’t careful. I try to wear earplugs, especially when I’m playing really high notes or for a long time.
Protecting your hearing is particularly important because you can’t get it back once you lose it. The piccolo sits very close to your right ear, so at least wear an earplug in that ear.
For the really high notes, I like to wear both earplugs since it can hurt my left ear. Either way, be sure to keep a pair of earplugs in your case or bag so that you can keep your hearing intact.
9. It’s Its Own Instrument
The piccolo may be a member of the western concert flute family, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a small flute. You should understand some of the differences between the flute and piccolo.
Differences include the range of each instrument, the use of alternate fingerings, and the transposition. You need to treat the piccolo like the piccolo, and that may help you enjoy it more.
If you just think of the piccolo as a small, annoying flute, you won’t get any good at it. But if you can think of yourself as a beginner and learn the piccolo outside of the context of your flute, you may be more successful.
10. It Has a Lot of Solo Repertoire
The piccolo may be more known as an orchestral instrument, but it has a lot of solo repertoire. You can play concertos, sonatas, and even unaccompanied pieces on your piccolo.
Most of that music is from the last half of a century or so. However, there’s something for everyone, so you don’t have to play crazy music that’s atonal or has extended techniques.
If you want to play a solo recital involving the piccolo, you have plenty of music to choose from. And if you really don’t like modern music, there are always the three Vivaldi piccolo concertos.
Share These Piccolo Facts With Your Friends
It can be easy to think the piccolo is a small nuisance that will never sound good. However, there are some pretty amazing piccolo facts that you should know.
One of those facts is that the piccolo doesn’t always sound shrill. If you want to hear good piccolo playing, check out some good piccolo players.