Piccolo Repertoire: Music You Need to Know

You may know your flute repertoire well: Bach, Mozart, French pieces. But what about piccolo repertoire? What pieces should every piccolo player know?

Some piccolo repertoire you should know is similar to flute rep. However, there are quite a few differences, from Baroque to modern works. Read on to learn about some influential piccolo pieces and excerpts.

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Baroque Piccolo Repertoire

The piccolo doesn’t have a ton of repertoire from the Baroque era (1600-1750). However, there are some pieces you can play on the small flute.

If you like the music of Bach, consider giving the following pieces a try.

Vivaldi Concertos

Antonio Vivaldi wrote three concertos for sopranino recorder, but flute and piccolo players have played the pieces as well. The Concerto in C Major, RV443, is probably the most popular.

It’s a common requirement on college and orchestral audition repertoire lists. I first played the piece as a junior in college, and it’s super fun to play. While I haven’t played it with an orchestra, I did play it with the piano reduction.

Vivaldi wrote another Concerto in C Major, RV444. I played that one as a master’s student, and it’s another fun piece. It’s not as common as the other C Major concerto, but it’s still worth learning.

If you prefer something in a minor key, try the Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, RV445. I have read through this piece but never performed it. Since I’ve really learned the other two concertos from Vivaldi, I will probably play this one eventually. But you don’t have to play the others first.

Telemann Fantasias

Many flute players already know the Telemann Fantasias, and a lot of us have played at least one. While they work well on the flute, they also make for good piccolo pieces. They’re especially useful because they don’t have accompaniment.

That means you can play the piece without anyone else. You don’t have to find and pay a pianist to play with you if you want to perform the pieces.

There are 12 fantasias in all, so you can start by learning one or two. If you like them, you can learn all of them, and you can play them on the piccolo and the flute. You may even find that some sound better on one instrument or the other.

Orchestral Piccolo Repertoire

Unfortunately, there aren’t any major piccolo solo pieces from the Classical and Romantic eras (1750-1900ish). However, that period did give the piccolo a few excellent orchestral solos.

If you want to play in a school, community, or professional orchestra, you should learn these pieces. At the very least, learn the piccolo solos from them.

Beethoven Symphony No. 5

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is thought to be the first symphony with a piccolo part. Now, the piccolo only plays in the fourth movement. But it plays an important role during that part of the piece.

I got to play this piece a few years ago, and it was a blast. On the one hand, I got to have a pretty big piccolo solo near the end. However, that meant sitting through three movements doing nothing.

Still, it’s an excellent piece of music overall. You should at least learn some of the excerpts from the last movement. Then, you’ll be ready in case you ever get the chance to perform the piece.

Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Most people know Beethoven’s melody Ode to Joy, and that comes from his Ninth Symphony. This piece is another big part of the orchestral piccolo repertoire. The piccolo plays a lot of high notes, so you’ll need to have a good pair of earplugs on hand.

If you like the other Beethoven symphonies, you should learn this one. You may not get to play it with an orchestra for a while, but it can take time to learn. Learning it a bit now can prepare you for when you do get to perform it.

Rossini La Gazza Ladra Overture

Rossini wrote a lot of fantastic piccolo parts, and La Gazza Ladra Overture features some solos. The overture repeats the solo in a different key, which can make the excerpt tricky. Because once you master it in the first key, you’ll need to relearn it.

I’ve never played this piece with an orchestra, but I have worked on the piccolo excerpts. If you like opera music or Rossini’s works, you should learn this piece.

Then, you won’t have to learn it from scratch when you join an orchestra. Instead, you can focus on polishing the orchestra to help give the best performance possible.

Rossini Semiramide

Another big excerpt from Rossini comes from Semiramide. This excerpt is pretty hard, and I remember struggling with the more technical parts of it.

However, it’s fun to play once you work on it. Like some of the other excerpts, I have yet to play this with a full ensemble. Still, it’s a good excerpt to learn if you want to challenge yourself and work on your high notes.

This excerpt also requires good breath control. So if you have trouble holding your breath for long phrases, this may be just the piece you need to improve on that.

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 is one of the biggest orchestral pieces for piccolo and flute players. The piccolo has a major solo in the third movement, but here’s the kicker.

That solo is the first thing the piccolo plays in the entire work. So you need to sit there for more than two movements without playing. Getting that solo to come out well can be tricky because your instrument may not be quite in tune.

If you tuned at the beginning and don’t keep the piccolo warm, the solo won’t sound good. Some piccoloists will play a bit of the tutti section just before the solo to make sure they’re in tune.

However, it’s still a hard solo to play. The piccolo plays a lot of high, fast notes. That means you need to have excellent air support.

Bartok Pe Loc

Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances include multiple movements with different melodies. The movement Pe Loc features the piccolo with the other instruments serving as the accompaniment.

It’s not a super long movement, but it does require control. You need to know how to use your air stream, and alternate fingerings can come in handy. The piece also requires you to be able to play softly.

If you play this piece with an orchestra, you also need to practice switching from the piccolo to the flute. After Pe Loc, you won’t have much time to pick up your flute.

While I haven’t played this with an orchestra, I have played it as part of a flute choir arrangement. It’s super fun to play with a group, but it does take work to prepare the solo.

Sousa Stars and Stripes Forever

I can’t make a list of the best piccolo repertoire and not include Stars and Stripes Forever by Sousa. This piece is fun but hard to play, and the piccolo solo is probably one of the best well-known piccolo solos.

What makes this piece hard is the high range of the solo, which is almost entirely above the staff. It can also be difficult because the piece is available in two keys. Orchestras typically play the solo in the key of G, while bands play it in the key of Ab.

I first learned it in the orchestra key, and playing in the band key was harder than you might think. Now, you can get around this by learning only the orchestra key and then using a Db piccolo to play with a band.

However, it’s still a difficult piece to learn. You don’t get a break leading up to the solo, and you may be expected to stand up. Because of that, you can’t look at the music as easily when performing it, so you might want to memorize the excerpt.

20th and 21st Century Piccolo Repertoire

The 20th century was when solo piccolo repertoire really started to develop. Most solo and chamber piccolo music comes from the later part of the 20th century as well as the 21st century.

If you want to learn more piccolo solos than the Vivaldi concertos, you should consider learning some or all of the following pieces. There are more, but these are a great starting point.

Liebermann Concerto

Lowell Liebermann wrote a piccolo concerto, and it’s probably the most famous piccolo concerto since Vivaldi’s pieces. I’ve never played the piece, but I have read through it a bit. From what I have seen, the piece has some pretty difficult parts.

You’ll want to use earplugs to protect your hearing while playing the higher notes. And you may need to take your practice slowly at first. That way, you’ll get to play all of the correct notes.

If you’ve played any pieces by Liebermann on the flute, the piccolo concerto will be a good way to learn the piccolo. That way, you can learn music by a composer you already like.

Dorman Concerto

Another piccolo concerto you may want to learn is the Dorman Concerto. I played this piece during the second half of my masters degree. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with some of the rhythms, especially in the first movement.

However, the piece is super fun, especially if you like popular music. The piece takes inspiration from classical, jazz, popular, and world music. There’s even a version of the piece with a rock band instead of an orchestra.

This concerto isn’t the most popular one for piccolo, but it’s worth listening to at least. Its style is different from a lot of classical music, but you don’t have to learn a ton of new techniques to play it.

Persichetti Parable

Vincent Persichetti wrote parables for different instruments, one of which is for piccolo. It’s an unaccompanied piece, and it’s one of the first pieces to join the piccolo repertoire. If you like playing without piano or other instruments, you may like this work.

The piece isn’t super long, but it’s not that easy either. You’ll need to create a practice routine so that you can learn the piece and make good progress on it.

If you want to get serious about the piccolo, this is a good place to start. That way, you can play it for yourself or in front of an audience. And you can add it to any recital program without needing to pay for a pianist.

Loeb Six Preludes

Another unaccompanied piece, David Loeb’s Six Preludes, Studies on East Asian Pipes, is great. I played this in the first half of grad school, and I still love the preludes. Each one’s melody is based on a different flute from East Asia.

Most of the preludes don’t go too high, either, so they’re great if you don’t like the high notes. Now, some of the movements don’t use barlines, which can be hard to get used to. However, you can still find where the phrases start and stop, so you can get into the flow of the music.

If you like this set of pieces, Loeb has plenty of other works available for the piccolo. Then, you can learn even more music in a similar style.

Dorff Tweet

Daniel Dorff’s piece Tweet for solo piccolo is a relatively recent addition to the piccolo repertoire. In the piece, you get to play as if you’re a bird. The piece switches between quick little bird calls and more lyrical sections.

It’s a great way to work on switching styles quickly and easily. Plus, you don’t need a pianist or other musicians to play the piece.

There aren’t a ton of high notes, but the bird call sections have fast grace notes. So you’ll need to be able to either read the music quickly or work on those parts slowly before increasing the tempo. Either way, this can be a fun piece to play for yourself or as part of a recital.

Chamberlain Death Whistle

An even newer part of the piccolo repertoire is Death Whistle by Nicole Chamberlain. She composed this piece a few years ago, but plenty of people have already played it (including myself).

The unaccompanied piece has three movements: Ear Knife, Ballistophobia, and #PiccolOhMyGod. Each movement plays on some of the stereotypes surrounding the piccolo, with the first movement using a lot of high notes.

Ballistophobia refers to the fear of guns, so it pokes fun at the joke “how do you tune two piccolos? You shoot one.” And the third movement includes a lot of fast notes.

Harberg Hall of Ghosts

One of the newest pieces for piccolo players is Hall of Ghosts, which Amanda Harberg composed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She composed the piece because concert halls went from full and lively to empty.

The piece has some lyrical and technical elements. While I haven’t polished this piece yet, I have started working on it. It’s a fun addition to the unaccompanied piccolo repertoire, and it’s great for players during quarantine.

You can use this piece to help learn to play the piccolo. That way, you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with a big concerto or a massive sonata. Instead, you can play a single-movement work to make sure you enjoy playing the small flute.

Piccolo Method Books

Aside from solo and orchestral piccolo repertoire, there are plenty of great piccolo method books you should know. These books can help you learn how to play the instrument well, and they’re specific to the piccolo.

While flute books are useful as well, they don’t always touch on the nuances of the piccolo. So it could be easy to miss important details, especially if you aren’t learning under the guidance of a teacher.

The Mazzanti Method

Italian piccoloist Nicola Mazzanti developed The Mazzanti Method to help piccolo players know what to focus on during daily practice. It includes a few different sections on sound, technique and excerpts from pieces.

The book also focuses on things like your larynx to help you get a good piccolo sound. There are exercises for singing and playing, scales, and more.

It’s an excellent resource to use with your flute as well. So you can take the same exercises on each instrument to help improve your playing. Plus, you don’t need a teacher to use the book.

Trevor Wye Practice Book for the Piccolo

If you’ve used Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute, you should try his Practice Book for the Piccolo. This book is less about tone and technique and more about orchestral excerpts. However, Wye groups the excerpts to help you work on specific aspects of your playing.

There are a couple of exercises to help you play the piccolo, but they’re few and far between. But you can read about more piccolo repertoire at the back of the book.

Keep this book on your bookshelf or music stand. It has a lot more excerpts than even some standard orchestral excerpt materials. Unfortunately, the book’s print is different from what you’d receive in an audition, though.

The Piccolo Study Book

The Piccolo Study Book by Patricia Morris is an excellent etude book. It includes etudes originally for various instruments, but they work well on the piccolo. The book also groups the etudes into themes, so you can choose etudes based on what you want to improve.

At the beginning, there are a few tone exercises you can use to warm up on the piccolo. Then, you can jump right into some of the studies.

While you can play your flute etudes on the piccolo, it’s nice to have a book specifically for the instrument. That way, you don’t have to worry about dropping low Cs or playing them up an octave.

Learning the Piccolo

Another piccolo etude book to try is Learning the Piccolo by Clement Barone. The book includes different etudes from the Patricia Morris book.

It’s also an older book, so you may be able to find a used copy. Or you can buy a new copy so that you don’t have to worry about ignoring someone else’s markings.

While learning to play the piccolo, this is a great book. I first played out of it in college, but I didn’t get my own copy until about halfway through graduate school. Whether you’re a serious piccolo player or teacher, you should get this book at some point.

Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo

One of the standard piccolo books is Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo by Jack Wellbaum. This book contains a lot of common excerpts, like the solos I mentioned in the orchestral repertoire section of this post.

Unlike the Trevor Wye book, this one uses more authentic copies of the music. So you can get used to playing from copies that aren’t super clear or that have errors.

Plus, this book comes with a piano reduction of each excerpt. Then, you can play through them with someone else, and you can get an idea of how the piece will sound in an orchestra.

Final Note

Piccolo repertoire has slowly grown over the years, especially within the last few decades. Whether you prefer to play unaccompanied music, accompanied music, or orchestral works, consider a few of the pieces here.

You can also explore more piccolo repertoire. Then, you can find a few pieces you enjoy, which will make practicing easier and more exciting.

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