4 Differences Between the Piccolo and Flute

Do you want to learn more about the piccolo and flute? You should consider some of the ways these instruments differ.

Differences Between the Piccolo and Flute | Piccolo Perfection

While they’re both part of the flute family, there are quite a few things that make them individual instruments. Consider how they differ and why that matters.

1. Size

One of the most obvious differences between the piccolo and flute is the size. The piccolo is much smaller and is about a foot long. Meanwhile, the flute is roughly double the size.

Not only is the flute much longer, but it has a thicker diameter throughout the tubing. The keys on the flute are also larger, and so is the embouchure hole.

These size differences can affect how you play each instrument. You may be able to use some of the same techniques, but you have to be able to switch back and forth when playing both.

2. Range

The size plays a role in the range of both the piccolo and flute. A flute’s range is roughly from middle C (C4) to C or D three octaves higher (C7 to D7).

However, a piccolo plays an octave higher than the flute. It sounds from about D5 up to C8.

That also means the written range of the piccolo is a bit smaller than that of the flute. You can get the Nagahara mini to play lower notes on the piccolo, but that model is quite expensive.

3. Transposition

The C flute is one of many non-transposing instruments. That means the note you see on the page is the same as what you’ll hear. You can easily read notes from a piano score and play them on the flute.

While the piccolo is in C, it sounds an octave higher than written. If you play a C in the staff on the piccolo, it will sound like the C above the staff.

Then, you may occasionally come across a Db piccolo. This will make the instrument sound an octave and a minor second higher than written.

4. Materials

Another significant difference between the piccolo and flute is the materials that are common. You can find both flutes and piccolos that use silver plating or solid silver.

However, those materials are much more common among flutes. A flute may also use some form of gold or platinum, especially at the professional level.

Meanwhile, piccolos tend to use grenadilla wood. Other woods are becoming more common, especially when you buy an aftermarket headjoint. Plastic model piccolos are popular among students.

Why Do These Differences Matter?

The differences between the piccolo and flute matter for a few reasons. As you look for your ideal instrument, you should consider the ways the two instruments are different.

Then, you can make sure to buy the best flute or piccolo for you.

Here are a few ways understanding the differences can help you when working with the piccolo and flute.

Inform Your Playing

If you’re a flute player, knowing the differences can help. You can figure out why your instrument can’t make a certain tone color. For example, metal piccolos tend to be more shrill than wood ones.

That may help you decide to buy a wood piccolo to play in an orchestra so that you can blend more easily. Understanding the difference can also help you in the practice room.

You can learn how your piccolo works to get the best sound out of it. Then, you’ll be able to play better in an ensemble.

Inform Your Teaching

As a flute teacher, you can also use the differences to help your students with their playing. You’ll be able to figure out why a student can’t make the best sound they want.

Knowing the different ranges can also help you suggest the right repertoire for your students to learn. For example, you may stick to Baroque music for the first few months on piccolo.

That way, your student can use music they have. But they won’t have to compensate for a lot of low Cs and C#s.

Inform Your Composing

Maybe you’re a composer or arranger and want to write for the piccolo and flute. Knowing how they differ can help you assign the right parts to the right instrument.

For example, you may choose to give the piccolo some of the melody, especially in a duet with the flute. The flute can handle more of the harmonies since it has a lower range.

If you know how the piccolo and flute differ, you can write music for both instruments more effectively. Then, you may be able to get more interest in those works.

Should You Play Piccolo and Flute?

If you want to be a performer and already play the flute, you should add the piccolo to your skill set. You may be able to get more gigs when you play the smaller instrument.

Now, if you don’t want a music career and don’t like the piccolo, you can get away without playing it. However, if you do like the piccolo, you don’t have to have a music degree or career to enjoy it.

Is Playing Piccolo and Flute Hard?

Playing piccolo and flute can be difficult. Balancing both will take practice and consistency.

However, if you can do that, you can maintain and build your skills on both instruments. Then, you’ll be able to enjoy playing more music, and you can understand how each instrument works.

Do You Know the Differences Between the Piccolo and Flute?

There are a few differences between the piccolo and flute. Whether you’re a performer or teacher, you should understand the two instruments.

That way, you can select the best model for each. And you’ll know when to use each instrument to get the most out of a piece of music for your next performance.

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