Whether you’re a flute student or a lover of all things flute, you may have wondered, are flute and piccolo notes the same? While they share a few similarities, they’re not completely identical.
In this quick guide, we’ll explore how the two instruments are similar and different. That way, you’ll know which instrument to use and when to use them.
How Flute and Piccolo Notes Are the Same
When looking at a flute part vs. a piccolo part on paper, the notes look the same. The flute’s written range spans from C4 (sometimes B3) to C7, and sometimes a little higher.
Meanwhile, the written range for a piccolo is D4 to C7. That’s almost the same except for some notes at either extreme end of the given range.
Both instruments also use the treble clef, which covers notes above middle C (C4).
So if you’re comfortable reading a flute part, you should have no problems reading a piccolo part and vice versa. That can make switching between the instruments easier as well.
How Flute and Piccolo Notes Are Different
While there are many similarities, there are also quite a few differences between notes on the flute and piccolo. First, the flute is a concert pitch or non-transposing instrument.
That means the note you see on the page and play from that is the same as the note you’ll hear. However, the piccolo will sound an octave higher than the written note.
Another way in which flute and piccolo notes differ primarily affects the player. When playing the piccolo, you may need to use more alternate fingerings than on flute.
Alternate fingerings can help with intonation issues at different dynamic levels. A common example is using different fingerings for high G# if you don’t have a G# mechanism.
Why Flute vs. Piccolo Notes Matter
When playing the flute and piccolo, it’s essential to understand how the two instruments differ. Here are few scenarios in which the differences come into play.
Writing Piccolo Parts
Sorry to call you out composers, but the piccolo is not just a small flute. When writing a piccolo part, you need to stay within the written and sounding range of the instrument.
Don’t assume the piccolo can play a written middle C just because the flute can. Make sure you review the range of the piccolo before writing your next piccolo solo.
Actual Sounding Pitch
Composers and performers should also take the sounding pitch into account. As a composer, you’ll want to write all of your piccolo parts an octave lower so that they’ll sound how you want.
Meanwhile, piccolo players need to consider their hearing, especially when playing up high. You may not need earplugs when playing the flute, but they can help a lot when you play the piccolo.
Feel for the Player
Another thing to consider is that the same sounding notes on the flute and piccolo feel more similar than you’d expect. For example, you can use your second octave flute embouchure to play the first octave on the piccolo.
That can make the transition a lot easier, particularly for students. Instead of thinking of the piccolo as an entirely different instrument, you can use some of the techniques you’ve already learned.
Can You Play Flute and Piccolo?
You can play flute and piccolo, and many people perform on both instruments. If you’re primarily a flute player, learning the piccolo will open up more opportunities for you.
And if you tend to pick up the piccolo, playing the flute can also open more doors. You’ll have more chances to play if you can perform well on both members of the concert flute family.
If you want even more opportunities, consider learning to play the alto flute.
Are Flute and Piccolo Notes the Same?
Flute and piccolo notes are the same in some respects but different in other ways. Be sure to consider the written range vs. sounding range of both instruments.
Then, you can find ways to make playing both instruments easier for you. And if you want more tips to help, check out our resources page for more.