I’m not a parent, but I’ve been a young kid. I remember not really wanting to practice the piano or violin. If your child is the same, you may wonder if young kids can play the piccolo.
Technically, there’s nothing stopping a child from playing the small flute. However, it’s not the most appropriate instrument for kids that age.
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Why the Piccolo Sounds Like a Good Idea
If you have or know a young child who wants to play the flute, the piccolo may sound like a suitable alternative. After all, it’s smaller and so easier for kids to hold.
Consider the following reasons why it can be tempting to start a young student on the piccolo.
Especially compared to the flute, the piccolo is quite small. It’s only about a foot long, and the keys are very easy to reach, even if you have small hands.
That alone can make it seem like the perfect instrument for young children. A lot of kids struggle to reach some of the keys on the flute, particularly those that the right hand plays.
There are some flutes with curved headjoints and other designs that make the reach easier. But the piccolo still wins out in the size department.
Another thing that can make it tempting to give the piccolo a try is that it can be pretty cheap. A lot of the best models are quite expensive, but you can find a few brands that don’t cost as much.
For example, you can get a Giardinelli piccolo for less than $500. When a lot of reputable beginner flutes cost more than that, the savings is exciting.
It’s especially nice to find a cheap instrument for a beginner because you don’t know if they’ll stick with it. Since there are some decent cheap piccolos, I can understand why parents might think to start their child on the piccolo rather than the flute.
Why the Piccolo Isn’t a Good Idea
Young kids can play the piccolo, but that doesn’t mean they should. The piccolo requires a lot of control, and it’s better to start on the flute first, regardless of your age.
Consider the following issues that can occur when an absolute beginner learns the piccolo with no flute background.
The flute’s larger size allows it to be more forgiving of small mistakes beginners are bound to make. You have more room to experiment with your embouchure and learn where your lips need to go.
Now, if you have experience playing the flute, the smaller embouchure hole isn’t as much of a problem. You’ve had time to learn how to form a good embouchure.
But if you’ve never played an instrument it will be a struggle. There’s a good chance it will take time for your child to make a sound, and that means they could easily get frustrated and want to quit playing music.
Playing piccolo shouldn’t involve any tension. However, beginners don’t know any better, and the smaller size of the piccolo can make people think they need to tense their lip muscles to make a sound.
That’s the last thing you want to do because it could keep you from sounding your best. Instead, you need a firm embouchure, and you need a small aperture hole between your lips.
Those concepts are much easier to grasp after you have experience playing the larger C flute. Tension can cause a lot of problems, from a lack of motivation to play to physical injury, and it’s not worth that risk for kids to play a smaller instrument.
Better Small Flutes for Young Kids
Luckily, young kids can play small flutes, just not the piccolo. If you have a child who’s interested in the flute, you can introduce them to a few other options, at least for now.
They can always switch to the flute and even the piccolo as they get older. However, there are some other small instruments that are much more kid-friendly.
Consider the following options so that young kids can play a piccolo or something similar.
The Yamaha Fife is a small, plastic fife that you blow into similarly to a piccolo. However, the size of the embouchure hole on this instrument is larger, so it’s a bit easier to play.
Also, the plastic design makes it both super affordable and durable. Kids can put their instruments through a lot, and it will take much more to break this fife than a regular piccolo.
This instrument uses recorder fingerings since it doesn’t have any keys. If your child has ever played a recorder, they can naturally switch to this fife to experiment with how it feels to play a transverse flute.
Another fantastic plastic fife is the myfife, and I just bought one for myself a few months ago. These fifes come in fun colors, like purple and pink, which can be great for getting kids interested in playing music.
I have yet to figure out the fingering system, but I imagine it’s similar to the Yamaha Fife. This instrument also doesn’t have keys, so you’ll need to use forked fingerings to play chromatically.
It’s a very affordable option for parents of kids who want to give the flute or piccolo a try. Plus, you can continue to play it as you get older, and it’s still fun.
The Shining Piper fife is yet another colorful instrument that’s great for young kids. I love how it comes in colors like blue, pink, orange, and seafoam green.
If you know your child’s favorite color, you can probably find this instrument in that shade. Unlike many other small flutes for kids, this one does have keys, so you can play notes without having to completely cover the holes.
That can be nice for kids who have some dexterity issues or for kids whose fingers are too small to cover the holes. For better or worse, this fife costs a bit more than the others, but it’s still pretty affordable.
I think the Nuvo Toot is another cute option for kids to try. You hold it off to the side like you would a flute or piccolo, but the mouthpiece is designed to work like a recorder.
That’s super helpful for kids who struggle to blow across the embouchure hole and make a sound. I also love how this flute comes in different colors.
The plastic is also quite durable, so it’s great for kids who don’t take the best care of their things. And it’s still pretty reasonably priced for beginners.
If your child isn’t set on playing a transverse flute, you may want to get them a soprano recorder. This is the recorder people use to teach kids in music class.
It’s about the same size as the piccolo, but you hold and play it in front of you. You’ll use slightly different fingerings from the flute and piccolo family, but many are the same.
This instrument is a nice introduction to woodwinds, from the flute to the clarinet. It also comes in smaller and larger sizes, so you can get the right size for you or your child.
Another end-blown flute to consider for young kids is the tin whistle. You hold it in front of you and blow into the end to make a sound, and you open or close the tone holes to change the pitch.
Unfortunately, this instrument can only play in a couple of keys. However, most young beginners don’t need to play in all of the keys, at least not anytime soon.
You can find tin whistles in a variety of keys and sizes. I’d recommend starting on one in D, which means the lowest note is a D, and that’s the same as the lowest note on a piccolo.
When to Start on the Piccolo
I’d suggest waiting to start on the piccolo until at least middle school or early high school. You should have about a year or so of experience playing the flute before you look into the smaller instrument.
That way, you or your child can establish a consistent practice routine. You’ll also be able to determine if you’re serious about the flute and want to try the piccolo.
If you have a kid who wants to play music, you should encourage them. However, I’d avoid having young kids play the piccolo, at least for right now.
The piccolo requires a lot of control and air, but there are some good alternatives. Be sure to look at fifes and recorders so that your child can still play music right now.