The piccolo can be an excellent, fun instrument. But you may wonder if a piccolo does use a reed or if there’s another way you make a sound on it.
Keep reading to have your questions answered!
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
Does a Piccolo Use a Reed?
No, a piccolo does not use a reed. The piccolo is the smallest member of the concert flute family, and flutes are the only woodwinds that don’t use reeds.
Instead, you blow air across an embouchure hole to produce a sound on the piccolo. Some of the air then goes into the instrument, and it travels down the tube.
Depending on how many keys you close and how fast your air is, you can produce about three octaves of notes on the piccolo.
How to Make a Sound on the Piccolo
Whether you’re new to the piccolo or want to improve your playing, consider how to make a sound on it.
Form a Proper Embouchure
One of the most important things about playing the piccolo is forming a proper embouchure with your lips. Compared to the flute, the opening between your lips needs to be smaller for the piccolo.
However, don’t ever let your lips feel tight. This can lead to tension, discomfort, and potentially even a diagnosis of focal dystonia in your lips.
A good way to think about the piccolo embouchure can come from your flute embouchure. Since the piccolo sounds an octave higher, think of your second octave flute playing.
Use that embouchure to play in the first octave on the piccolo. And use the third octave on the flute to inform your second octave embouchure on the piccolo.
Use Good Breath Support
Along with the right embouchure, you need to support your air stream as it moves through your body and into the piccolo. You may need more support than what you’re used to with the flute.
That’s okay. Try to increase your breath support as you practice the piccolo. And don’t be afraid to take a break from playing if you get lightheaded.
You want to be safe and to enjoy playing the smaller instrument!
Can You Play Piccolo but Not Flute?
You can play piccolo and not flute, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The flute is a much better instrument to learn first because you can master the fundamentals of the flute family.
Once you’re comfortable playing the flute, you can start to learn the piccolo.
Even as you learn the piccolo, you should keep playing the flute. That will give you more performance opportunities, and it can help you maintain a good embouchure on both instruments.
Can You Play Piccolo and Flute?
You can and should play both the piccolo and the flute, especially if you want to make a career out of your flute playing. The flute is one of the more competitive instruments.
But not everyone wants to play the piccolo, so you can make yourself stand out. For example, I may not have been the best flute player, but I still landed a spot in my grad school’s orchestra as the piccolo player.
Can You Play Piccolo and Other Woodwinds?
You can play the piccolo along with other woodwinds, such as the clarinet or saxophone. Since the piccolo does not use a reed, you may have more adjustments to make to get a good sound.
But as long as you practice all of your instruments regularly, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your skills on any of them. You also shouldn’t have to worry about your sound on any of the woodwinds you play.
Best Piccolos for Woodwind Doublers
Whether you’re a woodwind doubler or a flute doubler, you may need to play the piccolo. Luckily, there are some great piccolo models on the market to consider.
One of my personal piccolos is the Pearl 105. I played on it after college and through most of my grad school program, and it served me well that entire time.
You’ll get a composite headjoint and body, so it sounds warm. But you won’t have to worry about wood cracking during extreme temperature changes.
If you want a piccolo that can cut through a large ensemble, look no further than the Yamaha YPC-32. This piccolo features a metal headjoint, so it can sound great outdoors and in some wind bands.
It has a plastic body to help mellow the sound a little bit. And it’s relatively affordable, so it’s great for players who are new to the piccolo.
Another great piccolo to consider as a woodwind doubler or flute player is the Jupiter 1010. This model features a plastic headjoint and plastic body, so it doesn’t sound too shrill.
It’s also a little more cost-effective for players who hardly ever play the piccolo. You can get a good sound, and you don’t have to worry about a cork drying out on the tenon of the body.
A Piccolo Does Not Use a Reed
A piccolo does not use a reed, but it’s still part of the woodwind family. It’s just that it’s more specifically a part of the flute family, none of which use reeds.
If you’re a flute player or a reed player, you can learn the piccolo. Just make sure you get a good foundation on the flute first to help your piccolo playing.
And feel free to check out the resources page for more tips and tricks!