How to Play Piccolo (when you really don’t like it)

You’ve heard you have to play piccolo. But you don’t like how high pitched it sounds. So you avoid it as much as you can.

Even though you know how important it is.

How to Play Piccolo (when you really don't like it) | Piccolo Perfection

I get it. The piccolo is higher pitched than flute, but that doesn’t mean it’s the devil’s instrument.

If you want to become a professional flutist, you really should know how to play piccolo. So, I have some tips just for you on how to get over your piccolo fear.

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The Flutist’s Toolkit

The piccolo is quite a controversial topic amongst flutists. I’ve posted about the piccolo before, and the response was mixed. Some people just really don’t like the piccolo.

If you’re in school to become a flute player or teacher, you need to play piccolo.

There’s really no getting around it. You certainly don’t have to become a piccolo specialist, but you should have command over the instrument.

If you know how to play piccolo, you will have access to more opportunities as a flute player. You can cater to more students, and you can audition for more orchestra and pit orchestra jobs.

What if I don’t like the piccolo?

Tough.

Just kidding!

But really though. Your chances of making a career as a flutist without being able to play piccolo are much slimmer.

If you don’t like the piccolo, try and find some piccolo music that you like. Shostakovich wrote a lot of great piccolo parts in his symphonies.

The piccolo also shows up in a lot of opera music.

If solo music is more your speed, listen to David Loeb’s Six Preludes.

The piccolo is more diverse than many people think. If all you think of when you hear piccolo is “Stars and Stripes,” then you’re missing out.

Piccolo music is more than just high pitched squealing.

But I’m worried about my hearing…

That’s understandable. I was worried about my hearing when I started piccolo.

All you need is a good pair of earplugs. I love the Etymotic ER20 earplugs because they block the harsher frequencies. But they still allow me to hear the music.

I can play out without worrying if I will be able to hear.

There are plenty of great earplugs available on the market. And many of them are affordable. So get yourself a pair of earplugs, my friend.

What’s the big deal with the small flute?

At the professional level, it’s almost expected of every flute player to play piccolo. If you don’t intend to pursue a career in music, then you don’t have to play piccolo.

Keep playing flute for fun.

However, those of you in school for flute should look into playing piccolo.

More and more flute performance jobs involve the piccolo. So if you know how to play piccolo, you will set yourself up for success.

Now playing piccolo is no guarantee of a career as a flute player, but it’s one more tool in your toolkit.

Start Small

Have I convinced you to play piccolo?

Great!

You don’t have to start playing Vivaldi concerti or anything crazy like that.

Start small.

Even though the piccolo has a smaller range than flute, you can play most flute music on the piccolo.

Flute to piccolo

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to piccolo, pull out your favorite piece for flute.

Unless it has a ton of low Cs, you can probably play it on piccolo. And if that favorite piece is super difficult, maybe start with something easier.

You can transfer just about anything from flute to piccolo.

Long tones? Yes!

Scales? Definitely!

Etudes? Yup!

Just be sure you don’t choose anything with tons of low Cs, and you’re good to go.

Listen to piccolo music

If you really don’t like to play piccolo, find some recordings of it being played well.

You may be surprised at how good the piccolo can sound.

Especially if you’ve only ever heard piccolo in a middle or high school band setting.

Professional piccolo players know what they’re doing.

Get Yourself a Good Instrument

As you probably know from flute playing, not all instruments are created equal.

That’s just as true for the piccolo.

As you start to play piccolo, you want to get your hands on a good instrument.

If you’re in school, look into borrowing a school owned piccolo. That way, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on your own.

And if you’re out of school, see if you can borrow one from another flute player. You can also look into renting one from a music store.

What to look for in a piccolo

Piccolos come in a variety of materials and bores.

They also come in a huge range of prices.

So how do you know which piccolo to choose?

Well, if you’re borrowing a piccolo from someone, you don’t have much choice. If you want to buy a piccolo for yourself, there are a few things you should consider.

First, think about your budget. Piccolos can cost anywhere from $300 to over $10,000.

Next, consider where you’ll be playing piccolo. If you have to play piccolo outside, like in a marching band, you don’t want a wood piccolo. Wood can crack in extreme temperatures. So save wood for indoors.

Now, think about if you want a lip plate or if you can go without one. Wood and plastic piccolos usually don’t have lip plates. Metal piccolos and metal headjoints do.

If you’re worried about the transition from flute to piccolo, a piccolo with a lip plate won’t feel as foreign as one without a lip plate.

Finally, make sure you can hit the lowest and highest notes. Play a full range chromatic scale. Go down to low D and up to high C.

Make sure you have a good instrument, because a bad instrument will make piccolo even more frustrating.

Piccolo brands

A lot of flute makers also make and sell piccolos. But are they worth it? And what about brands that only make piccolos?

Some popular piccolo brands for students and new players include Yamaha, Gemeinhardt, Pearl, and Di Zhao.

Each of these companies make piccolos out of plastic or a wood-plastic composite. That means you can play them anywhere. And they’re all pretty affordable.

If you want a wood piccolo, consider Lyric, Yamaha, and Resona. These brands offer affordable wood piccolos.

Time to Play Piccolo

Now all you need to play piccolo is some amazing music! Like I mentioned, you can start with your flute music.

If you want to play piccolo music, I would suggest starting with Six Preludes by David Loeb. These preludes stay mostly within the low and middle registers.

The preludes are also short, and you only have to bust out those earplugs for one or two of the preludes.

If you want a collection of standard rep for piccolo, try Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo by Jack Wellbaum.

So…

Are you ready to play piccolo (even if you really don’t like it)? Let me know your thoughts on the piccolo.

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