How to Play Really High Notes on the Piccolo

Imagine nailing the high Cs in the piccolo part of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto 2. I did that in grad school, and it felt amazing but made me wonder how to play really high notes.

How to Play Really High Notes on the Piccolo | Piccolo Perfection

You can play higher than the high C. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to, but if you’re a fan of the upper register, consider how high you can play and what goes into extending your range upwards.

But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.

Standard Piccolo Range

The standard range of the piccolo goes from a written D4 to a written C7. Of course, since the piccolo sounds an octave higher than written, those notes will sound from D5 to C8, which is the highest note on a full piano keyboard.

Almost every piccolo piece will stay within this range. However, some composers like to push the limits of the piccolo and the full ensemble.

You may come across the occasional piccolo part that goes down to written middle C. I had this happen (but with a Db) when we had to transpose an opera song for the vocalist.

On the other end, you could see the rare piccolo part that goes even higher than the high C. Why composers would write notes that high, I will never understand.

Fourth Octave Piccolo Fingerings

If you play a lot of modern music, you might want to learn how to play really high notes on your piccolo. Sure, you can try some of the fourth octave fingerings that you’d use on your flute.

However, the lack of a footjoint can make it hard to use those standard fingerings on the piccolo. Instead, consider some of the best fingering options for playing above a written C7.

Head to the piccolo fingering chart under “Resources” for visual examples of how to play these notes.

C# or Db

For better or worse, the C# or Db above high C has multiple fingering options. The standard choice is to finger a high C but raise the first finger of your left hand.

You can also remove the ring finger to get a slightly sharper pitch. Go back to the first fingering and add the first, third, and fourth fingers of your right hand and place the second finger on the second trill key.

If that doesn’t sound quite right, try this fingering but raise the ring finger on your left hand. You can also remove the trill key on the right hand to see if that works well.



Playing a high D on the flute isn’t fun, and I can only imagine it’s similar on the piccolo. I haven’t attempted notes this high, but you can use some of the same fingerings as what you’d use on the flute.

Of course, you won’t have the help of the gizmo key, but you can work with what you do have. As with the high D fingering on the flute, you’ll want to experiment with what works on your piccolo.

D# or Eb

D# or Eb7

The highest note on the piccolo that I could find a fingering for is the really high D# or Eb7. Even then, I only came across one fingering, and it can be pretty flat.

You’ll want to use the thumb and third finger of your left hand. Pair that with the first trill key and second finger of your right hand, and roll out a bit to raise the pitch.

How Common Are These High Notes?

Notes above a written B6 or C7 are quite rare, so most players can get by without learning how to play really high notes. But if you’re a piccolo specialist or if you just really enjoy the high range, you can learn the fingerings for these pitches.

I’d recommend you master the stand range first though. Then, you can focus on these higher notes in case you ever come across them in a piccolo part.

Special Considerations Before Playing the Fourth Octave

Before you attempt any of the fingerings for the fourth octave on the piccolo, be careful. You can’t just pick up your instrument and expect these notes to come out as they should.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to learn to play really high notes on the piccolo.

Wear Two Earplugs

I always recommend wearing at least one earplug, even when you’re playing in the first or second octave. My favorites are the Etymotic ER-20 earplugs.

Usually, I only wear an earplug in my right ear since it’s closer to the piccolo. But if you’re looking to learn the highest of high notes, you should put both earplugs in.

The sound can pierce through the entire room, and it can start to affect the hearing in your left ear. You don’t want to lose your hearing, so it’s better to be proactive and protect your ears from the start.

Read my full review of the Etymotic ER-20 earplugs to learn more.

Stay Relaxed

The higher up you go in the piccolo’s range, the easier it can be to tense up. But if you get tense, you’ll struggle to get or maintain a clear, resonant sound.

Do your best to relax your muscles before and during your practice session. Take a few minutes to stretch if you start to feel your muscles get tight.

You can do this with your arms by rolling your shoulders and moving your arms in circles. But if your lips get tight, don’t be afraid to stretch them as well.

Get a COA

Sometimes, all of the practice in the world won’t be enough to help you play really high notes. It could be that your piccolo is keeping you from reaching your full potential.

Especially if you also have trouble playing lower notes, it’s time for a COA from a professional repair technician. They can make sure your piccolo is working as well as it can.

That way, you’ll be able to relax even more when you practice.

Experiment With Fingerings

Most flutes sound good using the basic fingerings, but that’s not the case with the piccolo. You have to use a lot more alternate fingerings based on the piccolo model you play.

That applies from the first through the fourth octaves. So if the first fingering you try for a specific note doesn’t work, don’t give up just yet.

Look at some other alternate fingerings to see if they make a difference. Who knows, you may have an easier time hitting certain pitches with the right fingering.

Take Frequent Breaks

Another thing you can do is take breaks during your high note practice. For one, this gives you a chance to relax and stretch out your muscles to reduce tension.

However, it can also give you and your ears a break (and any roommates or neighbors who are around). I wouldn’t work on these high notes for more than a few minutes at a time.

You can alternate your practice with work in the lower octaves. That way, you’ll still be able to practice as much as you need to based on your goals, but you won’t blow your eardrums, even if you wear earplugs.

Don’t Force It

As you start to learn how to play really high notes, you probably won’t sound very good. That can be frustrating, and you may want to push harder.

However, it’s better to not force anything to happen too fast. If you keep practicing, you’ll eventually be able to play the highest notes on your piccolo.

But if you force the notes to come out, you could develop a condition like focal dystonia. That could keep you from having full control of your muscles and keep you from playing at all.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to play really high notes can be an exciting part of the life of a piccolo player. You can push the upper limits of the instrument and have fun (maybe).

But you’ll need to take things slowly to keep from hurting yourself or damaging your hearing.

If you’re ready to give the fourth octave a try, check out a comprehensive piccolo fingering chart!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *