Have you been meaning to learn how to play the piccolo for a while? The instrument can be tough at first, but it gets easier the more you practice.
Be sure you follow the right steps to make sure you can learn the piccolo efficiently. Then, you can actually start to enjoy the piccolo rather than dread having to play it.
Before we get into the steps, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
Play the Flute First
Before you can learn how to play the piccolo, you should learn the flute. Odds are, you probably understand the basics if you’re looking into starting the piccolo.
But some people might want to play the piccolo before starting on the flute. That’s possible, but a lot of flute and piccolo players (including myself) don’t recommend it.
The piccolo is a lot less forgiving than the flute. You can make more mistakes and learn the fundamentals more efficiently when you start on the flute.
Buy the Best Piccolo You Can
When you’re ready to learn to play the piccolo, you need the best instrument you can afford. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars; I got by with a used piccolo that cost about $300.
However, you should budget about $1,000 or so to give you multiple models to choose from. If you go with a super cheap piccolo, you might deal with a lot of issues that have nothing to do with you.
A quality piccolo may still be hard to play at first. But you’ll know that you need to practice consistently, and you shouldn’t have to worry about your piccolo holding you back from getting better.
Start With Just the Headjoint
As a beginner on the flute, you probably spent a bit of time just playing the headjoint. You can do the same with the piccolo so that you can get used to the headjoint cut and figure out how you need to shape your lips and move your air.
Just like on the flute, you can move your air stream up and down to produce higher and lower pitches. This can help you get an idea of how the headjoint wants to be played.
After a bit of work on the headjoint, you may not struggle as much to get a sound out of the entire piccolo. If you ever have trouble making a sound, do some tone work with the headjoint to help.
Assemble the Piccolo
Now, you can put the piccolo together and start to learn to play the entire thing. Be sure not to squeeze the keys too hard when you put the headjoint on the body.
You should also avoid pressing on the lip plate if your headjoint has one. Instead, do your best to hold on to the smooth parts of the headjoint and body to minimize the risk of damage.
Of course, it can be hard not to touch the keys at all. But use a loose grip to help make assembling the piccolo easier.
Use the Same First Notes as the Flute
When you’re ready to start learning notes on the piccolo, start with the same as those on the flute. Both instruments share many of the same fingerings, so you can use a beginner flute book, like the Rubank Elementary Method.
You can start by learning how to play the B, A, and G in the staff. Remember that these notes will sound an octave higher since that’s how the entire range of the piccolo is transposed.
Work on some long tones, and slowly play the notes higher and lower. Luckily, you don’t have to learn the fingerings from scratch, so you can learn more notes in less time.
Experiment With Your Posture
As you figure out how to play the piccolo, you may need to work on your posture. Like when playing the flute, you need to stand or sit without crouching over.
Make sure you have plenty of room for your chest to expand as you breathe. Try not to let your right arm rest against your body, and keep it out. One of my flute teachers has used The Fifer as an example for how to position your right arm.
You can also experiment with where you need to place your right thumb for comfort and flexibility. Personally, I tend to keep my right thumb more behind the piccolo than under it, but you may find another position is better for you.
Find Good Exercises
As you learn how to play the piccolo, you should look for some good piccolo exercises. You can use a lot of the same exercises on your piccolo as you would on the flute.
However, you can also find piccolo-specific exercises and books. That way, you can learn how to play your piccolo as its own instrument rather than a small version of the concert flute.
I like to practice long tones, octave leaps, and scale patterns. But think of your goals and what you want to work on to find some exercises that suit your needs.
Start Learning Pieces
After a while, you may find that playing exercises gets boring, so add some piccolo pieces to the mix. You can look for unaccompanied piccolo pieces, concertos, or sonatas.
If you want to play piccolo in an orchestra, you should also start learning some orchestral excerpts. That can help you prepare for an audition or performance in school, at the community level, or in professional groups.
Depending on how much time you practice the piccolo each day, you may be able to learn multiple pieces at once. If you can’t, that’s okay, so do what you can to help improve your skills.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can play basic piccolo music. Then, you can start to follow a regular practice schedule to work on your skills and learn new music.
This may take more or less time depending on your schedule. If you can practice more, you might make more progress in less time, or it could take you longer.
Try not to compare yourself to how fast others learn how to play the piccolo. As long as you make consistent progress and enjoy yourself, you can be successful with the piccolo.
Do You Understand How to Play the Piccolo?
Knowing how to play the piccolo is essential for many flute players. If you want to become a professional or even just play for fun, you should know how the piccolo works.
Then, you can start to learn the basics and get better at the instrument. Be sure to check out the rest of this blog for more piccolo tips and tricks!