If you’re looking into playing the piccolo, you may wonder if it’s harder than flute. Both aren’t easy, and they take a good amount of practice.
Before you decide whether or not to learn the piccolo, consider what makes it harder or easier than the flute.
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What Makes Piccolo Harder Than Flute
There’s a reason beginners start on the flute and play it for a while before starting on the piccolo. The smaller flute is fun to play, but it’s not exactly easy.
Here are a few specific things that make the piccolo more difficult than the flute.
The small flute requires your aperture hole (the opening between your lips) to be smaller. You have to have more control over your airstream, both in terms of the size and angle.
As a beginner, it can be very hard to control your air and get a good sound. It’s better to learn those fundamentals on the C flute, which is a bit more forgiving.
If you try to learn the piccolo too soon, you may really struggle to produce a sound. That can make it even more stressful, and you may want to quit more so than if you started on the flute.
Another thing that makes the piccolo harder than the flute is the higher range. The range itself is okay, but the effects of the higher frequencies make it harder to play the piccolo in tune.
For example, the A in the staff on the flute is 440 hz. But the same written A on the piccolo is 880 hz. That means the intervals between notes are farther apart.
So even being just a little bit sharp or flat can cause serious problems, especially when playing with others. That means you need to spend a lot more time with a tuner to improve your piccolo playing.
Whether you’re playing a piccolo solo or simply an ensemble piccolo part, you have to act like a soloist. There are a few pieces with more than one piccolo part but not that many.
The majority of the piccolo parts I’ve played have just been one piccolo part in the whole ensemble. So I’ve had to be confident when playing and have a good grasp on the instrument.
Combine all of that with the higher range and less forgiving nature, and the piccolo is quite difficult. You can’t just breeze through rehearsals like you could if you were part of the flute section and have other players to help cover the part.
What Makes Piccolo Easier Than Flute
The piccolo has its hard parts, but there are a few things that make it a bit easier than the flute…once you get the hang of it anyway. Sometimes, I find the piccolo a lot easier than the C flute.
Here are a few things that can make the piccolo less tricky.
One of the big reasons I switched from the flute to the piccolo in college marching band had to do with the size. In a marching band, you have to have perfect form.
That’s a lot easier to maintain on the piccolo than the flute. I didn’t have to hold my arms out to the side as far and make my arms more tired.
Even in other settings, the shorter reach can be nice, like if you have arthritis or other health problems. You can still enjoy playing music, but you don’t have to sacrifice your physical wellbeing to do so.
If you’re looking at newer piccolos, a lot of them have ergonomic key layouts. For example, my Pearl piccolo places the key a little farther out from directly over the tone hole on the E and D keys.
That makes it a lot easier to play the piccolo, whether you have small hands or large hands. I know I find it hard to keep my fingers on the keys of my Armstrong piccolo, which doesn’t have an ergonomic key layout.
The piccolo isn’t as popular as the C flute since not all flute players add the piccolo to their routine. While this doesn’t affect the difficulty of playing specifically, it still helps.
You don’t have to be as good of a piccolo player to get solo opportunities or other gigs. But if you only play the C flute, you will have to be one of the best of the best.
Playing the flute and piccolo means you need to be good at both instruments. However, as long as you’re the best piccolo player in the area, it’s okay if you’re not the top C flute player.
You Should Play Both Flute and Piccolo
Whether the flute or piccolo is harder, I think you should learn both. Knowing how to play the flute and piccolo will make you more marketable, especially if you’re interested in a career in the flute.
But even if you only want to play the flute for fun, it never hurts to expand your skills. Just make sure you have a tuner or drone on hand to practice and play the piccolo.