Do you want to play in the pit for The Lion King or Wicked? Both musicals require piccolo on at least one woodwind part. So you should consider a few piccolo tips to prepare for those gigs.
That way, you will be able to nail your audition. And you won’t feel like the piccolo is this terrifying thing.
Before I get into the tips, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
1. Play the Flute First
You can learn the piccolo before the flute, but a lot of people don’t recommend it. I’d especially recommend learning the flute before you learn the piccolo if your goal is to be a woodwind doubler.
As a doubler, most of the gigs you would get that involve piccolo will probably also involve the flute. So if you learn the flute first, you’ll be able to learn how to form the correct embouchure.
Whether you currently focus on the clarinet, saxophone, or a double reed, you need to learn the flute. That will make it easier to learn the piccolo later on.
2. Master the Flute Fundamentals
Another one of my best piccolo tips for doublers is to really work on the flute. Don’t just pick up the flute and then add the piccolo right away. Instead, get to a place where you feel comfortable playing the flute.
That way, you can get to understand how the whole flute family works. You’ll also be able to switch between the flute and piccolo more easily. So if you need to play both on a gig, that will feel more natural.
As you work on the flute fundamentals, you can help your piccolo playing. The better you are at flute, the less work it will take for you to get good at the piccolo.
3. Think Small
When you’re ready to start learning the piccolo, you have to treat it like its own instrument. Yes, it’s part of the flute family, but there are quite a few differences that can affect your playing.
Be sure you focus on a small embouchure, rather than a tight embouchure. Tightness leads to tension which leads to pain and a hatred for the piccolo.
But if you can focus on a smaller opening in your lips, you may not have to worry about feeling tense. Instead, you can focus on playing and enjoying the sounds that the small flute can produce.
4. Don’t Think Tight
I touched on this already, but it deserves its own point. Make sure you don’t keep your lips tight. They still need to be flexible so that you can easily switch between registers.
If you find your lips feel tight, do some lip rolls to loosen them. Then, you can return to the piccolo feeling better. You can even take a break from playing the piccolo for the rest of the day.
When you’re ready to pick up the piccolo again, you can remember to think small but not tight. If you can do that, you may find that playing isn’t as stressful as it used to be.
5. Practice Regularly
Another one of the best piccolo tips I can give you is to practice the instrument regularly. Of course, you may already have to juggle a ton of woodwinds, from the piccolo to the contrabassoon.
But you don’t need to spend hours every day on the piccolo. You could start with just a few minutes a day. That’s especially important if you need to break in a new piccolo so that you don’t make the wood crack.
If you don’t have time to practice the piccolo every day, try to play it a few times a week. That way, you’ll be able to maintain your chops when you do need to play the piccolo on a gig or in a lesson.
6. Wear Earplugs
A lot of piccolo tips refer to how to play, but you also need to protect your hearing. Be sure to invest in a good set of earplugs that you can wear as you practice, especially when playing high notes.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money, though you can go to an audiologist to get a custom pair of earplugs. I currently use some affordable Etymotic ER-20 earplugs which are comfortable.
They’re small enough to keep in my flute and piccolo bag. And they’re easy enough to put on or hang on my neck when I don’t need them. That way, they’re quick to put in when I do need to use them.
7. Choose the Right Music
You should also consider what music is best for you. The good news is that you can use a lot of the same flute music on your piccolo. This can help you get more comfortable because you already know the notes.
I have a variety of flute pieces in my shop, Flute Files. If you want some music that works on the flute and piccolo, check out the pieces. That way, you can find something to help inspire you to practice.
Because choosing the wrong music can make the piccolo seem harder than it is. You may also find that the wrong music keeps you from wanting to learn the small flute, so you may continue to avoid it.
8. Keep Going
One of the best piccolo tips I can offer is to keep going. You may reach a point where you want to quit the piccolo. But think about how it can help you reach your goals as a woodwind doubler.
Maybe you want to get more Reed 1 parts in musicals. Or perhaps you want to be able to teach woodwinds in one studio. The piccolo can help you do both of those things.
Even if your goals don’t require piccolo, it helps to have one on hand. That way, you can take on more gigs to play other instruments, and you can play a bit of piccolo as well.
Which Piccolo Tips Will You Follow?
Woodwind doubling can be an excellent way to play music. But you may feel scared of the piccolo, especially if the flute isn’t your main instrument.
Be sure to try a few piccolo tips to help your playing. Then, the smallest woodwind may not feel so scary.