Piccolo vs. Fife: How Do They Compare?

Do you want to play a small, transverse flute? Today, we’re comparing the piccolo vs. fife to help you decide if one is better for you.

Piccolo vs. Fife: How They Compare | Piccolo Perfection

While some people play both instruments, you may want to stick with one. So which one should you choose?

Before we get into the differences, this post contains affiliate links. Click here to read the full disclosure policy.

Structure

One of the easiest differences to spot between the piccolo vs. fife is the structure. A piccolo has keys, while most fifes simply have holes. This applies to cheap fifes, like the Yamaha fife, and other models.

Sure, you can find some simple system piccolos. But the Pearl 105, which is currently my backup piccolo, has keys.

Other than that, the two instruments can look similar on the outside. You hold both of them off to the right, and they’re both smaller than your regular C flute.

Materials

Both piccolos and fifes can come in different materials. Beginner piccolos tend to be plastic, metal, or a combination of the two. When you get to the professional level, you’ll usually have a wood model.

Fifes can also come in metal, plastic, or wood. But because of the structural differences, you just have to consider the body material.

Even wood and plastic piccolos have metal keys and mechanisms. This is a smaller difference, but it’s still worth noting.

Use Case

Another significant difference when comparing a piccolo vs. fife is when and where you use the instrument. Piccolos are common in orchestras, wind ensembles, and marching bands.

You can also play them as a soloist or in chamber groups. But the fife, at least nowadays, is most common in military bands or fife and drum corps.

The ensembles you want to play in can help you decide which instrument is better for you. Then, you can make sure you’ll be able to play the music you want to play on your instrument.

Music

Regardless of the use case, you can find plenty of piccolo music. The repertoire is growing each year. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know a ton about the fife or its music.

But at least where solos are concerned, the piccolo has more music that you can play. You may be able to play piccolo music on the fife, but it’s still not as common.

And if you want to get solo or chamber gigs, the piccolo will probably open more doors than the fife.

Cost

One area of the piccolo vs. fife comparison where the fife wins is in the price. When it comes to shopping for a basic instrument, fifes are much cheaper than piccolos.

You can find a fife for less than $50. It will be decent quality and somewhat easy to get a sound on.

Sure, there are plenty of cheap piccolos online. But the best quality ones cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. So if you’re on a budget, a fife may be better.

Can You Play Both the Piccolo and the Fife?

If you want, you can play both the piccolo and the fife. You should start by playing one instrument. Once you learn the basics of one of them, you can start to learn the other.

Then, you’ll be able to play whichever makes sense in the moment. And you can choose music that suits either the piccolo or fife.

Piccolo vs. Fife in Review

Whether you’re a new musician or not, you may want to compare the piccolo vs. fife. Both instruments offer unique pros and cons, and you can even play both.

Want to learn more about the fife and other non-concert flutes? Read about the best small flutes out there!

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