Piccolo vs. Recorder: Similarities and Differences

Imagine wanting to play a high-pitched instrument but not knowing which one to go for. You should compare the piccolo vs. recorder.

Piccolo vs. Recorder: Similarities and Differences | Piccolo Perfection

For the purposes of this comparison, I’ll focus on the soprano recorder. However, you can compare the piccolo to recorders of various sizes.

Before we get into the comparison, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.

Piccolo vs. Recorder Similarities

When comparing the piccolo vs. recorder, you’ll find they share a few qualities. Here are some notable features you’ll find on both instruments.

Sounding Range

The most significant similar feature is the sounding range of the piccolo and soprano recorder. A piccolo can play from D5 to C8, and it can play the entire range chromatically. Some advanced piccolos also offer a low C (C5).

Meanwhile, the range of a soprano recorder is C5 to D7, but some players can play up to a G7. So while the recorder’s range is smaller, it’s very similar to that of the piccolo.

Both instruments can sound surprisingly full and rich in their lowest octave. In the upper part of the range, they both sound a bit more shrill than the lower notes.


Along with similar sounding ranges, the piccolo and soprano recorder transpose almost identically. Both play an octave higher than written.

That means you could easily perform a soprano recorder part on the piccolo or vice versa. In fact, the Vivaldi piccolo concerti were stolen from the recorder.


When you know the other similarities, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the piccolo and soprano recorder are similar in size. Both are about a foot long, and the size helps the instruments perform in their given range.

Piccolo vs. Recorder

Piccolo vs. Recorder Differences

Both the piccolo and recorder may be part of the larger flute family. However, there are more differences between the two instruments compared to similarities.

Key System

One of the most notable differences is the fact that the piccolo has keys and the recorder doesn’t. Like the modern metal flute, the piccolo uses the Boehm system for fingerings.

That makes it super easy to play chromatically, and you can use a lot of the same fingerings as you learned on the flute.

However, the recorder doesn’t have any keys, so it requires forked fingerings for chromatic notes. You can still play all 12 half tones in an octave, but you’ll need to learn different fingerings.

The lack of keys also makes it possible to play the recorder left handed if you so choose.

Playing Position

Another visual difference is the fact that you hold the piccolo off to the right but the recorder in front of you. Along with that, it places the piccolo very close to your ear, so I’d recommend wearing an earplug in at least the right ear.

On the other hand, playing the recorder feels more like playing a small clarinet or oboe. You hold the instrument directly in front of you, which is more ergonomic than playing off to the side, but it can be awkward if you’re used to playing the flute and piccolo.


While they’re both technically flutes, the embouchure for the piccolo and recorder couldn’t be more different. On the piccolo, you blow into a hole, and you don’t have anything pushing back against your air stream.

However, the recorder features a mouthpiece that goes between your lips. You have to close your lips around it and then blow, and the mouthpiece features a block in it that splits the sound, hence the term “block flute.”

If you’ve never played an instrument, I’d say the recorder embouchure is much easier.


Another big differences between the two small flutes is how much they typically cost. You can find a decent quality recorder for as little as $10, and there are plenty of models that cost $50 or less.

On the other end of the spectrum, they can reach the thousands, especially wood models.

Meanwhile, even the cheapest, lowest-quality piccolo start at around $100 to $150. You’ll find professional piccolos can cost anywhere from $5,000 to as much as $20,000.


Part of what makes some piccolos or recorders cost more than others is the materials they use. Piccolos can be metal (usually silver or silver-plated), an ABS resin plastic, wood (usually grenadilla), and a wood-plastic composite.

On the other hand, recorders are usually plastic but not ABS resin. More advanced models are made of wood, but they can use any wood from maple to boxwood.

Piccolo vs. Sopranino Recorder

The piccolo is most comparable to the soprano recorder, but you can also compare it to the sopranino. This recorder is in F though you still read music in concert key.

Its range starts a minor third above that of the piccolo with F5 being its lowest note. Because of that, it also plays a fourth higher than the soprano recorder but still falls within the range of the piccolo.

Piccolo vs. Garklein Recorder

An even smaller recorder to compare to the piccolo is the garklein recorder. It sounds an octave higher than the piccolo, but the written range is the same as that of the soprano recorder.

Piccolo vs. Alto Recorder

The alto recorder is the next recorder after the soprano when going from smallest to largest. It plays an octave lower than the sopranino recorder, and you read music for it at pitch rather than an octave above or below.

Piccolo vs. Tenor Recorder

Another recorder to compare to the piccolo is the tenor recorder. However, it’s more similar to the C flute because it sounds an octave lower than the soprano recorder and the piccolo.

You also read music at the same pitch level as the sounding pitch. Of course, you can apply many of the same differences to the flute and tenor recorder as to the piccolo and soprano recorder.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to play a small flute, you may want to compare the piccolo vs. recorder. Both instruments are similar in some ways, but there are a lot of differences.

Be sure to think about how the two compare before learning one or both. That way, you can make sure you select the right instrument for you.

Can’t decide which recorder to learn? Get a recorder set so that you can learn them all!

Leave a Comment

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