What is the piccolo used for? If you’ve ever asked this question, you might have received a few different answers, and that’s a good thing.
The piccolo can do a lot more than you might expect. So give it a shot as a player, teacher, or composer. Read on to learn: what is the piccolo used for?
One of the most common things a piccolo is used for is to play solo lines. Since the piccolo is so high, it can cut through thick textures in a large orchestra or band.
That makes it a great choice for solos, as long as they fit in the piccolo’s range. When you play the piccolo, you can “float” above the rest of the musicians as you play your solos.
Plus, even when you don’t technically have a solo, you can still be a soloist in a sense. Most ensembles only have one piccolo part, and rarely do you have multiple players covering that part.
Not only can the piccolo stand out in an ensemble, it can be a solo instrument. There’s a growing list of piccolo solo pieces, either unaccompanied or accompanied.
Some are sonatas, while others are concertos, and there are shorter solos as well. I’ve played at least one piccolo piece on all of the degree recitals I’ve done as a flute performance major.
So you can find some sort of piece that you like and that can fit in with other pieces in a recital program. If you don’t want to play with an orchestra, you’ll still have access to challenging works.
Extending the Range Up
Going back to an ensemble, the piccolo is used for extending the range at the top. A C flute can usually only go to a C7 or D7 (the C or D three octaves above middle C).
In an orchestra, you may find violins can play a little higher. However, the piccolo can hit as high as a C8, which is the highest note on a piano.
A lot of ensemble piccolo parts use the upper registers more than the lower octave. That way, the piccolo can be heard, and it can add color and some higher notes.
Blending With Woodwinds
The piccolo can also blend very well with other woodwinds, such as the flutes, oboes, and clarinets. You may come across pieces where the piccolo is playing in octaves with the woodwinds.
Now, some piccolos don’t blend as easily because of their materials. However, good players can make the piccolo work and sound good in the woodwind section.
Adding the piccolo on top can help emphasize the higher harmonics. It can also allow other players to support the piccolo so that the entire section works together.
Blending With Brass
Another section the piccolo can play the same part as is the brass, specifically the trumpets. I’ve played a few pieces where the piccolo shares the melody or some other countermelody with the trumpet section.
I think the piccolo sounds great with brass, but it of course requires practice. You might come across this type of blending in an orchestra or a band.
It can be hard in both ensembles since the piccolo player doesn’t sit near the trumpets. However, both sections are easy to hear, so you shouldn’t have to work too hard to blend your playing.
Blending With Strings
You can also blend the piccolo with the violins in an orchestra. Last year, I played the Overture to the Barber of Seville by Rossini. A part of that overture has the piccolo and the violins play the main theme.
Since the violins can play quite high, they sound great with the piccolo. Alternatively, you may have to play in octaves with the violins, so you can float on top of their texture.
I haven’t come across many pieces that pair the piccolo with the viola, cello, or bass sections. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any pieces that do that.
What Is the Piccolo Used for in Schools?
In schools, the piccolo is used for the same things as in any other ensemble. A flute player can experiment with playing the smaller instrument, and flute players can rotate piccolo parts.
That way, multiple players get valuable experience. It also gives people a break from playing the piccolo so that no one gets too fatigued from playing.
How Do You Compose for the Piccolo?
To compose for the piccolo, you should understand how the instrument differs from the flute. You can’t just write flute parts up or down and octave and expect them to work the same way.
Be sure you know the written and sounding ranges of the piccolo. Consider learning a bit about the mechanism to know what types of passages would be easy or difficult.
What Is the Piccolo Used For? In Review
Now you know, what is the piccolo used for? It’s used for a lot of things, and the specifics vary from scenario to scenario, so the piccolo is more versatile than you think.
Be sure to consider the ways to use it as a performer, teacher, or composer. Then, you can make the most of the smallest member of the modern orchestra.