Why Is the Piccolo in the Woodwind Family? (Explained)

Have you ever wanted to know, why is the piccolo in the woodwind family? To some of us, the answer is obvious, but it can be hard to explain to friends and family who don’t play an instrument.

Why Is the Piccolo in the Woodwind Family? | Piccolo Perfection

So the next time you have the question or someone asks you why, you can explain it better.

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Definition of a Woodwind

Before we can get into why the piccolo is in the woodwind family, we have to consider what a woodwind is. The woodwind family consists of two sub-families: flutes and reeds.

Flutes are defined by two smaller groups: block flutes and transverse flutes, and both types make sound by splitting air across some sort of edge.

Block flutes are instruments that produce sound by splitting the airstream across a block. Meanwhile, transverse flutes split the sound across an embouchure hole.

Reeds come in single and double reeds, and they include instruments like the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon. A single reed pairs a reed with a mouthpiece to make the air vibrate, while air vibrates between two reeds on double reed instruments.

Why the Piccolo Is in the Woodwind Family

Knowing the definition of a woodwind can help you understand why the piccolo is a member. But if you’re looking for more specific reasons, here’s what you need to know.

It’s a Flute

The piccolo is a member of the flute family, and the flute is a member of the woodwind family. Of course, the piccolo plays an octave higher than the flute, and it’s the smallest member of the flute family.

Fingering System

Another major feature of all woodwinds is how you change the pitch. Instruments have a series of tone holes up and down the tubing that you have to open and close.

Certain woodwinds, including the piccolo, use the Boehm fingering system, specifically. But other woodwinds use different systems such as because they don’t have keys.

Split the Airstream

The piccolo is also a woodwind because your airstream splits across an edge. As you blow into the embouchure hole on the headjoint, you can’t blow directly into it.

Some of the air needs to go across to help produce the signature flute and piccolo sound.

Many Wood Piccolos

The material of the instrument doesn’t make a piccolo a woodwind. However, it’s worth mentioning because that’s how the overall family got its name.

Piccolos have been made of many materials, but wood is the most common, especially at the professional level. This is true throughout history, just like the larger concert flute, but it remains true for piccolos to this day.

Is the Piccolo the Highest Woodwind Instrument?

If you look only at the family of concert or orchestral woodwinds, the piccolo is the highest. However, we can’t forget about the recorder family.

The garklein recorder’s lowest note is an octave higher than that of the piccolo. Now, the recorder range is about an octave smaller, so both instruments can play about as high as the other.

What Is the Second Highest Instrument in the Woodwind Family?

The second highest instrument from the woodwind family is the C flute, looking only at orchestral woodwinds. If you include the recorders, the second highest would be the sopranino recorder.

Is Piccolo Harder Than Flute?

Both are part of the woodwind section, but the piccolo can be much trickier than the flute. It has a higher range and so requires more precision to play well.

Many people play both instruments to access more performance opportunities or experiment with more repertoire. So if you already play the concert flute, give the piccolo a try.

Final Thoughts

Why is the piccolo in the woodwind family? There are a lot of reasons, from how it makes a sound to how you change the pitch. But the easiest reason is that it’s a flute, which is also a woodwind.

If you want to learn how to play different notes on the piccolo, check out our piccolo fingering chart!

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