Although often overlooked, the piccolo is an important part of the woodwind instrument family. This high-pitched petite woodwind packs a huge punch. Historically, the piccolo had no keys, but over the years, it has transformed into an instrument similar in fingering and form to the flute. It still serves as a unique asset to the woodwinds.
- The piccolo is about half the size of the flute.
- Other than size, the biggest difference between the two instruments is that the piccolo is pitched one octave higher.
- The earliest work with a piccolo part in it is Handel’s “Rinaldo” in 1711
- The piccolo was often referred to as the “petite flute” or “flautino” – but so were flageolet or small recorders, sometimes making it difficult to determine what instrument that composer had in mind.
- In Italian, ‘piccolo’ is used as an adjective to describe various instruments that are the smallest and highest in pitch of their type. These include the violin piccolo, piccolo clarinet, and piccolo timpani.
- Some of the most famous piccolo parts can be found in Beethoven’s Egmont ov and in John Phillip Sousa’s march The Stars and Stripes Forever.
- The piccolo was originally designed for military bands to make the flute parts more prominent.
- Piccolos were once available in the key of D♭ but are currently only sold in the key of C.
- The piccolo can often be confused with the fife, which is similar in form but creates a louder, shriller sound.
- The piccolo is the most highly pitched instrument of all the woodwinds.
Featured Image: Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco by Pedro Sánchez. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.