Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A tiny instrument with a tremendous history: the piccolo

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.

    1. The piccolo is about half the size of the flute.
    2. Other than size, the biggest difference between the two instruments is that the piccolo is pitched one octave higher.
    3. The earliest work with a piccolo part in it is Handel’s “Rinaldo” in 1711
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
Man in uniform playing piccolo. Photo by Bengt Nyman. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Man in uniform playing piccolo. Photo by Bengt Nyman. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
  1. 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.
  2. The piccolo was originally designed for military bands to make the flute parts more prominent.
  3. Piccolos were once available in the key of D♭ but are currently only sold in the key of C.
  4. The piccolo can often be confused with the fife, which is similar in form but creates a louder, shriller sound.
  5. 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.

Recent Comments

  1. Benjamin

    the piccolo is a very interesting instrument

  2. Mia

    This has helped a lot with my homework.

  3. Brianna

    This has helped so much for work

  4. Aprel

    I read this because I adore piccolo. I started on flute, but then I moved to piccolo and I play both. I audition on both and do all sorts of solos and such with both. I just love the piccolo!

  5. Hurston

    hasn’t helped at all

  6. Someone

    I play the piccolo!

  7. Kate

    I want to learn the piccolo or flute.

  8. Corey

    it helped a little bit but not much, it just gave facts.. not the whole story.

Comments are closed.