Improve Your Piccolo Technique
The most effective self-help guide to perfecting Piccolo Technique
Are you currently wanting to improve your piccolo playing? Then technique is the one thing you ought to be centering on initially. An effective technique is at the foundation of any excellent player. It’s impossible to have a remarkable piccolo player without a fantastic technique. As part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Piccolo’, we hope this segment on technique will help you improve simply and quickly.
Many exercises are essential to gain a proper technique. Once you master these exercises, you’ll be able to play almost anything. That sounds like a grand statement – but don’t underestimate the word ‘master’!
If you work enough, you’ll be able to look at a section of music and be confident enough to learn it quickly. For each exercise, there is a specific way to practice it. Your practice is only as good as your form while you practice. So be disciplined about it, as practising exercises wrong is a complete waste of time!
Here are three different ways to improve your piccolo technique…
1. Tone Exercises
If you would love to have a beautiful clear tone on your piccolo then long note exercises will be your new best friend. Try starting on a note where you feel you can make your best possible sound, this will not be the same for every player. Often people will find B in the middle register is a good note. Use this as your base and then work your way down and up your range chromatically always starting from this note.
2. Lip Flexibility Exercises
Lip Flexibility is very important on the piccolo as it helps us to play different octaves. Bring your bottom lip forward to direct the air you blow higher and your note will also sound higher. Bring your bottom lip back and your airstream will go down which will make low notes easier to pitch.
Slurred octave exercises like the one below are a great way to improve your lip flexibility. Try playing these loudly to start with and then for a bigger challenge try playing them softer. Listen carefully to check your octaves are in tune.
3. Scales and Finger Exercises
Scales are those things that all musicians love to hate. I remember hating learning scales for my music exams when I was younger, it was always a chore I had to complete before I could play the fun pieces. So what happens when a child becomes a professional musician? Why do they suddenly forget their hatred for scales and enforce it on their students?
Possibly because scales are the one thing that can make or break you as a piccolo player. Almost every piece of music is made up in parts, from a scale. So you may not realise it, but listening to music means listening to many different scales. That means playing music means playing many different scales. It really is that important.
By knowing your scales well, your muscle memory will instinctively know how to play fast runs without needing to spend hours practising it. As a piccolo player, this is very helpful as we are often asked to play fast, virtuosic music in an orchestra – on the piccolo, there is nowhere to hide!
Every piece is set in a ‘key’. Every key has a different number of sharps or flats, and to start with it can be tricky to remember all the configurations. Scales help with this; every scale is different BECAUSE of the sharps and flats, so once you know the scales, you should know the keys. This then gives you a sixth sense where you can feel your way around the flute, and know which notes are likely to be right, and which are likely to be wrong.
Have you ever seen someone sight-read a complicated piece and wondered ‘how did they do that?’ The answer is patterns. When reading music, we end up reading a series of patterns, not each individual note. It’s exactly the same reading this paragraph. Did you realise I swapped the G and A around in the middle of the word ‘paragraph’? Thought not!
Start off with these major scales. Try playing them whilst standing in front of a mirror so you can check that your fingers are staying close to the keys at all times.
If you can, you should try and sight-read every time you practice.
When sight-reading, it’s advised that you read something just under your current playing level. This way, it’s a challenge, but not too much of a challenge…
Just don’t fall into the trap of reading something that’s too easy – your sight-reading won’t improve if everything is a walk in the park!
And I know this sounds obvious, but remember; for it to be sight-reading; it needs to be a piece of music you have never seen or practised before.
Improve Your Piccolo Technique - Summary
Most things in life work well when you take the time to plan them. Playing the piccolo, and improving your technique, is definitely the same. The challenge is to do it on a daily basis – and remember that building a strong technique is the foundation of your playing. The time taken here will make your life easier down the road and you will be on your way to mastering the piccolo…
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