Piccolo FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

Hopefully you have found our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Piccolo’ series useful.  If you have questions that are not listed in the Piccolo FAQ’s below, let us know! Oh, and remember to sign up for 4 Feature Friday

Piccolo FAQ's

Choosing An Instrument

Should I go for a wooden or metal piccolo?

Modern piccolos are often made of grenadilla hardwood or silver. These are the best ones you should keep your eyes on, although if you are on a tight budget you should consider a piccolo with a composite body. As a beginner, the choice of piccolo depends on where and how you intend to play the instrument. If you want to play to an outdoor audience, choose a metal piccolo so you can get a louder, more piercing sound. They also work well for playing with a marching band. A wooden piccolo, on the other hand, sounds less shrill and fits perfectly with a typical orchestra or chamber ensemble. 

How do I choose a good piccolo?

It all depends on your needs. Ask yourself multiple questions, such as what you’ll be playing your piccolo for, or in what environment you’d be playing it in. Go for the more durable metal piccolo (often all silver or silver plated) if you’ll be mostly playing outdoors. Or if you think metal is a bit expensive, you can go for plastic piccolos instead, which are also good for outdoor playing. For indoor playing, a wooden piccolo is recommended because of its far more melodious sound which would be great in an indoor setting. 

Maintenance

How do I clean my piccolo?

Wipe the entire body with soft, clean cloth. Careful to not put pressure on the keys as you wipe; this is most important. To clean the keys, use the same soft cloth to avoid scratching or damaging them. If you have a metal piccolo with an all-silver or silver-plated finish, always remember to use specialized cleaner with your cloth. This will help preserve the finish over time. And lastly, use a dedicated tone hole cleaner to clean the areas under and between the instrument’s keys. Follow these to the letter every day and after every performance. And if you’re not sure what cleaning products to buy we recommend this excellent care kit suitable for both piccolos and flutes.

My wooden piccolo cracked. What happened?

Short answer: temperature fluctuations. Wood is a natural material, and thus will suffer under the effects of extreme heat and cold. Due to this, wooden piccolo players are always advised to never leave their instruments in areas where there are temperature extremes. If you have a wooden piccolo it is absolutely critical to keep your wooden piccolo at room temperature, which is around 18 to 20 degrees celsius. Anything far below or above means that the wood is going to expand, contract, and suffer from cracking. In addition to maintaining the correct temperature we recommend always storing your piccolo in a dedicated case.

Technique

Is playing piccolo the same as playing the flute?

Not exactly. If you’re familiar with both instruments, you should know that the piccolo embouchure must be firmer than that of the flute, considering that the flute is on a higher octave. But also remember that an embouchure that is too tight will compromise the sound. So be careful around that. For instance, using the so-called “smile” embouchure will often produce a buzzing sound when you play a higher pitch. Producing a pleasant, consistent sound requires a round and small lip opening, with the lips and the corners of the mouth forward. 

Why am I struggling playing in tune?

It’s all about the piccolo’s acoustic principles. If you’re trying to apply several flute fingerings to the piccolo, they won’t always work. A lot of these “alternate” fingerings better suit the piccolo than the flute, producing good intonation, smooth finger changes, and an overall melodious sound that’s pleasant to the ears. The piccolo’s tapering body doesn’t always lend itself well to flute fingerings. So if you’re struggling to play the piccolo in tune, try to stay within the instrument’s realm of techniques. If you’re looking to improve your piccolo technique then look no further than our beginner’s guide article.

General Piccolo FAQs

Is playing piccolo easier than playing flute?

In general, no. The piccolo is about half the size of a standard flute, which means that playing the instrument in tune can be a struggle for many flute players. The piccolo also plays the highest possible notes in the woodwind family, and every piccolo player knows that keeping those notes pure requires a lot of work and practice to get right. If you’re looking for advice on this, take a look at our piccolo practice guide.

Can a flautist play piccolo without much trouble?

Most piccolo players start off as flute players. But if you’re a flute player, here’s what you should know: the skills and techniques you learn playing the piccolo will serve you well as a flautist. That said, a flautist will not be playing piccolo as good as the flute on their first day, due to many nuances of playing either instrument. For instance, a flautist may tend to collapse their body to fit the instrument’s size (because the piccolo is smaller), which will not be good for air flow and sound. At the end of the day, a flautist will need to adjust for a lot of things on the piccolo. It’s more work, but it will be worth the effort in the end. For additional guidance on piccolo specific technique, check out our beginner’s guide article.

What is a piccolo exactly?


Piccolo is an Italian word which means “small flute.” This makes a lot of sense because the piccolo itself literally looks like a smaller version of the flute. It is the highest pitched instrument in the woodwind family, common in orchestras and a lot of marching bands (often military ones). The sound a piccolo makes is an octave higher than the flute, leading to it replacing the old flageolet in modern orchestral arrangements. Overall, its use in orchestras date back to at least the 18th century. 

How big (or small) is a piccolo?

We’ve talked about how small the piccolo is compared to the flute, because it really is. A standard size piccolo measures 13” (330 mm) long, while a common concert flute is about double that, at 30” (660 mm). The smaller size helps it pitch an octave higher than the flute and gives it its role in a modern orchestra. 

Piccolo FAQ's
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