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Piccolo: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Yamaha piccolo. The body is made of ABS resin, and the head is plated with silver.
Woodwind instrument
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 421.121.12-71
(Flute-like aerophone with keys)
Playing range
Range piccolo.png
Related instruments

The piccolo (Italian for small ) is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The piccolo has the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name "ottavino," the name by which the instrument is referred to in the scores of Italian composers.

Now only manufactured in C, piccolos were once made in D, as well. It was for that instrument that John Philip Sousa wrote his famous march, "Stars and Stripes Forever."

In the orchestral setting, the piccolo player is often designated as Piccolo/Flute III or even Assistant Principal. The larger orchestras have designated this position as a Solo position due to the demands of the literature. Piccolos are often orchestrated to double (i.e. to play together with) the violins or the flutes, adding sparkle and brilliance to the overall sound because of the aforementioned one-octave transposition upwards. It is the highest-pitched instrument in an orchestra or band.[citation needed]

Concertos have been composed for piccolo, including those by Lowell Liebermann, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Todd Goodman[1], Martin Amlin,[2] Will Gay Bottje,[3] Bruce Broughton, Valentino Bucchi, Avner Dorman,[4] Jean Doué, Michael Easton,[5] Egil Hovland, Guus Janssen, Tilo Medek, Dexter Morrill, Raymond Niverd, Daniel Pinkham, Thomas Schudel, and Allan Stephenson. Graham Waterhouse composed a quintet for piccolo and string quartet.

Traditional use

Historically, the piccolo had no keys, and should not be confused with the fife, or classical piccolo, which has a smaller bore and is therefore more strident. The piccolo is used in conjunction with marching drums in traditional formations at the Carnival of Basel, Switzerland.

The piccolo was originally made of wood and was featured in many prominent composers' works. One of the earliest pieces to use the piccolo was Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, playing only during the final (IV) movement. Today, piccolos are made from a range of materials, from plastic (or resin), to silver, to wood. Finely-made piccolos are often available with a variety of options similar to the flute, such as the split-E mechanism.


  • The Complete Piccolo, compiled and edited by Jan Gippo, Theodore Presser Company, 2007/08. ISBN 1-59806-111-9


  1. ^ "Todd Goodman: Composer". Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  2. ^ Martin Amlin page of Presser website.
  3. ^ Will Gay Bottje Piccolo Concerto, American Composers' Alliance website.
  4. ^ Avner Dorman on the Cabrillo Music Festival website.
  5. ^ Concerto for Piccolo, Percussion and Strings, Australian Music Centre page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PICCOLO (Fr. petite flute octave; Ger. Pickeiflôte; Ital. flauto piccolo or ottavino), a small flute of less than half the dimensions of the large concert flute and pitched an octave higher. The principles of construction and the acoustic properties are the same for the piccolo as for the flute, with the exception that the piccolo does not contain the additional tail-piece with the extra low keys, which give the flute its extended compass. As the pitch of the piccolo is so high, the highest of all orchestral instruments with the exception of a few harmonics on the violin, the music for it is written an octave lower than the real sounds in order to avoid the ledger lines. The piccolo has been used with good effect in imitating the whistling of the wind in storms, as in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Wagner's Flying Dutchman, and in conjunction with the violins in tremolo to depict the rustling of the leaves in the breeze, as in the "Waldweben" in Siegfried. Verdi employed it to advantage in Falstaf f as a comic agent in humorous situations. The piccolo is generally in D, sometimes in Eb or F. (K. S.)

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Simple English

The piccolo is a small flute that plays one octave higher than the normal flute. It sounds an octave higher than written. It is the highest instrument in the orchestra.Sometimes it sounds like a birdcall.

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