The ancestors to modern flutes and piccolos were recorders, which came in different sizes, from the small sopranino to the large bass recorder. The closest instrument at the time to the modern piccolo was the fife or ‘Swiss Flute’, which was used for sending messages to soldiers in the Swiss army. 



Facts and Features

  1. The piccolo sounds one octave higher than the flute and is the highest pitched of all the woodwind instruments.
  2. The earliest orchestral work with a piccolo part is Handel’s opera Rinaldo, written in 1711.
  3. Mozart and Beethoven both used the piccolo’s shrill sound for special effects. Mozart used it to highlight humour or fear and Beethoven used it to represent the stormy wind in his Pastoral Symphony.
  4. Early piccolos were made from wood, ivory and sometimes glass.
  5. Piccolos are now only made in the key of C.

Famous Players

Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky  - (1840-1893)
Hector Berlioz   - (1803-1869)
Eli Hudson (1877-1919) 
Gordon Walker – (1885-1965)
Francis Nolan – (1949-)

Music to Listen to

Vivaldi – Concerto in C
Beethoven  - Pastoral Symphony – Scherzo
Rossini - Overture to Semiramide
Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra  - Fugue
Shostakovich  - Festive Overture

Find Out

  1. What does the Italian word ‘piccolo’ mean?
  2. In which year did the piccolo get its metal keys?