The Piccolo

Listen to Carla Wilson, Piccolo performing an excerpt from Rossini, The Thieving Magpie. Choose one:
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© 2005, Carla Wilson. Used with permission. Distribution of these audio segments is strictly prohibited.

The piccolo is a small flute pitched an octave higher than the concert flute. The piccolo is fingered like its larger relative but, as it has no separate foot joint, its range usually extends down only to d'', although Verdi in his Requiem and Mahler in his First Symphony wrote for it down to c''. The most common model is a wooden, two-piece instrument with Boehm-system keywork, having a conical bore and either a wooden or a metal head and a range of d''-c'''''.

Since Beethoven (Egmont Overture, Symphonies 5, 6 and 9) it has been an integral part of the symphony and opera orchestra, often used for special effects. Late 19th-century composers such as Richard Strauss and Mahler made the piccolo a full member of the orchestra, integrating its sound into the orchestral color. As parts became increasingly difficult, piccolo playing became a speciality. Today, most large orchestras have a principal piccolo player ranking with the other principals. The piccolo’s brilliance is a feature of the military band repertory, and the military piccolo appears occasionally in the orchestra (as for example, in Berliozs Grand Symphonie funbre et triomphale, 1840).

Source: Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed February 28, 2005),

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