The piccolo // (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpikkolo]; Italian for "small", but named ottavino in Italy) is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino (Italian for "little octave"), the name by which the instrument is referred to in the scores of Italian composers.
(Flute-like aerophone with keys)
The piccolo sounds one octave higher than written.
Piccolos are now manufactured in the key of C or D♭. It was for this D♭ piccolo that John Philip Sousa wrote the famous solo in the final repeat of the closing section (trio) of his march "The 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 the violins or the flutes, adding sparkle and brilliance to the overall sound because of the aforementioned one-octave transposition upwards. In concert band settings, the piccolo is almost always used and a piccolo part is almost always available.
Historically, the piccolo had no keys, and should not be confused with the fife, 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.
It is a myth that one of the earliest pieces to use the piccolo was Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, premiered in December 1808. Although neither Joseph Haydn nor Mozart used it in their symphonies, some of their contemporaries did, including Hoffmeister, Süssmayr and Michael Haydn. Also, Mozart used the piccolo in his opera Idomeneo. Opera orchestras in Paris sometimes included small transverse flutes at the octave as early as 1735 as existing scores by Rameau show.
Although once made of various kinds of wood, glass or ivory, piccolos today are made from a range of materials, including plastic, resin, brass, nickel silver, silver, and a variety of hardwoods, most commonly grenadilla. Finely made piccolos are often available with a variety of options similar to the flute, such as the split-E mechanism. Most piccolos have a conical body with a cylindrical head, which is like the Baroque flute and later flutes before the popularization of the Boehm bore used in modern flutes. Unlike other woodwind instruments, in most wooden piccolos the tenon joint connecting the head to the body has two interference fit points which surround both the cork and metal side of the piccolo body joint.
Repertoire for piccolo and piano, many of which are sonatas have been composed by Robert Baksa, Robert Beaser, Howard J. Buss, Eugene Damare, Pierre Max Dubois, Raymond Guiot, Lowell Liebermann, Peter Schickele, Michael Daugherty, and Gary Schocker.
Concertos have been composed for piccolo, including those by Lowell Liebermann, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Todd Goodman, Martin Amlin, Will Gay Bottje, Bruce Broughton, Valentino Bucchi, Avner Dorman, Jean Doué, Michael Easton, Egil Hovland, Guus Janssen, Daniel Pinkham and Jeff Manookian.
Additionally, there is now a selection of chamber music that uses the piccolo. One example is the Quintet for Piccolo and String Quartet by Graham Waterhouse. Another is Stockhausen's Zungenspitzentanz, for piccolo and two euphoniums (or one synthesizer), with optional percussionist and dancer. Currently published trios for three piccolos include Quelque Chose canadienne (Something Canadian) by Nancy Nourse and Bird Tango by Crt Sojar Voglar for three piccolos with piano. Petrushka's Ghost for eight piccolos by Melvin Lauf, Jr. and Una piccolo sinfonia for nine piccolos by Matthew King are two more examples.
- "Piccolo". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- "Piccolo". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- "Transverse flute". The Free Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- "The Names of Instruments and Voices in English, French, German, Italian, Russian1, and Spanish". Yale University Music Library. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- Nourse, Nancy (April 2008). "The Symphonic Debutante Piccolo: Was it Really Beethoven's Fifth?". Flute Focus (14): 26–29.
- "Todd Goodman: Composer". Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
- Martin Amlin page of Presser website.
- , American Composers' Alliance website.
- Avner Dorman on the Cabrillo Music Festival website. Archived July 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Concerto for Piccolo, Percussion and Strings, Australian Music Centre page.
- Gippo, Jan (ed.). The Complete Piccolo: A Comprehensive Guide to Fingerings, Repertoire, and History, second edition, foreword by Laurie Sokoloff; contributing editors, Therese Wacker, Morgan Williams, and Tammy Sue Kirk. Bryn Mawr: Theodore Presser Company, 2008. ISBN 1-59806-111-9
- Nourse, Nancy. "The Symphonic Debutante Piccolo: Was it Really Beethoven's Fifth?" Flute Focus 14 (April 2008): 26–29.