Key Difference – Flute vs Piccolo
Flute and piccolo are musical instruments that belong to the woodwind family. These two instruments have a distinct sound and range and, are commonly used in symphonies, orchestras, and bands. The key difference between flute and piccolo is their size; piccolos are smaller than flutes and can be described as miniature flutes. In addition, there are several notable differences in the sound and function of these two instruments.
What are Flutes?
Flute is an instrument in the woodwind family, which produces sound from the flow of air across an opening. It is made from a tube with holes that can be stopped by fingers or keys. Flutes are considered to one of the oldest musical instruments and are a part of both western and eastern music. Flutes can be classified into several broader categories. Side-blown vs. end-blown is one such classification. Side-blown instruments or transverse flutes such as western concert flute, piccolo, Indian classical flutes (bansuri and venu), Chinese dizi, etc. are held horizontally when played. End-blown flutes are played by blowing on one end of the flute.
In modern usage, the term flute mainly refers to the western classical flute. This is a transverse instrument that is made of wood or metal and is used in orchestras, concert bands, military bands, marching bands, etc. Standard flutes are pitched in C and has an array of about three and a half octaves starting from the musical note C4. Flutes’ highest pitch is considered to be C7 although experienced flute players can reach even higher notes.
What are Piccolos?
Piccolo is the half the size of a flute. This looks like a miniature flute; the name piccolo even means “small” in Italian. Piccolo has the same fingering as the standard flute; however, the sound produced is an octave higher than written music. Piccolos are one of the highest pitched instruments ever produced. The lowest note piccolos can play is B4.
Piccolos can be classified into two categories based on the material they are manufactured from: metal piccolos and wooden piccolos. Wooden piccolos have a sweeter sound and more flexibility, and are preferred by advanced players whereas metal piccolos are often used by marching bands.
What is the difference between Flute and Piccolo?
Flute vs Piccolo
|Flute is a side-blown woodwind instrument.||Piccolo is a type of flute.|
|A standard concert flute is about 67cm.||A piccolo is about 32 cm.|
|Flute has a range from the musical note C4 upward three and a half octaves.||The sound produced by piccolo is one octave higher than written music.|
|The lowest note flutes can play is C4.||The lowest note piccolos can play is D4.|
|Flute embouchure is typically the mouth size of a normal adult.||Piccolo’s embouchure is smaller than the flute’s.|
|It’s easier to learn the flute in terms of fingering and intonations.||Most players learn the flute first and then move on learn the piccolo.|
|Flutes are used for most types of music; for example, for orchestras, symphonies, jazz bands, regular bands, etc.||Piccolos are suited for orchestral work and marching bands.|
Summary – Flute vs Piccolos
Piccolos are often described as miniature flutes. Although many people assume that the only difference between flute and piccolo is their size, this is not so. There are many differences between the two instruments in terms of pitch, intonation, range and function. Piccolos have a higher and unique sound than flutes. However, learning to play the piccolo is not so difficult if you already know how to play the flute.
1. “Flute with musical notes” By Petar Milošević – Own work, stacked 8 macro images (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Piccolo” By Caesura – own work – using a Hewlett Packard 315 digital camera (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia