First introduced into orchestras in the 1700s, the piccolo is known for its small size and its ability to hit high notes. Since the piccolo is a naturally loud instrument, many composers limit its use in compositions. As a result, piccolos are commonly found in military marches, or as countermelodies. Sometimes, composers choose to feature the piccolo as the melody, especially since its volume allows it to pierce through the orchestra's sound. The modern piccolo is derived from the flute and contains many of the same features.
The head joint captures the vibrations created by a piccolo player as she blows across the lip plate. Many professional piccolo players recognize the head joint as the most essential part of the piccolo, attributing most of its tonal quality to the head joint's quality.
The body of a piccolo may come in wood or metal varieties. Although many professionals recommend wooden bodies, metal alternatives such as silver and nickel are common. The body must be maintained and routinely cleaned with a cloth to protect the instrument's health and longevity. Wooden bodies commonly require more maintenance than metal bodies.
The piccolo uses a system of rods and keys that allows players to cover holes that normally may be out of reach. The keys use soft pads to cover up holes along the piccolo's body. These soft pads are particularly susceptible to air leakage, an effect that lessens the piccolo's tone quality. To avoid leakage, piccolo players must clean their instruments after every use with a cloth.
The lip plate is attached to the head joint. This part may vary in size and shape according to brand. As a result, many professional players prefer a specific brand of piccolo because of the shape of its lip plate. To play the piccolo, musicians place the lip plate beneath their lips and blow a steady stream of air across its opening.
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