The piccolo is a woodwind instrument found in large orchestras and some marching bands. The word "piccolo" comes from the Italian for "small" and, for reference, the piccolo is about half the size of a regular flute. Because of its size and the high-pitched sound, the piccolo is sometimes referred to as "ottavino" in Italian music compositions.
The piccolo is a woodwind instrument that requires a more directed air flow when playing in comparison to the larger flute. The sound range for a piccolo runs from the lowest D to the highest C on the musical range, thus providing a three-octave range. It is the most highly pitched of all wind instruments, producing sound precisely one octave higher than that played on the flute.
There are two body types for the piccolo: conical and cylindrical. The cylindrical style is basically uniform in diameter from one end to the other. The conical style tapers to a narrower bottom. Most piccolos played by school students are made of wood, metal or plastic. Traditionally, wood and plastic piccolos have a conical body type, but metal piccolos are almost always cylindrical unless recently made. All modern piccolos are made in the key of C.
The piccolo plays the same music as the flute. The notes are the same, the octaves are the same, but when the piccolo plays the notes the sound produced is higher than that of the flute playing the same note. This one-octave-higher quality of the piccolo earned it the Italian nickname "ottavino." John Philip Sousa's march entitled "Stars and Stripes Forever" was written for the piccolo.
Piccolos were once used only in certain combinations or in certain parts of music, such as the final movement in "Beethoven's Symphony No. 5" and the "Carnival of Basel, Switzerland." The piccolo is also often paired with drums, especially in marching bands such as those of schools or the military.
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