Piccolo vs. Flute (What’s The Difference?)

It might be the fact that you like to play an instrument and have opted for playing the Piccolo or the flute. However, these two instruments have some differences.

The Piccolo and the flute belong to the woodwind family of instruments and are reedless. The flute is considered to be the oldest instrument for producing tones instead of simple rhythm.

While a standard flute is around 26 inches long, the Piccolo is approximately 13 inches. In the following paragraphs, we will mention the most notable differences between the Piccolo and the flute.

Table of Contents

What Are The Differences Between The Piccolo and Flute?

The flute is an instrument producing sound by means of air that flows across an opening rather than a reed. It consists of a tube with holes that are opened and closed using fingers or keys.

As mentioned earlier, the flute is the oldest known musical instrument which dates back about 40,000 years. This instrument is quite common in lots of cultures mainly because of its long history.

The Chinese, Native American, Japanese, and Indian cultures come with their own flute versions. You’ll come across various types of flutes at present including fipple flutes and transverse flutes.

Similar to a flute, the Piccolo is likewise a woodwind instrument and is smaller than a flute in size. This small size makes it sound an octave higher.

The Piccolo produces a unique sound which is appropriate for solo performances in orchestras or symphonies. Just like the transverse flute, it also comes with identical fingerings.

It was way back in 1735 when the earliest use of the Piccolo was recorded. At that time, the opera orchestras in France used a transverse flute. The majority of the contemporary Piccolos resemble the standard concert flute when it comes to features.

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1. Construction

Originally made from clay, reeds, or wood, the majority of the flutes are made of metal right now such as nickel silver, silver-plated brass, gold, or silver. See the cost of flutes.

On the other hand, there are 2 basic types of piccolos, namely, metal piccolos that are known to respond easily in spite of having unrefined sound, and wooden piccolos having more flexibility as well as sweeter sound.

Metal piccolos are usually used in marching bands while their wooden counterparts are typically used by advanced and experienced players. Wooden piccolos are more costly and need more care since wood can become cracked.

2. Pitch and range

The standard concert flute comes with a range of as many as 3 octaves, beginning with middle C. The Piccolo, due to its smaller size, will be pitched 1 octave higher and is restricted to approximately 1 octave since it is tough to play higher notes which can be unpleasant to listen to as well.

Here, it is essential to bear in mind that Piccolo players ought to transfer the notes as written to a higher octave thus adding one more level of complexity.

3. Intonation

By far, the toughest aspect while playing the Piccolo will be intonation. As a matter of fact, many notes tend to be excessively flat or excessively sharp.

Apart from this, a significant difference in high frequencies can be made by even a slight embouchure adjustment. Because of this, it can take a considerable period of time to learn to play in tune. On the contrary, the Piccolo can be considered to be a fantastic way of training your ear.

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One more thing to take into consideration right here is that while it requires less air for playing the Piccolo as compared to the flute, much more support will be required by it for higher notes.

4. Are fingerings going to differ for Piccolo and flute?

Even though the basic fingerings will be almost identical for both the flute as well as the Piccolo, alternate fingerings do exist for adjusting the responsiveness or intonation of some notes which are problematic on the Piccolo.

One more essential thing that should be considered right here is the fact that since everything is going to be smaller on the Piccolo, the fingers and hands will be closer together while playing the instrument.

In this way, one can feel the fingering to be more awkward on the Piccolo as compared to the flute, particularly in case you are endowed with large hands.

5. Who is going to play the Piccolo?

It is a fact that piccolos are not intended for players who tend to be shy. This is because it is not possible to hide while playing the Piccolo. Piccolos play solo parts on most occasions due to their unique sound as well as high tone.

On the other hand, the flute is usually played in groups that will be able to blend with one another. In case you are a beginner who is just starting out, make sure to go for a student Piccolo which will help you to learn to play the instrument perfectly.

6. Repertoire

The repertoires of the Piccolo and the flute aren’t interchangeable. Being an extremely versatile instrument, the flute is appropriate for almost every type of music.

On the contrary, piccolos will be appropriate for orchestral works and marching bands.

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It is comparatively rare to come across pieces for solo Piccolo out there. However, you will be able to choose from an extensive range of Piccolo and flute music at present.

Which one is easier to learn?

It is a fact that it is easier to learn to play the flute as compared to the Piccolo. Below, we have mentioned some authentic reasons for that.

· Flutes are able to maintain tune in a better manner.

· As compared to the Piccolo, you will come across more parts written for the flute.

· Even though more air will be required by the flute, the Piccolo needs greater force and strength which can be quite difficult for a beginner.

Which one to learn first?

It has been suggested by the majority of the teachers and professional musicians that you should learn how to play the flute at first. After mastering the flute, it will be much easier to play the Piccolo.


Piccolos are referred to as miniature flutes on some occasions. Although many individuals are of the notion that the only difference between these 2 instruments is the size, it is not the real fact.

There are plenty of differences between them when it comes to intonation, pitch, function, and range. As compared to flutes, piccolos come with a higher as well as unique sound.

However, it will be easy for you to learn to play the Piccolo case you have already learned to play the flute.

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