This article is about the instrument. For the Dragon Ball character, see Piccolo (Dragon Ball)
A piccolo is a small flute. Its name in Italian means "tiny". Like the flute, the piccolo is normally pitched in the key of C, but written music for the piccolo is written an octave lower than than the sounds desired in order to avoid too many leger lines above the staff. The range of the piccolo is about an octave higher than that of the flute. Fingerings on the piccolo correspond to fingerings on the flute, but sound an octave higher. Also, many alternate fingerings may be used to tune the individual pitches, as many are consistently out of tune.
In addition to the standard C piccolo, there is a piccolo pitched in D flat that is sometimes used in bands.
Timbre and construction
Because the piccolo sounds in a very high register, it has a potential to be strident or shrill. Thus, it is often used only as an ornamental, "flavor" or "garnish" instrument. A typical flute section may include only one or two piccolos, and since piccolo players usually also play flute, they may alternate between the two, according to what is appropriate for the music. Not all flute players play piccolo. Though the fingerings are the same, the embouchure and other differences do require a separate effort to learn.
The piccolo is somewhat notorious for being difficult to play in tune, as evidenced by the joke circulating among musicians that defines a minor second as "two piccolos playing in unison". Besides being generally sensitive to tuning, the piccolo does require a great deal of breath support (more than a tuba or a flute) and is quite conspicuous when out of tune.
Piccolos may be constructed out of wood, metal, or a combination. Many piccolo players find that wooden piccolos offer a more mellow timbre than metal ones. A popular compromise combines a metal head joint with a body made from wood.