The following 3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo – learn play piccolo the professional way

address fundamental problems mentioned in my previous article and have to be played without vibrato,

or at least with only a small one.

3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

1. Musical Cromatic Scale throughout the range of the piccolo


range of the piccolo


First and foremost we should renew our confidence with the instrument and ourselves daily. In other words, we ought to imprint the right support, air pressure and velocity into our muscles.

Above all, our body and ear must be reminded of the muscular tension required to produce a sound of full resonance while keeping the embouchure flexible every day.

Furthermore, the piccolo needs a faster airflow than the flute, which will only be achieved by adequate support and pressure. We should thus train to play every sound in the absolute right pitch on the electronic tuner.

Translation: Daily exercise 1)

music cromatic scale exercise 1

“Just Intonation” or not just intonation?!

3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

The just intonation however, the one used when playing in an orchestra or chamber group, is based on a harmonic series generated by acoustic waves that result stable and pure in one key and are perceived as consonant to the human ear.

Practically, this means that the player has to adjust the equal scale (100 cents per semi-tone) more than the well-tempered scale of the piano (which is only a compromise as explained earlier). Actually, we have to adjust to a scale of just intonation, generated by the root tone of the key. Thus, the player has to play each note of the scale some cents higher or lower than equal temperament. Above all other things, a sound’s intonation is based on the note’s function in the scale.


However, using

functional harmony – 3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

enriches the player’s practice and phrasing. Never should he in fact play without a musical idea in his head. Therefore, with regular practice and growing awareness, musical expression will be based on pitch and function and will result more natural and convincing.

Even though the electronic chromatic tuner is of help in the above mentioned situations, especially in practice, what we really should learn is sound and muscular memory.

After that, we will be able to cope with any situation as a piccolo player, be it in a symphony orchestra or as the increasingly popular soloist instrument. Be aware of the underlying math:


Major Scale

Scale DegreeRootMajor












Change in Cents0+4-14-2+2-16-120


Minor Scale

Scale DegreeRootMajor












Change in Cents0+4+16-2+2+14-120


2. Combination tones – 3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

Furthermore, difference sounds or combination tones, as they are often called, are a fantastic way of studying just intonation, but they require concentration and experimentation. In addition, they areAs called resultant tones because they are the result of the difference in Hertz between the higher and the lower sound played simultaneously and loudly.

If the difference is greater than 30 Hertz, these sounds create the phenomenon of an additional sound for the human ear. When they are less than that, they will be perceived as a disturbing, grating sound. If the difference is as big as an octave however, the combination sound might result in the illusion of a chord (for further information look up Tartini sounds).

Therefore, this third sound created by the subtraction of the lower sound from the higher one in Hertz becomes a potent method to study intonation. Paying attention to the pitch of the difference sound rather than the primary sound, we create the ability to tune with any other instrument and are clearer about our own internal intonation. As a result, we will develop the required muscular memory and a fine sense of harmonic hearing.


How to learn to use your muscular memory when playing the piccolo

This can be achieved by recording all notes played long and without vibrato as a reference chromatic scale. After that, play the same sound together with the recording and change the pitch slightly. Listen to the vibration created. It slows down when you come close to the right pitch and accelerates when you get further away. Get used to those frictions and interpreting them as acoustic sounds. It is easier to do when using high frequency notes.

After this preliminary exercise we should concentrate on the combination sounds. All intervals create difference tones, but only six intervals help our intonation because their resultant tones are part of the same harmonic series. Every one of those six intervals creates a perfect chord. When the two produced sounds are perfectly in tune, the third combination tone will be too. Violinists use this principle to tune their instruments every time.

IntervalDifference Toneminor 3rd (m3)minor 6th (m6)Major 3rd (M3)Root (R)Perfect 4th (P4)P4Perfect 5th (P5)Root (R)minor 6th (m6)minor 3rd (m3)Major 6th (M6)Perfect (P4)

The amazing thing about just intonation is that it works in any key.


IntervalDifference Tone
minor   3rd   (m3)minor   6th   (m6)
Major  3rd    (M3)Root   (R)
Perfect  4th   (P4)Perfect  4th   (P4)
Perfect  5th   (P5)Root      (R)
minor   6th   (m6)minor   3rd   (m3)
Major  6th    (M6)Perfect  4th   (P4)


So we can

study in a different key – 3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

every day listening to the third resultant tone. Since it is based on mathematical principles, it should not be surprising that certain structures emerge:

  • If we look at the six intervals producing combination sounds useful to study intonation, there are 2 minor, 2 Major and 2 Perfect intervals.


  • Looking at the 3 M and 5 P intervals they appear the most effective for functional harmony fundamental studies as they produce the root of the key.


  • Minor third and sixth intervals turn out to produce the difference to an octave of each other.


However, all other difference sounds are  at an octave lower than the root.


3. Sing and play with piccolo – 3 pro practicing tips playing piccolo

Moreover, another very effective exercise is singing and playing simultaneously.In addition, this also enhances the quality of the sound, in addition to improving harmonic hearing.

For instance, one can play a medium octave sound on the piccolo and sing its resulting scale an octave or two lower. Whenever you get close to singing the keynote, the center of the sound of the piccolo will struggle, and this is precisely what we need to work on with adjustments to our support and embouchure.

As a result, our ears and muscles will be trained and our sound quality and pitch will improve almost immediately. Therefore, we should include major and minor scales and change key every time.

learn play piccolo 3







After that, now you have become an expert you should also have a look at how to play professionally in a symphony orchestra here.

If you have any questions on the exercises do not hesitate to ask. They were part of my Master in Piccolo at the Conservatory of Milan. In conclusion, our Professor, Nicola Mazzanti, wrote this wonderful practice book, that I strongly recommend for its throurough, actual, useful and beautiful exercises.

Furthermore, find your best buying option by clicking the image or title below


The Mazzanti Method, Piccolo

The Mazzanti Method, Piccolo

In conclusion, enjoy 140 pages that cover all you need and go beyond! A must have for any piccoloist.

Have fun with the training and share the advice on social media!


Similarly, we would love to help as many aspiring piccoloists as possible.




how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra


How to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra

symphony orchestraHow to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra is a question every piccoloist should wish to answer.

Playing in tune is a fundamental quality of any musician. Even more so of a piccolo player because the sound of the octave-flute will be heard over the entire orchestra.

Producing sounds one octave higher than the flute, it also produces a louder sound. This can affect the entire outcome of a symphonic production. Bad perception of tuning by a piccoloist can be so disturbing for the audience that it becomes impossible to enjoy the music.

On the other hand, a harmonic and melodic sound at the right pitch certainly adds brilliance and joy to the whole performance. Therefore, good intonation it is a technical skill of upmost importance to achieve as a professional piccolo player.

how to play the piccolo in a symphony orchestraWhy is it so difficult, coming from the study of its bigger brother, the flute?

What is the actual difference between the two and how should we cope?

The reasons for the difference in intonation lie in its construction, physics and laws of acoustics.

This issue can be dealt with by conscious daily practice. Once the difficulties are properly addressed and its reasons consciously understood.

Thanks to great players and teachers, the piccolo flute is bound to become a potent instrument of musical expression for everyone. More than just an enriching experience for tired or jobless flute players.

Adding to the complexity of playing the piccolo in tune

Intonation in general varies depending on the situation. If we look at our electronic tuner, it will tell us that we ought to have exactly 100 cents in between semi-tones, thus 1200 cents in an octave. But when producing music (except for contemporary music), this doesn’t quite work.

Our Western music is based on harmonic areas made up of major and minor scales and arpeggios. The distance to the fundamental sound depends on the grade of the scale and is never exactly 100 cents for semi-tones. The piano however, has to be able to play in all keys. So it needs to be tempered and tuned with compromises.

There are differences in playing with a piano and you can look it up in my two previous articles

—-> here        and —-> here.


Becoming a professional piccolo player – protect your hearing

how to tune a piccolo for playing

Practicing the piccolo day in and day out can result in damage to your ears and your neighbors’ ears, too (just kidding!).

Pay attention to the overall health of your hearing and study passages from the third octave one register lower, if you don’t have good professional earplugs.

I’m discussing pro earplugs for orchestral musicians to prevent hearing damage as tinnitus and hearing loss due to sitting in front of percussion or trumpets, but also next to the piccolo in another article in flute accessories here. You might want to have a look.

This is even more relevant if you are the piccoloist or studying to become one. Do yourself a favor and use earplugs. It also helps concentration and getting new insights on your sound.

This is because you will have more resonance from within your body than from the outside.


Which ear plugs do I use?

I have finally found ear plugs that work for me. They are the only ones with three different filter sets: Gold (22 dB), Silver (19 dB) and White (16 dB) . So I can choose my own level of sound attenuation and how much I still need or wish to let through. But no worries, they have excellent sound quality.

These are the professional ones we use in orchestra or to practice high frequency instruments. My clarinet colleague recently bought them too as they make him play the piccolo clarinet a lot lately.

They come with a trendy little box to attach anywhere. —>  more info.



My advice on how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra


This short article on how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra shows that there are some physics-based difficulties. But also many playful and creative ways to overcome them.

Have a look at the exercises I advise to make it on a professional level ——> here.

We should bear in mind that these obstacles do exist, but can be fundamental to a broader comprehension and deeper enjoyment of piccolo playing.

how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra

Technical problems are always just the passage to another level.

And to being more aware of what is actually happening while playing adds value to our musical expression.


Moreover, we often build more valuable musical ideas  upon when we overcome technical difficulties.

Our general musical development will benefit enormously as we overcome these obstacles and that might even result in a job with an orchestra or as a soloist. If you know how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra.


So go have fun with the little bastard friend of the flute.

Wwhile taking care of the health of your hearing!                                



founder of           topflute.com

and                  myflutelife.com        

how to tune a piccolo for playing in a symphony orchestra

Learn Play Piccolo

Learning how to play piccolo is one of the hardest things I have ever done!

This little instrument can be a real bastard!!

Especially when it comes to tuning. So how to tune a piccolo? Great question. Playing in tune is key to becoming a successful piccoloist. But it needs some understanding and work.

So here is what you can do to improve your intonation of the piccolo.

intonation of the piccolo

Intonation of the piccolo – learn play piccolo


When playing the piccolo with piano accompaniment a piccolo player must know that the distance of octaves becomes larger. Therefore in the low register the piano has a tendency to be flat. But even more important for the octave flute, the higher register will be slightly sharp. And ever more so as the sound becomes higher.

This sort of tuning compromise is based on the acoustic waves and their frequencies which determine the height of a sound. If you wish to relate them mathematically, to form musical intervals, you will need serial numbers, based on the harmonic sound waves inherent in each singular sound.

They do not depend on the absolute addition of distances such as the measurement in cents might suggest. Those were merely invented to have a model for measuring and comparing different existing scales (differing in periods of time and varying for different ethnic groups).


When we play the flute with piano accompaniment

we might not feel the need to investigate this topic so profoundly. Because the flute, thanks to its cylindrical shape and the diameter/length ratio of the tube, tends to be flat at lower frequencies and sharp at higher frequencies.

The piccolo’s intonation on the other hand, is created on its low octave (which is the medium octave of the flute). Naturally more likely to be in tune. Having a conical shape and a less favorable diameter/length ratio, it produces louder and flatter sounds in the higher octaves.

This is not valid for all the notes, however, and not for all piccolos. In some octave-flutes, the middle D is actually very sharp.  Though generally this indicates that the other notes will be more in tune.


How to tune a piccolo – can a piccolo be in tune?!

It is understandable that by playing an instrument with higher frequencies (measured in Hertz) which tend to be slightly flat, even more so if accompanied by the piano, we might in the beginning be terribly out of tune. Unfortunately, we are prone to produce disturbing differential sounds (differences measurable in cents).

Just to give an example: for a cello player playing an instrument that mainly produces low frequency sounds, to result out of tune, they have to create differences to the piano that exceed 100 cents. In other words a different note!

I have highlighted this aspect to make it clear that intonation is a real objective and physical problem for a piccolo player caused by the laws of acoustics. Understanding the situation at hand however, we can overcome our technical struggles with precise and attentive exercises.

Studying good tuning regularly will become an appreciated quality. However, we also need to understand that playing at 0 cents difference with a tuning machine is not synonymous with good intonation.

It shows only that you know how to technically achieve a flatter or sharper sound, and is good exercise to develop adaptability while playing.


But what we actually need to train is our ear to learn play piccolo

We ought to develop a harmonic perception of sounds within the context of different tonalities and intervals. More so even in an orchestra, we are supposed to distinguish perfect intervals of a scale and the harmonic functions of our notes within it.

This will still not be enough. To harmonic perception, we ought to add melodic awareness. As a musician it is fundamental that we remember where a phrase started and where it is going in terms of pitch.

Very often unfortunately, we start a phrase upward with sharp sounds and then end it rather flat and below pitch.

However, flute players are no exception to this unfortunate result of phrasal memory loss!

Tune awareness, vertical and horizontal (harmony and melody) is not learned by


practicing chromatic scales with a tuner

This practicing method (chromatic scales with a tuner), can be very helpful in learning how to produce a good clean sound with different dynamics and without changing intonation when applying different intensities.

A professional sense of good tuning, correct pitch and harmonic function should be aimed for by practicing famous melodies and recording yourself. If you are looking for specific exercises please check out my next post —-> practicing ideas to help learn play piccolo.

You might also want to protect your ears in a professional way. I strongly advise before diving into deep and dedicated studies to purchase a pair of professional ear plugs. Click here for       musical earplugs

If you are interested in which tuner works best for you, there is a review       can I use an online tuner?


learn play piccolo

Different situation require different harmonic and melodic skills. In this picture I’m playing with an Italian choir. That was a lot of fun!

To make this happen, do the exercises —> yes, you want to do them!

Which situation do you wisch to learn play piccolo for? What are your ideas on where and how to use the little bastard you will fall in love with?


Let me know in the comment section below.

If you liked this article, feel free to share on social media!

Happy fluting and octave fluting to you all,


founder of


learn play piccolo