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 intonation with piccolo
Author: musica 
Date:   2009-03-28 19:06

I'm a clarinet player in need of some advice from the flute/piccolo people
out there.... I have an extended clarinet/piccolo duet in a passage and I'm
playing about as sharp as I can to match pitches... Are there any natural
tendencies of the piccolo that make it impossible or difficult to adjust certain
notes? Thanks!

Reply To Message
 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: scurry456 
Date:   2009-11-23 05:44

This is just a works for the flute. The intonation with the piccolo might be improved with the actual embochure(sp). As with rolling the mouth piece in and rolling it out, the piccolo player might try opening and closing the hole that creates the air stream. Opening and relaxing the lips a bit flattens and sharpens as does rolling the mouth piece. This was a new one for me and took a bit of time to sort it out but it was worth it. It will be more challenging with the piccolo, and require more abdominal support and control.


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 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: scurry456 
Date:   2009-11-23 06:01


Follow up...there is a posting on this site that might help. I deals with intonation in piccolos. It is under "Wooden Piccolos". Mentions intonation.


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 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: jrbrook76 
Date:   2010-03-17 20:58

The piccoloist needs to practice intonation. You shouldn't have to do it for them. Piccolo is a beast of an instrument with regard to intonation, and the player needs to do their work to overcome it. There are no excuses other than that this person does not practice intonation, or can't hear they are out of tune. Piccolo is a very difficult instrument to play with a beautiful tone AND play in tune. It takes a lot of work to do both.

I am playing on a new Burkhart piccolo with Clarion Head. I'm struggling with the intonation and what I am doing is getting nice and warmed up and then going through the entire range of the instrument note by note and marking the intonation characteristic (20 cents sharp, 10 cents flat, etc.) of each and every note on a list. (I asked a friend to do that for me so that I wouldn't be tempted to adjust the pitch and sacrifice the tone and natural tendency...)

Knowledge is power...first step is to just know which notes act which way, and remember them.


I practice intonation by droning a note on my tuner and tuning any piece of music I'm working on with it. The needle on the tuner doesn't really do anything at all to help the EAR. I mean, we don't SEE our intonation we HEAR it. So, that's why I tune in intervals to a reference pitch. Exercises (Reichert are my favorite) also with the tuner droning the tonic or the fifth of the key.

I also like to isolate a problem note by droning that pitch on my tuner and playing the passage (tuning the intervals along the way) and when I reach that problem note matching it. Then you get the sense of the intonation along the way, and hearing the pitch before you play it. Ear training so that you can start hearing the pitches in your head is important too.

Hope this helps...I guess the conductor is the only person that can ask the piccoloist to work out their issues. But, if this is a student that you feel comfortable sharing this info I gave you with, by all means, be a friend.

OH and all of this applies to you as well...try some of these methods to check your own intonation.



Jason Brook
Flutist/Woodwind Specialist
New York, NY

Reply To Message
 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: Wes 
Date:   2011-07-09 21:56

Not only must the piccolo player practice intonation for months, every day, but the piccolo must be totally without leaks. Playing unison with them is almost painful. Good luck!

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 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: Ambdexter 
Date:   2011-09-19 19:59


suppose that there are leaks, how then do they usually affect the intonation? Will all pithes within a certain range be sharp, or will there be specific pitches?

As applied to me, it seems that the entire 1st octave is flat as compared to the second and third octave. The pithes in the 2nd and 3rd octave are reasonably well tuned to one another. Can this be due to leaks, or is it just lack of practice from me?

Thanks for any answers!

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 Re: intonation with piccolo
Author: Wes 
Date:   2011-10-11 17:39

Within my experience, I've seen that the second octave is most affected by leaks, being hard to keep down in pitch, except for C and C#, which tend to be low in pitch. In addition, leaks can cause shifting to the next harmonic, from E to B in the second octave, for example. They also can cause a little "tweet" at the attack of a second register note.

When picking up the piccolo cold, blow warm wet air on the pads to help it get started by better sealing the pads. It is the same with the flute.

Unlike the flute, I've found the piccolo third octave more in tune with the first octave. The flute can be played in tune, however, in the third octave by using the proper embouchure and blowing the pitch down. If necessary for the piccolo, the right hand fingers 2 and 3 can be down for playing C and C# in the second octave and D in the third octave as these notes can be too flat

One can follow James Galway's advice for the flute and apply it to the piccolo. He says to use a frowning embouchure and aim the air at the toes, generally blowing downward. The headjoint should be firmly mounted on the lower lip. With some wood piccolos and flutes, this has caused some skin irritation, one flute player being red and sore for many weeks after playing on an older wooden flute. Some of the woods are a little toxic.

Think of making a smaller blow tube in your lips for the piccolo than with the flute. It takes weeks or months to get this in order and just picking up the piccolo without practice will probably result in a sharp second register. Be patient, practicing long tones and scales.

The piccolo is hard to "double" on without daily practice. Buy the piccolo part for "Stars and Stripes" and play it every day until you memorize it as it is the most played band solo for the piccolo in the USA.

Lastly, try to buy Trevor Wye's book on the piccolo. Good luck!

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