The piccolo is a transverse flute which means it is horizontally played. It is commonly considered a younger sibling of the flute, having the same fingerings. It also has notes that are an octave higher than that of a flute’s and has half of a regular flute’s size. This gave rise to its name, Piccolo, which is Italian for small.

History

The piccolo originated from flutes but it first made its appearance in the orchestra on 1700. The earliest performance with a piccolo was “Rinaldo” by Handel on 1711. It was constructed with two sections with an E-flat key during the Baroque era. It was established in the orchestra around the middle of 1700 but was usually used in performances with a military disposition. It was not used in symphonies until Beethoven wrote parts for it in his 5th symphony.

Michael Janusch, a flute teacher, created the multi-key piccolo. It was like the flute with 6 keys which was traditional at that time. This gave rose to its development during the 19th century. The piccolo was also invented in D-flat which was used in many famous solos but is not heard of in the modern times.

Later on, it was revised by Mollenhauer and this gave the piccolo a popular instrument throughout the 20th century. It is now played as an integral element of the orchestra.

Metal vs. wood piccolos

Metal piccolos are commonly used in and are suitable for parades or in open spaced areas. It is very durable and can survive extreme environments and novice’s misuse. The downside of a metal piccolo is that it produces pitchy or sharp sounds.

While metal piccolos are better for beginners or long-term exposure, wooden piccolos are often played by professionals because it has a mellower pitch. Most are not completely made of wood because the mouthpiece may still be metallic. The wood composition makes maintenance more difficult and playing in the outdoors is a risk, specifically in hot weather. Its use is normally restricted to infrequent solos or as background music following other woodwinds because of its tendency to pierce through other orchestral sounds.

Playing the piccolo

It is much easier to play the piccolo if you learn to play the flute first given that both share the same qualities. Next, decide on which piccolo is best for the event you will be using it and fits your aptitude level and gather all the necessary accessories. You could also have private lessons on how to play the piccolo or you could learn without professional help.

Also be familiar with the minor, major, and chromatic scales and, most especially, master the range of the piccolo. As stated, piccolos produce notes an octave higher than the flute and it music is written one octave below its pitch. It would also be better to practice with an electric tuner. Observe how long you can be consistent with the rhythm and can hold the note steady.

Of course, always tune before playing and practice a lot of times. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Don’t forget to clean every after playing. Put a swab through your piccolo and tuning rod to remove spit and use a cloth to polish it.

Controlling the high pitches

Among all the woodwind instruments used in military bands and orchestras, the piccolo has the highest pitch causing it to stand out. It is also difficult to get the intonation right with the piccolo. You need a lot more lip control in playing a piccolo than most woodwind instruments. Controlling the high pitches needs extra effort and practice.

Besides that, the piccolo must be played extremely loud in a performance for it to give out quality sounds. Since the sound of the piccolo is prominent, the whole crowd becomes aware of wrong intonation and melody. The supposedly small piccolo isn’t so small after all.

 

The harmonica is a wind instrument with a free reed and is usually present in blues, jazz, folk, and country music. It is also called mouth organ and harp. Air flow from drawing or blowing air into reed chambers makes reeds vibrate which produces sound. There are many varied bronze and brass reads in each chamber and these are fastened at an end and free on another end. The loose end vibrates up and down to generate music.

In the beginning of the 19th century, the harmonica’s popularity grew and was established in Europe. It is invented by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann.

Parts of the harmonica

Most modern harmonicas have 5 common parts – mouthpiece, comb, reed-plate, windsaver, and cover plate. The mouthpiece is found on the side of the harmonica between the player’s lips and the air chambers. It is mainly designed to make the player comfortable when playing except for that in the traditional chromatic harmonica which is needed for the instrument to have a slide groove.

The comb is the body of the orchestra. It includes the air chambers where the reeds are found. The comb material is said to have a slight influence on the harp’s tone but the main lead of the comb material is durability. Traditional harmonicas were made of wood while modern versions of the instrument are made of plastic or metal.

The reed plate is the collective name for reeds in one panel. Reeds could be made of steel, brass, plastic, or aluminum. Windsavers are valves used in instances wherein two reeds are in the same cell and there is frequent unnecessary air passage through the non-playing reed.

The cover plate protects the reed-plates. This could be made of wood, plastic, or metal. The two types of cover plates are those with the traditional open design and those with enclosed designs.

Types

Harmonicas are divided into three types. These are the chromatic, diatonic, and tremolo harmonicas.

The chromatic harmonica produces semi-tones using a sliding bar. It is similarly designed with the piano which has the ability to play each tone in all octaves. Traditionally, it has eight to sixteen holes in intervals of two. The regular chromatic harmonica uses the slide to produce some of the notes in a complete chromatic scale which is recurring at each octave.

Diatonic harmonicas are intended in only play in a particular key. It is more simple to learn the C, G, and A scales. The tremolo harmonica is prevalent in traditional music because it could do the tremolo effect. This is so because it has two perpendicular holes with two reeds. One reed is sharper and one is a bit flat which creates the tremolo effect when vibrating together.

Harmonica care

Do not eat or drink while playing your harmonica and clean your mouth thoroughly before playing. Gently tap the harmonica every after playing to remove excess saliva and keep it in a box or case when not in use to avoid accumulation of dirt. Lastly, never share your harmonica with other people.

Choosing your harmonica

When choosing your harmonica, you should keep these in mind. Wood harmonicas may cost less and have a warmer sound but these are sensitive to moisture while metal harmonicas have higher integrity but are expensive and have more probability of corrosion. Plastic harmonicas are very easy to maintain and play but these can crack faster than others.

You should also know what music genre you would like to play. The tremolo is suited for folk music while the chromatic harmonica is common in classical and jazz music. Blues and country music are typically accompanied by the diatonic harmonica.