The Flute and Piccolo
The western concert flute and its cousin, the piccolo, are staples in orchestras, wind ensembles, and marching bands. The flute is also used in chamber music and it is not uncommon in jazz, Latin music, and even modern rock (e.g., the Jethro Tull band).
While the concert flute is a member of the woodwind family, it is not made of wood, but rather, sterling silver, or on student models, silver-plated alloys. Both the flute and the piccolo are pitched to C, and they use the same fingerings. However, the piccolo sounds one octave higher than the flute. Moreover, its notes appear on the staff one octave lower than concert pitch. The range of the flute is notated in Figure 17-8 and the range of the piccolo is notated in Figure 17-9.
The western concert flute has three main parts:
FIGURE 17-8: Range of the western concert flute
FIGURE 17-9: Written range of the piccolo
The flutist blows into an opening on the lip plate of the headjoint, called the embouchure hole. Unlike other woodwind instruments, the concert flute and piccolo are held perpendicular to the flutist's body and “side-blown.” As such, they are classified as transverse instruments. Unless an effect is used to transform the tone, the sound created by the concert flute is smooth and silky and it's especially good for performing trills and mimicking birdsong. A versatile instrument, the flute may also be used to create suspense or woeful laments. Moreover, its sister, the piccolo, has the ability to soar and soliloquize above any other instrument in the orchestra.