Are you tired of always playing the C flute in your band or orchestra? You might want to play piccolo in your ensembles.
I’ve played piccolo in marching band, wind ensemble, orchestra, and flute choir. Read on to learn more about why you should play in these groups.
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more.
5 Ensembles Where You Can Play Piccolo
I first got to really play piccolo thanks to ensembles in college. Whether you’re in school or not, you can get the chance to perform on piccolo.
Here are some ensembles I’d recommend looking into. Then, you’ll be able to improve your piccolo chops.
1. Marching Band
If you can and/or want to play in a marching band, do it. This is probably the only ensemble out there where the whole flute section is actually a piccolo section.
Some other ensembles feature the occasional second piccolo part. However, you don’t usually have to audition to get into a marching band.
That means you don’t need to know much about the piccolo to play it. As long as you have access to a good piccolo, you should be able to join the flute/piccolo section.
2. Wind Ensemble or Concert Band
A wind ensemble or concert band is another excellent group where you can play piccolo. I played piccolo in a wind ensemble in college and grad school. The nice thing about these groups is that players usually switch off.
So I played a mix of piccolo and flute parts. That can be nice since it gives you a break from having to use the smaller embouchure a piccolo requires.
You can find wind ensembles at colleges or as general local groups. Consider doing a Google search to see what bands are available for you to join.
My favorite ensemble to play piccolo in is an orchestra. I’ve played the piccolo in three orchestras between college, grad school, and out of school.
I love getting to “float” above the orchestra and stand out. Of course, you do have to sit around a lot since the piccolo doesn’t play on every piece or movement.
If you want to play piccolo in an orchestra, I’d recommend getting the book Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo. The book has a bunch of standard solos that you can learn to prepare for rehearsals or auditions.
4. Flute Choir
Another great ensemble to join to play piccolo with others is a flute choir. This is a group of all flutes of different sizes. You can play the piccolo, C flute, alto, bass, and even a contrabass flute.
Since my local flute choir is low on altos, I play that in my flute choir now. But I’ve played the piccolo in flute choirs in the past. My favorite piccolo part was from an arrangement of Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances since I go to play the famous piccolo solo.
You can find flute choirs in your local area or through a college or university. I love getting to play with other flutes, even if I’m not the one on piccolo.
5. Chamber Groups
You might also want to find or create a chamber group to join. There are some piccolo parts for chamber ensembles.
If you can’t find any music you like, you can arrange something yourself. Or you can commission someone to compose or arrange a new piece for your group.
Then, you’ll be able to play piccolo with others. But you won’t have to worry about competing with other players to get the piccolo part.
Why Play Piccolo in an Ensemble
If you want to learn to play piccolo well, an ensemble is a great place for that. Sure, you can do that with private lessons.
But lessons aren’t available to everyone. Here are a few reasons to look for an ensemble that will let you play a piccolo part.
Except for maybe a marching band, you get to be a soloist as a piccolo player. I only know of a few pieces that have two or more piccolos.
When you’re the only piccolo player, you get all of the piccolo solos. Even if the part doesn’t have a solo, you can still feel like a soloist.
Plus, you don’t have to be the best flute player of the group. You can still get some more interesting parts in an orchestra or another ensemble.
Not all flute players can play piccolo. That means you can get more performance opportunities than you otherwise would.
If you get experience playing piccolo in an ensemble, it can help you elsewhere. You can use that experience to improve your overall piccolo skills.
And if you do a good job on your first few pieces, you might get more piccolo parts in future concerts.
Switch It Up
Being able to play piccolo in an ensemble allows you to switch off from playing flute occasionally. As much as I love the flute, it’s nice to be able to play a few different instruments.
This past weekend, I performed in an orchestra and only played piccolo. That helped lower my load for the rehearsals and concert.
It’s also nice to play piccolo if you need to send your flute off for maintenance. I like being able to still play music when you can’t play your flute.
Why Not Play Piccolo in an Ensemble
As fun as it can be to play piccolo with a group. However, you might not always want to play it in your ensembles.
Here are a few drawbacks to consider.
With a few exceptions, there’s usually only one piccolo part in a group. That means only one person gets to play piccolo on a piece.
You’ll probably have to audition or compete for a piccolo spot. Even if you don’t have to audition, you might not get all of the piccolo parts.
In some of the orchestras and flute choirs, people have switched out the piccolo part. That way, multiple flutists get to try the piccolo.
The piccolo is a small instrument, but it’s still another instrument. You have to keep good care of it, bring it to rehearsals, and practice it regularly.
And you have to do all of the same with your flute. It takes time to set up two instruments before a rehearsal.
Since you probably won’t play piccolo all of the time, you have to play the flute. Even if you’re the only piccolo player, you might still have to double on the flute if a piece doesn’t have a piccolo part.
Nowhere to Hide
When you play piccolo in an ensemble, your part will almost always stick out. That means you have to be very confident and practice well.
You don’t get to hide behind another person. When you’re on flute, you might get to hide behind the principal flute player. Or in a band or flute choir, you’ll usually double your part with someone else.
The piccolo is more exposed in almost every ensemble. Sure, there are exceptions, such as when you’re playing the low register. But you still need to practice more than you might if you just played the flute.
Can Any Flute Player Play Piccolo in an Ensemble?
Any flute player can technically play piccolo in a group. But you should be at least decent at the piccolo.
If you’re new, I’d recommend playing piccolo in a marching band. That way, you can still play, but you can learn and not have to worry about soloing.
Do You Have to Audition to Play Piccolo?
You might need to audition to play piccolo in certain ensembles. I had to do so for wind ensemble in college and orchestra in grad school.
But the community ensembles I’ve been in have all not required anyone to audition for a piccolo spot.
Is Playing Piccolo in an Ensemble Hard?
Playing piccolo in an ensemble can be hard. Some groups play difficult music, so you need to practice a lot.
But other groups might play easier repertoire. So you could get away with practicing a little less, but you’ll still need to practice.
Will You Play Piccolo in an Ensemble?
If you like playing the flute, you might also want to play piccolo. An ensemble can be a great place to learn and improve.
Do you want to learn more about the piccolo? Head to Piccolo Perfection for regular piccolo posts!