Flute/D flat piccolo?

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Question
Piccolo
Piccolo  
Hi, I recently got a piccolo from a guy who liked my flute playing. I had never seen a piccolo like this and believe it to be a D flat piccolo, although I'm not entirely sure. Also, if it is a D flat, would you happen to have a fingering chart for it or know where to get one?

Answer
Hello Veronica!

What you've been given is a simple system piccolo, so-called because the system of keys is very simple in comparison to the modern Boehm-system flute.  In this case, you have what would generally be referred to a 5-keyed piccolo (for obvious reasons), and while it's possible that it was originally meant to play in the key of D-flat, it will be difficult to pin that down.

This is because pitch has historically risen, and depending on when exactly this flute was produced (instruments like this were pretty much THE flute for western cultures a couple centuries ago, but are still being produced by some craftsmen today), it may or may not be built for modern pitch (which is A-440).  Original piccolos might be tuned anywhere from A-415 to A-457 as different countries (and in some cases even different towns) played at different pitch standards, and modern simple system instruments tend to be built at A-415 or A-435.  This means that even if this piccolo were built to play in what WAS the key of D-flat at the time of its construction it may or may not play in the key of D-flat with our modern pitch standards.  Your best bet will be to simply play it against a tuner to see what that tells you.

As far as fingering charts go, there are a number of them available on the internet, but one of the clearest and most comprehensive I've seen is here:

http://www.oldflutes.com/charts/simple/

Keep in mind that while flutes like this are somewhat similar to modern instruments, they do require separate study to really master.  If you're interested in playing Bach or Vivaldi on a period instrument or learning to play one of the many forms of folk music that still rely on these types of instruments, it may be worth your time to learn to play this piccolo.  However, if neither of these are ambitions of yours, your time might be better spent with modern Boehm-system instruments, as the smaller sound, less even intonation, and technical difficulties of simple-system flutes do not lend them to use with modern bands and orchestras.

I hope this is helpful.  If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Herbert

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Herbert Smith

Expertise

I can answer questions about almost any flute-related topic.

I have trained professionally as a flute repair tech and music educator, and have a broad range of experiences as a performer. I also have experience with a huge array of flutes with any imaginable material or specification, and can comment on the quality of various instruments, as well as guide people through the flute-buying process. I'm willing and able to discuss various flute gadgets (Valgon rings, Foster extensions, etc.) as well.

I'm very familiar with piccolo, alto, and other harmony flutes (including those in unusual keys, such as Eb flute, Db piccolo, G treble, Ab alto piccolo, Flute D'amore, Contrabass, etc.).

I am also glad to offer advice on how to approach difficulties within pieces of music, offer teaching tips to those who give lessons, or answer just about any other flute-related query you can throw at me!

Please note, however, that I am not an appraisal service, and will not provide estimates of value. Please do not ask me about the value of your flute. I also must decline to date instruments based on their serial numbers.

Experience

I'm a professional repair tech with years of experience, and a veteran high school band director. I've maintained a successful studio for private flute lessons for many years, and have performed professionally in just about any imaginable venue.

Education/Credentials
I have bachelor's degrees in music education and performance from highly regarded universities, and have trained with one of the best flute techs/flute makers in the US.

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