The piccolo and pocket trumpets are believed by many to be harder to play.
So much so that some claim even professional players will experience difficulty handling the piccolo.
Here’s How Hard it is to Play the Piccolo or Pocket Trumpet:
Piccolos are considered harder to play than the standard trumpet because it is smaller, has a higher pitch, has four keys instead of three, and requires a different technique. This technique is much more precise than the trumpet and, therefore, a bit more challenging.
Is the Trumpet or the Piccolo Trumpet Easier to Play?
When compared to the ordinary base trumpet, the piccolo trumpet is more challenging to play.
The piccolo trumpet is smaller than the regular trumpet. In fact, the name piccolo in Italian means minor.
It has a smaller bore and bell size and produces a higher pitch than the regular trumpet as it has a lesser tubing.
To put the size difference in clear perceptive, a regular trumpet has a bell size of about 4.8 inches (123 millimeters and a bore size of 11.65 millimeters) in diameter.
While a piccolo trumpet’s bell size is 3.7 inches (94 millimeters), and its bore size measures .4 inches (10.5 millimeters).
Their differences do not end there. They also appear in the way they are played.
The Piccolo trumpet accepts less air than the regular trumpet; you will thus have to make more effort when playing it.
Simply put, you cannot take regular complete breathes while playing the piccolo. Doing so might lead you to feel lightheaded.
Usually, when practicing on a regular trumpet, you can have longer practice sessions. However, this approach will not work on the piccolo as you are playing at a higher register.
Which requires more air; you will thus need to take in more breaths.
Practice Time & Warmups:
Practicing on the piccolo will require you to have shorter but more frequent sessions.
Considering that your airstream on the piccolo is lesser, you will be required to employ a lighter movement of your tongue. Doing so prevents you from having too much air cut off.
Many professional piccolo players have also stated before they begin their Piccolo practice session. First, they warm up with a regular trumpet.
The ordinary trumpet allows them to open up and get in a rhythm.
In addition, to effectively play the piccolo trumpet, you are supposed to master transposing music into the different keys. Here is where the most significant challenge lies.
A piccolo trumpet has four keys, while a regular trumpet has three. The fourth key’s purpose is to lower its pitch.
Unfortunately, mastering the use of these keys tends to prove a complex task for many.
The bottom line is, the piccolo trumpet requires more detail and effort than the usual trumpet. Thus, making it more challenging to play.
However, with effective, consistent practice, you can play the piccolo like a pro.
Can You Use a Regular Mouthpiece on a Piccolo Trumpet?
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because some players prefer using a standard mouthpiece on a piccolo trumpet.
On the other hand, many believe that using a smaller mouthpiece when playing the piccolo is more effective. Also, some piccolo trumpets cannot be played with a regular mouthpiece.
Nevertheless, before you decide which mouthpiece to use on your piccolo, here are some factors to consider:
- The Rim
- Your other Mouthpiece
- The Sound
- The Music you play
- The Blow
Let us have a closer look at these factors:
Being the part that directly comes in contact with your lips, the rim is a vital mouthpiece parameter.
Some players prefer a wide rim. Others fancy a narrow one, while others like a rounded rim that affords them some bite.
Generally, a narrow round rim has more articulation and sound clarity; on the other hand, a wide flat rim offers more comfort and endurance.
The type of mouthpiece you choose should go hand in hand with your select rim preference.
Also, remember that the mouthpiece that feels the best is not necessarily the one that plays the best. Most piccolo players strive to attain a well-articulated and clear sound.
If you are looking to achieve the same, it is good to go for a mouthpiece to enable such.
Your Other Mouthpiece
What size of mouthpiece do you use on your regular trumpet. Is it a small or a big mouthpiece?
The above question is of great importance. The main reason is that many players tend to have issues using a mouthpiece in massive contrast to the one they are used to.
Experts advise players to pick a piccolo mouthpiece that is not smaller than 5milimetre in cup diameter than their usual mouthpiece.
It is also worth remembering that the mouthpiece cup diameter and cup depth affect the upper register performance.
Hence, your mouthpiece choice should go hand in hand with your sound preference.
The Music You Play
If you are mainly interested in playing at weddings or maybe a solo at church, then chances are you do not really need a very narrow or shallow diameter.
As many of the church .and wedding literature does not require high pitches.
However, in case you want to tackle works that have high pitches. You will more than likely need a narrow mouthpiece.
For it will offer you lots of support during the challenging parts.
A piccolos sound is mainly dependent on the type of mouthpiece you use.
Here is why, to attain a brighter sound, you will need a shallow mouthpiece more than a deeper one.
Depending on the type of sound you prefer, you can pick a deeper or a shallow mouthpiece.
Most piccolo trumpets have a smaller bore, but others bore the same size as regular trumpets.
Piccolos with larger bores may blow more freely when you use a standard mouthpiece.
Put, piccolos with a smaller bore tend to play best with a mouthpiece with a tighter throat. Nevertheless, a standard mouthpiece may be used on a piccolo with a standard bore.
As stated earlier, whether one can use a regular mouthpiece on a piccolo or not. It is more of a matter of preference and the sound that one seeks to attain.
What is the Piccolo Trumpet Mainly Used For?
Earlier, we found that the piccolo has a higher pitch than the ordinary trumpet as it has lesser tubing.
This characteristic enables it to play Baroque music, which has complex parts that are impossible to play with the ordinary trumpet.
Please note that the piccolo trumpet’s use is not wholly tied to Baroque music. On rare occasions, it also used to play non-Baroque classical music.
Pop music has also embraced the use of the piccolo trumpet. The most famous example being the Beatle’s recording of “Penny Lane.” Which heavily employed the use of the piccolo
Not forgetting television commercials and movies that have a Christmas theme also use the Piccolo trumpet. The trumpet’s distinct, shiny, and bright sound has been well embraced by most Christian music arrangements.
Though the piccolo trumpet has other uses, it is mainly used when playing Baroque, classical music.
How Popular Are the Piccolo Trumpet?
Due to its reputation of being more challenging to play than the regular trumpet, you would assume that no one plays the piccolo, right? Wrong.
Though not the most famous trumpet, the piccolo has a considerable fan base.
The fan base starts all the way from top professional players like Meredith Wilson of the golden age. Down to beginner players who would love to master the piccolo.
A 2008 study done by Louis Bonan, a Harvard professor and Multi-instrumentalist, sought to find out what bass instrument was more popular. From the results obtained in his study, Bonan came to a shocking realization; the Piccolo trumpet came a close third after the standard trumpet and the Cornet, respectively.
You might have also noticed that almost all of the leading orchestra bands, such as the Chicago symphony in the world, have a lead piccolo player.
Can You Start With a Piccolo Trumpet?
After reading about the piccolo needing more practice and challenging even the most accustomed players, you may be wondering whether or not you can start on the piccolo.
It is worth noting that we stated the Piccolo trumpet is challenging but not impossible to play.
So yes, you can start with a piccolo trumpet.
All you have to do is set your mind to the task and practice both effectively and consistently, and with time, you will master the piccolo.
Peter Vahoyen, the principal piccolo of the Royal Flemish philharmonics orchestra, once stated in an interview that anyone could play the piccolo if you give yourself to it.
There are some factors that, if you consider, may more than ease your piccolo training process.
1. Take in less air
As earlier stated, the piccolo takes in less air than the standard trumpet.
The difference is considerable.
Hence, when playing the piccolo, it is advisable not to fill your lungs fully.
Which would otherwise affect your ability to play well
2. Choose Your Mouthpiece Wisely
Most piccolo trumpets will not work effectively with a regular mouthpiece.
They may require a smaller mouthpiece.
So take time to choose a mouthpiece you are comfortable with and works well with your piccolo trumpet.
Listening to professional piccolo players will not only give you direction.
It will serve to encourage and show you that it is possible to master the piccolo.
4. Start Slow and Soft
The piccolo is mainly used to play higher notes.
Therefore, practicing slow and soft will help you build the endurance that is required.
It will also help you get used to the breathing patterns it so highly demands.
All of the top-rated piccolo players you see were once upon a time novice.
Do not be too hard on yourself; keep practicing daily and let time do its work. You will be amazed by the results.
What About the Price Differences?
Averagely the Piccolo trumpet is costlier than the regular trumpet and the Pocket trumpet.
This is mainly attributed to the fact that piccolos are harder to make in tune and require lots of skilled labor to make.
Moreover, many of the piccolo players are professionals who can afford the set prices.
As a result of these factors, an average piccolo ranges between $2,300 to $3,000.
On the other hand, beginner trumpets cost between $350 to $1,200. Intermediate trumpets range between $1,250 to $2,400, and pro-level trumpets start at $2400 and up.
Most pocket trumpets, by comparison, have a start rate of between $100 to $1000, depending on the material used to make the trumpet.