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What Is a Piccolo Trumpet?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

The piccolo trumpet is the smallest type of trumpet available — in fact, piccolo is the Italian word for "small." Most piccolo trumpets play in the key of Bb, but an octave higher than ordinary Bb trumpets. In addition, a piccolo trumpet has four valves; one more than on most ordinary trumpets. The piccolo trumpet produces a higher pitch because it includes much less tubing than other types of trumpet. Generally, piccolo trumpets will have a smaller bell size and bore size than full sized trumpets, measuring 3.7 inches at the bell (94 millimeters) and 0.413 inches at the bore (10.5 millimeters).

Recognizing a piccolo trumpet is fairly easy, because they are very different from ordinary trumpets in appearance. Generally, they have one extra valve and are much shorter from mouthpiece to the bell than other trumpets. The mouthpiece is the part the player blows into, and the bell releases the sound at the opposite end. Much less tubing is used on a piccolo trumpet than on a normal trumpet, which is responsible for the higher pitch of the instrument.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

The pitch of a piccolo trumpet is much higher than the pitch of an ordinary trumpet. Both instruments usually play in Bb, which is common for many brass instruments, but the piccolo plays notes one octave higher. It is also possible to find a piccolo trumpet in the key of Bb/A/G and G, as well as the standard Bb/A and C/Bb types more commonly found. This means that when the trumpet plays a C note, the produced sound is the equivalent of a Bb on most other instruments, as well as on any digital tuners.

Some trumpets can have four valves, but most will have three. The valves are used to alter the pitch produced by the instrument, and can be pressed in a variety of different combinations to make notes. The piccolo trumpet ordinarily has four valves, not three like ordinary trumpets. Pressing the extra valve allows players to lower the pitch of the note produced by the piccolo trumpet, thus increasing its range. It is important to note that while piccolo trumpets are better at producing high tones, the player does require the range to reach those notes for them to sound out.

Most parts of the piccolo trumpet are smaller than those found on an ordinary trumpet. For example, the bell size on a normal trumpet is around 4 7/8 inches (123 millimeters) in diameter. The bell on a piccolo is usually around 3 7/10 of an inch (94 millimeters). Bore size on a normal trumpet is 0.459 inches (11.65 millimeters), compared to 0.413 inches (10.5 millimeters) on a piccolo.

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