Classroom Music ideas for teaching about the flute and piccolo

The Flute and Piccolo are important instruments to learn about in music class, but no so easy if you can’t play them yourself, so here is a few ideas to get you started. This is part of a lesson plan from the fun music company all about orchestral instruments.

High or Low Game: Sing or play some melodic intervals in both directions. Then ask the students to identify which note was first by saying flute-piccolo if the first note was lower, and piccolo-flute if the first note was higher. This will have a double effect of helping their aural skills and knowing the relative ranges of flutes and piccolos

Demonstrate how the flute makes its sound by choosing a bottle with a small neck and blowing over it with a stream of air. Fill the bottle with a few inches of water and ask the students to predict what will happen to the pitch when you blow again. Filling the bottle with water effectively reduced the volume inside the bottle, which is like shortening the tube inside a flute when the player lifts fingers off the finger holes.

If you are feeling ambitious, you could fill several bottles with varying amounts of liquid and tune them to the notes of the scale (certain kinds of pipes, or tests tubes borrowed from a science teacher, also work well). Play some tunes with your bottle instrument, and ask for student volunteers to play their own tunes.

There is an excellent work which demonstrates the flute and piccolo well called Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev This work features not just the flute but all the woodwinds prominently, as well as the strings and timpani. Therefore this piece, or parts of it, could be used across several class sessions.

In Peter and the Wolf, each character is identified timbrally by a specific instrument or section. The strings are peter, the flute represents the bird, the duck by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the grandfather by the bassoon, the wolf by the horns and the timpani represent the hunters.

Each character has its own melody, and tells the story through the music

Here are some starting points for discussion about this piece:

Why do you think the composer chose those instruments for each of the characters? (E.g., the reedy, piercing quality of the oboe actually sounds something like a duck’s quack; the loud, sharp sounds of the timpani are like the sounds of gunfire.)

How do the themes convey personality traits of the characters? (for example the classy regal tone for the clarinet showing the cat, the lively major key theme for Peter showing a young boy’s confidence, and the powerful ominous minor key theme for the wolf)

How does a given section of the music convey the plot? (E.g., the cat scampering up the tree is conveyed by rapid rising arpeggios.)

During the Victory Parade, why do you think the composer switched Peter’s music from the strings to the horns?