Flutes and Piccolo – an orchestral music lesson

Here are a few lesson planning ideas for teaching your music class about the flute and piccolo

High or Low Game: Sing or play some melodic intervals in both directions. Ask students to discern which note comes first, the high note or the low note, by describing the interval as flute-piccolo (low-high) or piccolo-flute (high-low). 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.

You could then make a home-made instrument by filling several bottles with varying amounts of liquid, and tuning them to notes of a scale. (you can even borrow some pipes or test tubes from the science teacher!) Play some tunes with your bottle instrument, and ask for student volunteers to play their own tunes.

These are just a couple of ideas that are included in the fun music company music lesson plans on instruments of the orchestra

There is an excellent work which demonstrates the flute and piccolo well called Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev In this work both the flute and piccolo are featured as well as all the woodwind instruments, the timpani and strings. You could use this piece in several sections in many classes when learning about the orchestral instruments

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

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

Here are some starting points for discussion about this piece:

What qualities (timbre, range, etc.) of the instruments make them good choices for the characters? (for example the low, reedy sound of the bassoon sounds like grandfather, the piercing sound of the oboe sounds like a ducks quack)

What else in the music conveys the personality 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)

Take one section of music and discuss how it conveys 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?