Learning about Flutes and Piccolos in the classroom

Learning about the Flute and Piccolo in music class? here are a few ideas

Hi-Lo Game: Play or sing a variety of melodic intervals, both ascending and descending. 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

Find a bottle with a narrow neck and blow across the top with a focused stream of air to make a musical tone, like a flute player. 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. You can then explain that this is exactly what happens when a flute player lifts their fingers from the finger holes – its just like shortening the tube.

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.

Listen to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a work for orchestra with narration. 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. Peter is the strings, the flute represents the bird, the duck by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the bassoon represents grandfather, the wolf by the horns and the timpani represent the hunters. Instruments of the orchestra are covered in detail in the fun music company printable music lesson plans series

Prokofiev also identifies characters thematically with characteristic melodies, and conveys the plot through the music.

Here are some questions for discussion:

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.)

What else in the music conveys the personality of the characters? (E.g., the bouncy, major-key theme for Peter exudes boyish confidence; the minor-key theme for the wolf is powerful and ominous, like the wolf himself.)

Take one section of music and discuss how it conveys the plot (for example when the cat scampers up the tree it is showed by arpeggios rising rapidly

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