Learning about the smallest instruments – flutes and piccolos in the music class

Here are a few lesson planning ideas for teaching students about the flute and piccolo

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.

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!) Students will love playing their own tunes on the bottle instruments

Listen to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a work for orchestra with narration. 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

Each character in peter and the wolf is demonstrated by a section and specific instrumentation. The strings are peter, the bird is represented by the flute, the oboe is the duck, 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 starting points for discussion about this piece:

What are the qualities of those instruments that made the composer choose them for each character (for example the low, reedy sound of the bassoon sounds like grandfather, the piercing sound of the oboe sounds like a ducks quack)

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? (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?