The Flute and Piccolo – a classroom music lesson

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

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

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. You can then vary the sound by filling the bottles with a few inches of water, and asking the students to predict what will happen to the pitch 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.

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.

Each character in peter and the wolf is demonstrated by a section and specific instrumentation. The strings are peter, the flute represents the bird, the oboe is the duck, 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 questions for discussion:

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

Discuss why you think Prokofiev chose to switch Peter’s theme from the strings to the horns.

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