Woodwind instrument lessons – the flute and piccolo

Learning about the Flute and Piccolo in music class? here are a few ideas. This is an excerpt from a music lesson plan from the fun music company on instruments of the orchestra.

Hi-Lo Game: Play or sing a variety of melodic intervals, both ascending and descending. Then ask the students to tell you 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. 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.

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.

Each character in peter and the wolf is demonstrated by a section and specific instrumentation. Peter is the strings, the bird is represented by the flute, the duck by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the grandfather by the bassoon, the horns are the scary wolf and the hunters by the timpani.

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 (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? (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.)

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