Bright, clear, light, graceful, delicate, brilliant, penetrating, whistling, intense, piercing, cutting, shrill, screeching.
The piccolo has two contrasting characters: played piano it sounds delicate and sweet, but played forte it becomes forceful and shrill.
The sound has less volume and is not as brilliant as the flute’s but is more concentrated and penetrating.
Low register (D5 – G5)
Like the flute, the piccolo’s low notes contain few overtones. They sound dull and rather hollow and are occasionally used to suggest a supernatural atmosphere. On the flute, where they are in the middle register, these notes sound much richer and more powerful.
Middle register (G#5 – C7)
It is the notes in the middle and upper registers that are used most often, with the exception of the very highest notes.
Depending on how and where the instrument is used delicate and graceful effects can be achieved, e.g., the imitation of birdsong or other sounds of nature. Terrifying and eerie effects are possible especially when played forte or fortissimo, as in the Scythians’ Chorus in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Iphigenie auf Tauris (1779).
Upper register (C#7 – C8)
The piccolo’s high notes are a continuation of the flute’s upper register; played forte they sound piercing and are conspicuous even in tutti passages. The top notes (B7, C8) sound forced and shrill.