Since the Classical era the piccolo has been used to suggest certain themes and principally to represent sounds of nature (birds, storms, lightning). The shrill and piercing timbre has often been used to create special effects. The Romantic orchestra uses it to brighten the sound and extend it upward. The piccolo has important tasks to perform in tutti passages especially, in which it gives melody lines composed of many octave doublings a penetrating edge as the topmost octave. Solo passages are rare.
Piccolo + woodwinds
A completely homogeneous overall sound together with the flute. The piccolo reinforces the flute by playing an octave above it. It can also reinforce the flute’s highest notes when the two are played in unison.
The piccolo can also effectively double the other high woodwinds (oboe, clarinet) an octave apart. The resulting blend adds intensity to the upper register in the orchestra.
Piccolo + percussion
Piccolo + bass drum / snare drum
A traditional pairing which provides a “military” flavor and is used for marches and processions in opera and programmatic orchestral works.
Piccolo + cymbals
The piccolo’s staccato together with a cymbal crash has the effect of a short, piercing cry or a blow with a dagger. Spontini used this effect in his “Grand Bacchanale”.