Sound is produced according to the same principles as on the flute:
the flutist blows through the mouth hole (embouchure hole) and the stream of air that makes contact with the edge is cyclically directed outward and inward. This cyclically vibrating air stream is the sound generator and excites cyclic vibrations of the air column inside the flute’s cylindrical tube. The flutist uses tone holes and keys to shorten the vibrating air column, thus producing an increase in pitch. The sound is projected through the open lower end and the open keys.
It is the flutist’s lips that play the most important role; embouchure on the flute is highly individual. The shape of the lips, the position of the upper lip in relation to the lower lip, angle of the embouchure etc. are all decisive factors in intonation. There are so many flutists, so many different embouchures and consequently so many different means of expression.
Blowing strongly results in a higher pitch than blowing softly; this is true of all flutes. The flutist compensates for these differences by means of the embouchure.
Playing at piano levels
Playing the piccolo at the piano dynamic presents the musician with a number of difficulties which are peculiar to the instrument. Highly accomplished players can therefore be recognized by their ability to play quietly:
1. Trapped air (similar to double-reed instruments): because only a very small quantity of air is blown into the embouchure the musician does not exhale completely and an excess of air builds up in the lungs. This means that piccolo players are often left gasping more than a tuba player during their rests (-:
2. High notes are difficult to play softly because they require a particularly firm and focused blast of air. Thus, a piano F#7 and G7 are very hard to play and the higher notes are practically impossible to play quietly; the highest notes (B7 and C8) can only be played fortissimo.