Piccolo trumpet - Brief description
Piccolo trumpet in high Bb/A
French: petite trompette
Italian: tromba piccola
The name piccolo trumpet is given to all trumpets pitched from D through high Bb.
Today, the piccolo trumpet is used for orchestral playing mainly when the trumpet part is permanently in a very high register, e.g. for the performance of baroque clarino parts in Bach and Handel.
In terms of technique the playing of high trumpet parts on the piccolo trumpet cannot be compared to playing them on historical baroque trumpets:
The tubing of baroque trumpets was twice as long as that of modern trumpets – thus the fundamental of a baroque trumpet in C was an octave deeper than today’s C trumpet. Since the air column to be vibrated was twice as long, the instrument was far more difficult to play. In fact, a special clarino mouthpiece had to be used so that the high naturals in the clarino register (from the 8th partial) could be reached at all. The short tubing of modern trumpets and especially the piccolo trumpet means that they are considerably easier to play and that the chances of hitting the high notes accurately are much greater. No special mouthpiece is required. Therefore the performance of high-pitched baroque clarino parts on a modern piccolo trumpet cannot be compared to playing baroque clarino wind instruments. The common description in everyday usage of the piccolo trumpet as the Bach trumpet or clarino trumpet is therefore inaccurate.
Partials whose vibrations are in a whole-number ratio (1:2:3:4:5:6 …) with each other are called overtones or harmonic partials. The numbering of the overtones differs from that of the partials since the deepest tone, the primary or fundamental, is not counted (fundamental = 1st partial, 1st overtone = 2nd partial, 2nd overtone = 3rd partial etc.). Whereas the fundamental is perceived as the pitch, the overtones merge to form the timbre. Today it is customary to use the numbers of the partials since they correspond with the rations of the wave vibrations.
Lining up overtones one behind the other produces the series of overtones. The overtones are also known as “harmonics”. As always in acoustics, the ratio of partials’ vibrations with each other is given from low to high.
The numerical relationship between the harmonic partials (overtones) was discovered by Pythagoras (approx. 500 B.C.). Over the course of history they became the mathematical basis of the Western theory of intervals.
Aerophone, brass wind instrument
Brass (tubing), gold brass (leadpipe)
Small cup-shaped mouthpiece
Length 65–72 cm, predominantly cylindrical; coiled form
"A" tube (transposition to A)
Narrow, inner diameter 10.4–11 mm
Three valves, Périnet system
Rim diameter 9.4–10 cm