A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Picco Pipe

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PICCO PIPE. A small and unimportant member of the family of flûtes à bec. It owes whatever musical significance it may possess to the efforts of the single exceptional player named in the preceding article. It is stated that this performer was able to produce from it a compass of three octaves. The only other importance which it displays is due to its extreme simplicity. Perhaps no wind instrument ever constructed exhibits such limited mechanism. It consists, as usually made, of a box-wood tube 3½ inches long. Of this, 1½ inches are occupied by a mouthpiece, common to it and to the penny whistle, the flageolet, the flûte à bec, and the diapason pipe of the organ. The remaining two inches form all the modulative apparatus required. This consists of three lateral holes; two in front, one at the back, for the thumb and two first fingers of either hand, and an expanded bell, spreading to of an inch in diameter. It is obvious that some additional device is necessary to complete even the simplest and most rudimentary diatonic scale. This is furnished by first using it as a stopped pipe; the bell being blocked, wholly or partially, by the palm of the hand, twelve semitones being so produced; then as an open pipe, giving eight consecutive notes; and lastly, by overblowing on the first harmonic of a stopped pipe (the 12th), obtaining again with a stopped bell six more semitones. Besides these, some intermediate sounds are indicated by half stopping holes, or by forcing the wind, according as the vibrations have to be slackened or accelerated.

The compass is usually 26 semitones, and is made to commence with B below the treble stave; rising to C above it (1). The lowest note is only to be obtained by covering the bell with the palm of the hand and closing all the holes. At B (2) the open scale commences, and at G (3) the harmonic.

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \cadenzaOn b4^"(1)" c''' \bar "||" b'^"(2)" \bar "||" g''^"(3)" \bar "||" }
It is obvious that this notation is at best only approximative, and at least an octave lower than the real sounds emitted. Probably C is the fundamental note of the instrument, depressed somewhat by the irregular form of the sounding tube. It is just possible that this primitive contrivance may throw light on some of the three and four-holed flutes of antiquity. [See Flute.]

[ W. H. S. ]