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The piccolo is essentially a half-size flute, and its development parallels that of its full-size sibling. Baroque piccolos, like flutes of the era, were made from wood and had no keys – the last being an 18th-century innovation.

The piccolo has a playful, sprightly tone whose pitch is an entire octave higher than the flute. Its distinctive sound has been used to great effect in numerous compositions. Notable examples from the baroque era include Handel’s Renaldo, 1711, and possibly Bach’s Cantata 103 from 1725 (it is not clear whether this part was written for the piccolo or for a sopranino recorder). Mozart included the piccolo in his German Dances, 1791. Another often-cited example of the piccolo’s use is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.