The piccolo; Italian for “small”, but named ottavino in Italy, is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino (Italian for “little octave”), the name by which the instrument is referred to in the scores of Italian composers.
Piccolos are now only manufactured in the key of C however, they were once also available in D♭. It was for this D♭ piccolo that John Philip Sousa wrote the famous solo in the final repeat of the closing section (trio) of his march “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.
In the orchestral setting, the piccolo player is often designated as “piccolo/flute III”, or even “assistant principal”. The larger orchestras have designated this position as a solo position due to the demands of the literature. Piccolos are often orchestrated to double the violins or the flutes, adding sparkle and brilliance to the overall sound because of the aforementioned one-octave transposition upwards. In concert band settings, the piccolo is almost always used and a piccolo part is almost always available.
The first known use of the word piccolo was c. 1854, though the English were using the term already at least thirteen years earlier.
Everything you wanted to know about the Piccolo
Stars and Stripes
Jennifer King, piccolo, Bach and Rossini