Historically, the piccolo had no keys, and should not be confused with the
fife, which has a smaller bore and is therefore more strident. The piccolo is used in conjunction with
marching drums in traditional formations at the
Carnival of Basel, Switzerland.
It is a myth that one of the earliest pieces to use the piccolo was
Ludwig van Beethoven's
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, premiered in
December 1808. Although neither
Joseph Haydn nor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used it in their symphonies, some of their contemporaries did, including
Franz Anton Hoffmeister,
Franz Xaver Süssmayr and
 Also, Mozart used the piccolo in his opera
Idomeneo. Opera orchestras in Paris sometimes included small transverse flutes at the octave as early as 1735 as existing scores by
Jean-Philippe Rameau show.
Although once made of various kinds of wood, glass or ivory, piccolos today are made from a range of materials, including plastic, resin, brass, nickel silver, silver, and a variety of hardwoods, most commonly
grenadilla. Finely made piccolos are often available with a variety of options similar to the
flute, such as the split-E mechanism. Most piccolos have a conical body with a cylindrical head, which is like the
Baroque flute and later flutes before the popularization of the
Boehm bore used in modern flutes. Unlike other woodwind instruments, in most wooden piccolos the tenon joint connecting the head to the body has two
interference fit points which surround both the cork and metal side of the piccolo body joint.