Rivals of the Tonette in the "pre-band" instrument world were Song Flutes by Fitchhorn (later Conn) and Flutophones. I'll also include an ocarina by Waterbury in this section.
The Song Flute is very similar to the Tonette. There always seems to be some debate if the Song Flute is an ocarina or not. I say it is an ocarina. Unlike the Tonette, the Song Flute has a small opening in the "bell". But if you were to close that hole while playing, you still get a tone. So in essence, that hole acts like a tuning hole found on some clay ocarinas. If it were an open pipe, like a Flutophone, when you close off the end, you would get no sound.
Song Flutes were first produced (and developed) by Fitchhorn. At a later point in time, Conn bought out Fitchhorn. So you will find both examples with both names on them. Like Tonettes, the Song Flute came primarily in black. They were also made in much smaller numbers in white and red. Song Flutes from Conn can still be purchased, but the quality isn't very good.
Another popular pre-band instrument used in school systems was the Flutephone by Trophy. Again, similar looking to the Tonette (and Song Flute) but with an open end like a recorder. I would categorize this as an actual flute. When the end is closed, there is no sound. Unlike the Tonette and Song Flute, black was the scarcer color. The primary color scheme for the Flutophone was white with red accents. Flutophones are still being produced, but again, the quality is not very good.
I'm including a ocarina by Waterbury because it's the same vintage and would have been marketed to the same person. It's a heavy plastic ocarina of varying quality. They came in two styles, and you could choose the key of C or the ever popular key of E.
More tonette, song flute, flutophone posts to come......
The tonette is what my elementary school used as an introduction to instrumental music. For me, it was 3rd Grade, 1977-ish. Nowadays, schools tend to use recorders or even ukuleles. Back in the day, some schools used flutophones or song flutes instead of tonettes. I'll talk a little bit about each of those in other posts.
The tonette is basically a plastic, inline (vertical) ocarina. Initially, they have 7 holes on top and a thumb hole on the back. There are two additional indentations for a finger and the right thumb that can be removed with a sharp knife to extend the range if so desired. They came out in 1938 and became a popular starting instrument in the school systems. Most of them were black, but they also came in various colors through the years. There were bright colors like red, green and yellow. There were some swirled "marble-y" colors. And there were olive green ones made for the military during WWII and later used for the Boy Scouts. Tonettes are no longer made. There was a reissue by Gibson a few years ago, but they weren't of the same quality.
The tonettes made for the military and the Boy Scouts were an olive green color. The Boy Scout instruments have "Boy Scouts of America" embossed on the back.
Tonettes are typically in the key of C. However, there were also some made in the key of B-flat. These seem to be exceedingly rare. I recently picked one up. They are a little longer than a typical tonette, and have "Bb" stamped on them. I'm just guessing, but I'd say 99.5% of tonettes are in C.
There was even a newsletter you could subscribe to called "Tonette News and Tune of the Month". I'm not sure of the dates of these. I've got the first 5 editions, but they aren't dated. There is a copyright of 1939, but that may just refer to the tunes on the inside. The have short articles about musicianship, how to care for your instrument, information about other instruments and a song. The tunes in the ones I have are written for 2 tonettes (second tonette is optional) and piano.
And of course there were several songbooks and method books from which to choose. Below are a few I've picked up.
Coming up in future posts....the song flute and flutophones.
I've edited the video from my recent woodwind recital into individual piece videos and uploaded them as a playlist on YouTube. The live stream video is still available as well. There are seven videos in the playlist. The preview below shows the first piece on the program (and playlist).
It's been quite a few years since I've done a recital. This past spring I made the commitment to put together a recital for the end of summer. It was originally schedule August 13th, but I got the dreaded Covid 4 days before. Now the rescheduled date of October 8th is fast approaching. This is going to be a woodwind multi-instrument program. It's my first time doing an "official" non-clarinet only recital.
I figured if I was going to do a doubling recital, I may as well do it right. There are pieces with the traditional woodwind family members....clarinet, flute and sax. But there are also a few pieces for instruments not normally seen in a recital setting. 19 instruments in total. It will hopefully be livestreamed and recorded.
Sonatina by Darren Lord
The Cycle of Life (O Ciclo da Vida) by Ricardo Matosinhos
Geordi Tunes by Peter Hope
Future Echoes from the Ancient Voicesof Turtle Island by William Moylan
Rainmaker by Philip Parker
Grande Fantasie de Concert “L’ Eco” by A.N. Mezzetti
A few months ago, an unusual tenor recorder showed up on the big auction site. It was keyed (almost) like an eight-key flute. Other than "Made in Germany", there were apparently no other indications of a maker. The headjoint was clearly cracked in the photos. But it was unusual enough that I decided to place a bid, and surprisingly I won the auction. There was some competition, but I think the cracked head scared most people away. It was obviously a high-end recorder from back in the day....rosewood, keys, adjustable thumbrest, nice case.
The night that I won the auction, the same seller listed another tenor recorder by the same maker. The headjoint and footjoint were shaped exactly the same and the wood looked the same. This time it was a "normal" one, and it had the name Klingson stamped on it. I knew I'd seen that name before, so after some quick research, I found Klingson was a brand name used by woodwind maker Karl Hammerschmidt. I could also see that the headjoint on this one seemed to be fine. Would that headjoint fit the keyed one, or were they possibly switched at some point? I decided I needed to try for that one as well. After waiting a week for the auction to end, I won that one too. Oddly, I was the only bidder. Normally a rosewood tenor would have a lot of interest.
When the first one showed up, the crack was indeed pretty bad. It also had two old cracks that had been "repaired" at some point. Cracks can always be fixed, but I was hopeful the other headjoint would fit when it arrived. A week later, the "normal" one arrived. The headjoint was a tad too small to fit on the keyed one. The normal one had a nice tone, but intonation was a bit wonky. The keyed one was going to have to be restored, and I had just saved a website of a recorder repairman that had been posted in a Facebook recorder page a few weeks prior.
So I contacted Werner John at TLC Recorder Optimization to see if he would take a look at it/them. We decided I should have the pads replaced locally since he would have to special order them, then send both recorders to him to do the rest of the restorations. Jon Goodman at Goodman Custom Woodwinds replaced the pads and polished the keys (they were so tarnished, I originally thought they were brass). Then off to Vermont they went. After receiving them, Werner called to discuss options. We decided since the headjoint cracks were quite extensive on the keyed one, and the normal one had a good headjoint, the best option would be to make the good one fit both recorders and leave the cracked one alone.
The recorders just arrived back from Werner. He did an amazing job! The good headjoint now fits both instruments perfectly. I can tell he did a lot of work on both instruments. They both play beautifully. The wood is just gorgeous on both as well. Pictures don't do them justice. And he was able to fix the wonky intonation on the normal one. He also worked out and included a fingering chart for the highest octave on the keyed recorder. I highly recommend Werner for any recorder repair you may need. And also thanks to Jon Goodman for his work on the keyed recorder as well.
Shooting Star Ocarina Octet's January video was made for the 2022 Latin American Ocarina Festival (online) happening January 28th through 30th. Our submission for the festival was an arrangement by Timothy Chernobrov of the Mexican folk song, La Cucaracha.
Most people think of recorders as coming in a couple of sizes. Soprano and alto are the most common. As with other woodwind instruments, there is a whole family of recorders. Typically they alternate between the keys of C and F (sopranino in F, soprano in C, alto in F, etc). Recorders also come in more obscure keys.....sopranos in Bb and A, altos in G, tenors in D. I've recently picked up a tenor in D (AKA voice flute).
It is branded "Peter Harlan Markneukirchen". Peter Harlan is credited with developing the German system recorder. He wasn't really a wind instrument maker (I think I read he did make some, though), and hired various other instrument makers in Markneukirchen, Germany to make his recorders. Most of these were made by Martin Kehr. This one is made from beautifully striped rosewood and is the German fingering system typical of Peter Harlan instruments.
Below are pics of the tenor in D, plus some comparison pics of other recorders. I've got one other Peter Harlan instrument, also in an unusual key. It's a soprano in A.
This is my debut with the Shooting Star Ocarina Octet (formerly septet) playing the contrabass G ocarina. I'm incredibly grateful to have been asked to join this talented group of ocarinists. Please subscribe to the YouTube Channel to make sure you don't miss any of the monthly videos.
I've picked up a trio of Dushkin recorders over the past year. Soprano, alto and tenor. I haven't been able to find out a lot of information about them. It seems David Dushkin started making recorders around 1934. And he was the first American recorder maker. He started out in the Chicago area, then moved to Vermont. Other than he and his wife opening two music schools, there's very little information available. And the is virtually nothing about his recorders.
Dushkin's wood of choice seems to have been walnut. Although the tenor I recently received looks like rosewood, with a little walnut on the beak. He also made his headjoints overly complicated. Most recorder headjoints are comprised of two parts, the headjoint body plus a "block" insert. Dushkin's headjoints have four components; the headjoint body, the block, a plastic sleeve that goes around that first two things, and then a wooden sleeve that goes around the plastic sleeve.
They all play very differently, but fairly well. The soprano has a very "reedy" quality. Intonation is a little wonky, but not horrible. The alto has a beautiful tone, but it's super quiet. And you need to blow extremely hard. The (keyless) tenor plays great. The tone is a little reedy like the soprano, but the intonation is really good. The tenor looks to be a later model than the soprano and alto. Overall, they all play really well. I couldn't find any information online about how Dushkins played, but was pleasantly surprised.