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.