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Fitchhorn Song Flute

Described by Dwight Newton, organologist.


Many people who grew up in the US are very familiar with the Song Flute or one if its variants. These have been widely used in public schools to teach the basics of reading and playing music. The Song Flute is among the easiest instruments to play, being essentially a simplified recorder requiring little training in embouchure, attack or fingering.

Song Flute


Fitchhorn Song Flutes are made of black plastic and are intended as a simplified recorder-type flute for school children. Elva Joseph Fitchhorn originated and patented the design which came to be used in schools everywhere. Fitchhorn was a band instructor in Delaware, Ohio, near Columbus. Fitchhorn's Song Flute Company manufactured the flutes for several decades and was located in Evanston, Illinois. They are now made by Conn-Selmer in several colors.

The letter D in the patent No. D115616 refers to a design patent (as opposed to a new invention) relating to the overall look and configuration of the instrument. Patented July 11, 1939 by Fitchhorn and for a duration of 14 years. The patent is titled "Design for a Musical Instrument of a Flute-Like Nature" and shows a front and side view of the familiar song flute, but without the descriptive details that would normally be found in an original invention patent.

dancersThe similarity to a recorder is more than superficial. The wide mouth-end of the instrument narrows to a relatively tiny hole in the foot end, thus imitating the recorder's inverted conical bore. The range of the Song Flute is a 9th, from c1 to d2. Fingering for the C Major scale is a simple progression with no cross fingerings. Accidentals are available using alternate fingerings. In contrast to a recorder, the Song Flute's range is limited. Overblowing is not possible. The flute comes with a fingering chart and a few introductory tunes.

From the VanderCook College of Music website:

Elver J. Fitchhorn was born in Pulaski County, Indiana on July 3, 1896. He was a former French horn player with the John Phillip Sousa band. Early in his career, he played violin in theaters. He took classes at VanderCook School of Music, entering in September 1915, up to 1936. He studied personally with Hale VanderCook. Fitchhorn was regarded as the “father of the pre-band instruments” (the saxette and song flute). He also patented a molded plastic fipple-flute in 1937. He was bandmaster in the Delaware, Ohio City Schools from 1928 to 1938. Later he served as educational director for C.G. Conn Ltd. In 1936 the School Musician rated him one of the 10 outstanding band masters in the United States. He received the National Band Association citation of excellence in 1976. He died in 1985 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Description by Conn:

Conn Song Flute
The pre-band instrument that’s preferred by many leading educators.
Designed to fit small hands, the Conn Song Flute offers accurate
intonation over a full octave scale from C to D. Needs no tuning.
Black, one-piece plastic construction. Individually packaged
with instructions.

Conn Song Flute Carrying Bag

Attractive black vinyl bag that complements the Song Flute.
Protects the instrument and helps keep it clean.

Song Flute
Song Flute

Song Flute box


Song Flute book

Song Flute book

Song Flute book Song Flute book


The Tonette Company made a similar flute, but with some variations. This was invented by Ziegner Swanson ca.1938 and distributed by Chicago Musical Instrument Co.

The Tonette is actually a vessel flute in the manner of an elongated ocarina. The bottom end is closed (even though there is a decorative flared bell) on some models, as opposed to the open end of the Song Flute. The mouthpiece is removable for cleaning the interior and for adjusting pitch.





The Flutophone is currently distributed by Hohner and by Trophy Music, a division of Grover Music Products. I have not seen one up close to see if it has an open or closed end.

© 2001-2008 D.Newton/

Updated 12/14/2006