Song flutes are a plastic version of soprano recorders. The recorder is an early wind instrument. One blew into the top of a hollowed tube, and made different notes by using different fingered patterns on the holes down the front. Unlike a flute, song flutes are held more like a clarinet.
Children are often introduced to song flutes in grammar school music programs. They may learn basic notes but the results are not always universally charming. Especially with the inexpensive models played by children, it is extremely easy to play notes flat or sharp by blowing into song flutes too hard or too softly.
This can also be achieved with more expensive wooden recorders, but the cheap make of the plastic ones predisposes them toward sounding somewhat shrill. Results in song flute classes for kids depend on how much the children are willing to practice, and how well versed the teacher is in conveying the importance of breath control. Children who get to own their own song flutes tend to have more opportunities to practice.
Song flutes or recorders come in a number of sizes. Most children learn on soprano song flutes. Larger recorders that feature alto, tenor and bass sounds can give impressively deep sounds. Tiny recorders like the sopranino reaches notes similar in height to a piccolo. The 19th century largely neglected the song flute in preference to newer wind instruments, but many famous composers have numerous duet, trio and quartet pieces for the recorder.
Renaissance composers, especially experimenting with the concept of multiple harmonies produced a great deal of music for the song flute. A few key recorder composers of the Renaissance include Heinreic Issac and William Byrd. Later composers like J.S. Bach and Vivaldi would compose several pieces for differently sized recorders.
If a child is actually interested in learning the song flute, it can be one of the more fun instruments to learn. There are many books which can help the child learn at his or her own pace. If two children are interested in playing, you might look for books that teach fingering and tunes for both alto and soprano recorders. This way, your children can learn duets from the onset.
When children show talent with song flutes, you might consider purchasing slightly more expensive wooden recorders. As musical instruments go, wooden recorders for students are some of the least expensive instruments. You can often find a used wooden or wooden with plastic tipped recorder for less than 50 US dollars (USD). Generally, a slightly better quality song flute than those made for students will produce a pleasant sounding tune when played properly.