I've been looking for a good way to get tiny kids involved in flute playing at a cost that doesn't scare off parents who aren't completely sure if their child will stick with playing. The Nuvo Toot has been on my radar for awhile, but I've been concerned about the open holes when combined with 5-year-old fingers. When I saw the TooT's newest version, I was excited to try it out!
The old TooT was recorder-like with a flute mouthpiece, somewhat similar to the Yamaha fife. The new one has silicone keys, making it easier for the little kids to cover the holes.
The Nuvo Toot is retailing at ~$42CDN for the model without keys and $47CDN for the model with keys.
Out of the box, I was delighted with how fun the instrument looked. It comes with either a white or black tube & lip plate, with blue, green or pink keys and headjoint. My 4-year-old nieces were dying to get their hands on it.
I was surprised at the tone I could get on the instrument. The effective range is an octave and a half, from C1-G2 (C2-G3 on flute).
The fingerings in the C major scale are the same as the flute in the first octave, and the very similar (without the pinky/thumb) in the second.
The TooT is fully chromatic, but the accidental fingerings are closer to baroque flute than modern silver flute. Two of the notes (C#1 and D#2/3) require you to remove tiny silicone plugs from the RH3 & pinky keys. Because I'm looking at using this more as a transitional instrument as tiny students move from the absolute beginner phase onto a modern flute, I'd be tempted to stick in C major to avoid having to relearn fingerings. I would be interested to hear from others who have worked through all the accidentals with their students - did you find the benefits of thinking in a variety of keys outweighed having to relearn the chromatic fingerings?
The action is much lighter than on the full nuvo flutes and requires much less hand strength to close the keys.
The articulation response on the TooT is quite good. Quick and easy for single, double and triple tonguing through the range.
If I played the TooT like I do my flute, the pitch is a little under A440 with the headjoint pushed all the way in. I could, however, bring it up to pitch fairly easily by rolling out and upping the air pressure. I did find that, on this particular instrument, keeping the pinky off for the E1 helped keep the pitch from dropping too low on that note. Note that with the plug in the thumb "key", the C2 is quite low. Removing the thumb key plug helped a lot.
The TooT comes with two lip plates. One is a regular flute lip plate, and the other has a recorder-like "beak". It also comes with a small stick to swap the lip plates out and a carrying bag with a name tag on it.
I also love that you can access nuvo's "Windstars" website to find music that fits their instruments. You can choose by type of instrument and the notes you want to include. The pieces come with play-along tracks and the music is colour-coded note names instead of staff notation. I love having this resource available!
What I Really Liked
There's a right-hand thumb guide to encourage kids to place their thumb behind the TooT instead of underneath it, which I loved. Great training for good hand position long-term, encouraging a neutral wrist position from the very start.
I like having the two lip plates. I found the "beak" lip plate really helpful in cutting down on the number of new things a student has to do at once - instead of having to deal with "hold the instrument like this, place your fingers here, make an embouchure, blow exactly here at this exact angle" all at once, you can build up the skills in more manageable blocks. Keeping the "beak" lip plate on, you can focus on hand position and basic notes and then switch out to the regular lip plate when your student is no longer having to focus so hard on just holding the instrument. And because they've been blowing in the correct position all the time they are working on their hand position, they've got the spatial memory to find the correct spot on the lip plate to blow the air when they switch. A win!
The thumb "key" is a silicone strip with a plug you can remove. I found that, with the plug in, the notes sealed beautifully well all the way down to C1, but occasionally the strip didn't bounce back far enough when moving to the C2, which made that note quite flat.
Removing the silicone plug from the thumb key fixed this, but then playing the rest of the notes required significantly more pressure from the thumb to seal the hole completely. The notes would still sound without the extra pressure, but they would be a bit weaker.
On first play, I thought the pinky key was set forward enough that removing the plug would create an issue with hand position. But then I thought about it and realized that, since that key only needs to be sealed on a low C, it's not much of an issue, and the stretch isn't that far.
A note that those C#1 and D# plugs are tiny. You can use a pencil to pop them out but make sure you have somewhere to catch them - if one goes bouncing away, it's a challenge to find it again!
I think the nuvo TooT does a brilliant job of doing exactly what it was designed to do - get small kids used to the flute setup in a way that's a bit gentler than starting with a full-sized regular flute. I've used it with students as young as 4, but it's also been helpful for my older kids as they're first figuring things out. It's definitely a useful addition to my studio!
*Prices are up to date as of October 2018.