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September 2006 | Vol. V - No. 9




Tools:

Low-Tech Band Aids

Kids' Instruments Play the Standards


"Xylophones, drums, guitars are what sell."Debbi Scholl, Fundamentally Toys
With additional reporting by regional correspondents Virginia Davis and Elizabeth Greenspan

In every child is music. Sometimes it comes out through banging on a pot or a pan. For many, it takes a toy or a child-sized instrument to reveal the virtuoso within. Retailers and manufacturers told TDmonthly Magazine correspondents that low-tech instruments are “on the beat.”

Lose the Battery
Tricia Cooper, the buyer for Le Jouet Inc., in Metairie, La., mentioned that instruments such as the Noble & Cooley drum sets seem to sell best. “Your basic marching drum does better for us than one that’s battery operated. Things are getting more high-tech, but parents want the basic toys.”

Other retailers agreed. Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toy & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends the Sounds Like Fun instruments to parents and grandparents who say, “I don’t want that annoying thing in my house.” They appreciate a toy that needs no battery.

Debbi Scholl, owner of Fundamentally Toys in Houston, is another low-tech/Sounds Like Fun advocate: “We keep things that are simple and the child is actually playing the instrument. Xylophones, drums, guitars are what sell.”

A good seller for many in the basic bang-it-and-play realm has been the Boomwhackers by Whacky Music Inc. (ToyShow). Cooper told TDmonthly she’d thought they were “really neat” when she saw them last year at the American International Toy Fair.

New items for Whacky Music are on the way, but not for awhile. “Our focus has been on developing more educational materials,” explained Craig Ramsell, Whackmeister of Whacky Music, though “we have some new things in the works.”

Real Instruments Beat Toys
Round Rock, Texas’ Kaleidoscope Toys’ owner Terry Myers had his own recommendation: “A favorite for people who want to spend a little more is the Music Maker Lap Harp (European Expressions). It’s a lap harp, and it’s easy to play because it has cards. You follow the notes. And the tone is beautiful.”

“The parents really don’t like all this electronic music,” explained Greg Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center Inc. in Little Rock, Ark. “They don’t want the strings to be in an electronic chip, the creativity already done. I have musical instruments from Melissa & Doug.”

Eleven of 20 retailers mentioned Melissa & Doug instruments as popular. Others in the low-tech category included Schylling (ToyDirectory), Toysmith, Bontempi and Hohner (ToyDirectory). Woodstock Percussion’s (ToyDirectory) latest offerings are good sellers, according to Amy Dufour, public relations rep for Woodstock Percussion. Renee Trinca of Schoenhut Piano Company Inc. (ToyShow) sees their latest Mini-Grand Piano as being well received.

Despite the basics, there are some areas where electronic instruments have come to the fore, such as those that teach piano. Brian Metcalf, public relations specialist working with Allegro Rainbow, points out that the Piano Wizard has done so well, they’ve now come out with a Mac version.

In the end, high-tech, low-tech or no tech, Greg Bonner sums it up best: "Kids love to make noise."





MSRP: $59.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



Schoenhut's new Mini-Grand is the perfect choice for a toddler's first piano. It is just the right size for a child's favorite doll, too. Both fun and educational, it is an ideal instrument to encourage musical creativity.
Awards: A TDmonthly Classics Award for being an all-time favorite toy.
— As of 7/21/2011 this product had 5 out of 5 stars from 1 review on Amazon.com.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8573      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $19.49
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



Made of wood with nylon strings, this child-sized version of an adult guitar is practically the real thing. The guitar even comes with tuning instructions to turn young musicians into pros in no time. At 24” long, it can be stored easily without taking up too much space.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5237      (added 10/27/2005)
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MSRP: $17.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



Eight multi-colored, precision tuned bars give any toddler room to make bright, colorful sounds. This product includes an attractive vinyl bag and child-safe mallet.
— When asked about hot-selling music items in his store, Jude Larene, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, said, "Probably the Hohner toddler [Glockenspiel].”
— Larene said he sells about 10 a month of the Hohner xylophone-like toy.
— Two of 45 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly said Hohner musical toys are customer favorites.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6386      (added 1/6/2006)
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MSRP: $130.00
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



This kid-size guitar features six metal strings, a plastic red sparkle face and natural-wood neck. Measuring 29.5", the guitar also includes a built-in amplifier, a front-mounted speaker, a black nylon strap, a pick, a battery and a 16-page instructional song book by renowned folk musician Happy Traum.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8574      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $3.50
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



Choose from four different colors (purple, orange, green and blue). This real harmonica comes with its own carrying case, too.
― They sell about 8 or 9 harmonicas per month at Toy City in Keene, N.H. “You have a birthday party, and it spikes," Manager Robert Hunter shared with TDmonthly.
— In a 2012 survey, Teresa Derry, owner of Annie's Toy Chest in Cocoa, Fla., told TDmonthly that her best selling musical product was, "Kazoos from Toysmith; [we sold] about 10-12 last month. They are an inexpensive, quick gift add-on," she explained.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8570      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $32.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



Winner of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, The Music Maker lets people play beautiful music — regardless of prior musical experience — by simply sliding a song sheet under the strings and plucking the string above each printed note. Made in Belarus of quality hardwoods, the harp comes tuned and with 12 songs, a pick, a tuner and a spare wire.
Awards:  1995 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Blue Chip Classic Award Winner.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8569      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $14.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



This toy saxophone is a part of the Orchestra program of toys using the educative method of seven colors/seven tones, which makes it easier for children to study notes and play the instrument itself. It is rich with a harmony of colors and shapes as well as a proven toy design and educational method.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8572      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $34.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



This is a great beginner's percussion set for a little musician. The wooden bucket drum has a natural rawhide head and is great for playing with the hands or the included wooden sticks. Also included are two blue mini-maracas, one red tambourine stick, one green-handled castanet and an activity guide. Each provides a great tool for learning to describe and recognize different sounds.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8571      (added 7/14/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



This 10-piece set of musical instruments (heavy on the percussion with maracas, a tambourine and a triangle) lets a child explore the wonders of sound, music, anthropology or just the fun of making some noise.
― Richard Gibson, owner of Learning Express of Newton, Mass., says his store sells about 6 or 7 of these sets per month.
— In summer 2008, Meredith Zellweger, owner of Toy Jungle in Manhattan Beach, Calif., touted this set as her “go-to musical toy.” Melanie Anderson of Daly City, Calif., said, “The kids have so much fun playing with them. They are real instruments, not plastic imitations that don´t sound quite right. This was a purchase I don´t regret.” 
— Three of 45 retailers cited Band in a Box when asked about best-selling musical toys in mid 2007, citing sales of between three and 10 units per month. Seven of 48 retailers named it as a musical best seller in January 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4401      (added 8/31/2005)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $199.95
Age Range: 5 and up
SKU or Item #: WFH-M49E0-GY-0
Launch Date: January 2003
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys
Educational
Video Games



Piano Wizard Premier combines the fun of a video game with the fundamentals of piano lessons. That means children can sit up to a keyboard today and play anything from Bach to Bon Jovi. What once felt like practice now feels like play. Children can choose from four different fantasy worlds to play in. They can change the speed, the instrument sounds, the skill level and more. And in addition to the MIDI songs that come standard with Piano Wizard Premier, thousands more can be downloaded from Internet libraries. The software can be sold with or without the keyboard. According to Allegro Rainbow’s Brian Metcalfe, "The Piano Wizard Method teaches anyone to easily play piano in 4 steps. With Piano Wizard, the child is playing the piano the instant the game is started. They learn intuitively to hit the right note at the right time." Allegro is planning on releasing the highly anticipated Guitar Wizard. Launch date: 2003.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5847      (added 12/9/2005)
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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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