Musical Saw (Video Included)

A saw may be a carpenter’s best friend but the musicians who gathered in a hall in New York City in August were celebrating another unusual quality of this handy tool, the haunting sound it produces as a musical instrument.

Around 30 eclectic musicians gathered from across the United States and the world for the eighth annual NYC Musical Saw Festival.

Read the full story in “Bigpond News”

How a saw is played

The saw is generally played seated with the handle squeezed between the legs, and the far end held with one hand. Some sawists play standing, either with the handle between the knees and the blade sticking out in front of them, or with the handle under the chin (like a violin). The saw is usually played with the teeth facing the body, though some players face them away. To make a note, a sawist first bends the blade into an S-curve. The parts of the blade that are curved are dampened from vibration, and do not sound.


 At the center of the S-curve a section of the blade remains relatively flat. This section, the “sweet spot”, can vibrate across the width of the blade, producing a distinct pitch: the wider the section of blade, the lower the sound. Sound is usually created by drawing a bow across the back edge of the saw at the sweet spot, or sometimes by striking the sweet spot with a mallet. The sawist controls the pitch by adjusting the S-curve, making the sweet spot travel up the blade (toward a thinner width) for a higher pitch, or toward the handle for a lower pitch. Harmonics can be created by playing at varying distances on either side of the sweet spot. Sawists can add vibrato by shaking one of their legs or by wobbling the hand that holds the tip of the blade. Once a sound is produced, it will sustain for quite a while, and can be carried through several notes of a phrase.

Click here to learn more from Wikipedia.

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8 Responses to Musical Saw (Video Included)

  1. Michelle says:

    Very cool! Here are lots of videos from the musical saw festival.
    And here you can download musical saw MP3s.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Michelle,
      Thank You for your comment. I never heard of these musical saws before I read the article in the news, and when I was trying to find out a bit more about them I came across the 2 web sites that you have mentioned. But good old Wikipedia came through again with a lot of information. I actually love the sound of the saws, so different from anything else.

  2. Selma says:

    I actually saw someone playing one of those at Darling Harbour. It is quite amazing and has a much more musical tone to it than you would expect. The guy playing it really drew a crowd!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Selma,
      I would love to see the musical saw for real, how lucky for you. Yes I could definitely see it drawing a crowd, it’s just so unusual, and so is the sound. I think it would take a fair bit of talent and a lot of learning to be able to play the saw.

  3. Sue says:

    How unusual, I have never seen anything like it. I agree with you, it’s a different sound, and I rather like it.

  4. magsx2 says:

    Hi Sue,
    Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. IP Camera says:

    woot, thankyou! I finally came to a site where the webmaster knows what they’re talking about. Do you know how many results are in Google when I search.. too many! It’s so annoying having to go from page after page after page, wasting my day away with thousands of people just copying eachother’s articles… bah. Anyway, thankyou very much for the info anyway, much appreciated.

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