What is a Musical Saw?

For centuries of music and its significance in the development of different and varied cultures all over the world, humans have developed distinctive musical instruments which are played and made use to produce music and accompany the personal capabilities of humans in producing sounds and pitches.

One of the most unusual and remarkable musical instruments is the musical saw. As a musical instrument, it is able to produce musical tones. The blade is flexed and stroked with a cello bow or rapped with a hammer. Amazing, isn’t it? Also called a singing saw, the musical saw is a musical instrument that has been fabricated from a hand saw. It gives off a delicate and somewhat ghostly tone, comparable to a woman’s clear singing voice. Under the Hornbostel-Sachs musical instrument classification, the musical or singing saw is categorized as a friction idiophone with direct friction that produces the sound.

It is actually considered an original musical instrument of the mid nineteenth century in the United States, which obtained fame and recognition on vaudeville stages and different music halls and records. Back in the 1900’s, there were more or less ten companies in the US to produce and manufacture these types of musical instruments. Either made of the ordinary steel type or gold plated tour de forces which cost hundreds of dollars, probably for collectors and professional musical saw players. Through the years, and the rise of the cost of metals, manufacturers have found it hard to produce these types and instruments as well as sell them in the market. As the twenty first century began, there were only three companies who continued in manufacturing musical saws.

Musical saws are also manufactured in Sweden. They manufacture the Stradivarius and different sized saws accordingly. With the decline of the number of manufacturers of musical saws all over the world, these types of instruments are considered unconventional and are very valuable in terms of price and significance in the history of music. Therefore, the use of musical saws have become very popular, may they be used for international hard rock or Appalachian country music. In fact, in Felton, California, an International Saw Competition is held every August. While in New York City, also in the United States, an International Musical Saw Festival is held every summer. In Israel, there is also an International Musical Saw Festival every year. There are different efforts in different places all over the globe to make musical saws a part of the highly regarded musical instruments, and in line with such, a Guinness World Record for the largest musical saw ensemble was launched at the annual New York City Musical Saw Festival on July 18, 2009. It was composed of fifty three musical saw players.

The use of musical instruments is not limited to these festivals particularly for the instrument. There are world-renowned musical saw players, such as Jack Robinson during the first half of the 20th century, Charles Hindmarsh, also called The Yorkshire Musical Player, Janeen Rae Heller who played the musical saw in four TV show appearances such as The Tracey Ullman Show, Quantum Leap and Home Improvement, among many others.

There are also popular musicians and musical bands all over the world that use musical saws as either their primary or one of their musical instruments during their performances. Sarah McLachlan, although she does not play the saw herself, used the instrument in one of her famous songs (Last Dance) which she personally composed. The Indie-rock and The Black Heart Procession bands use the musical saw in many of their songs and performances.

The musical saw has also been used in different popular and established movies and films such as the Delicatessen, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Station Agent, Team Fortress 2, and even in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

All in all, despite its exceptionality and scarceness in terms of the scope of its market, the musical saw has never lost its veneration from the music and multimedia industry, and is an endless contribution to music and culture as a whole.

Leave a Reply