What is a Musical Saw?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Creating music using unusual elements is nothing new to creative people. The invention of the musical saw is an excellent example of that strain of creativity. Here are some facts about the musical saw and how it is used in several musical genres.

Many people are surprised to learn that the musical saw is in fact a real saw. Typically a hand saw that is found in hardware stores around the world, the musical saw is complimented by the use of a violin bow and sometimes a mallet. This simple saw that was meant for sawing through small sections of wood, when paired with the bow, is often considered part of the idiophone family. The classification is made on the basis of the musical notes that are created when the blade and the mallet make contact as the bow is moved across the blade.

While plain old hand saws have traditionally been used as singing saws, today’s musical saw can also be a hand saw that was especially designed for the purpose. The musical saws created on purpose usually tend to have a longer blade, allowing for a wider range of notes. They may also include a small mallet attached at the top section of the unit, rather than as a separate piece. The blade may also be composed of a thinner metal than is used with working hand saws, which will result in a mellow tone that is hard to achieve with traditional musical saws.


Changing the pitch on a musical saw involves bending the blade slightly when either striking it with the mallet or running the violin bow across the smooth edge of the blade. As with a stringed instrument, the place of the bow or mallet along the surface of the blade will determine the pitch and tone of the note produced. Persons who are proficient with a musical saw can easily produce a variety of notes, using the saw as not only an accompanying instrument, but as an equal to a guitar, banjo, or piano.

Several types of music make use of the musical saw. Among bluegrass and folk musicians, the musical saw is well known. Traditional country and western music has also been known to make include the use of the musical saw in concerts and recording sessions. There is some indication that the musical saw is beginning to make inroads in more contemporary styles of music as well, including modern country, hip hop, and pop music.


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Post 1

The musical saw has been around for 300 years. There's even a video about it online. The musical saw is most used in movie soundtracks and also in classical and contemporary music.

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