Quite wrongly many people assume that the saw was just a disdainful tool to take materials apart. But with some skill one can make a saw with a wide sawing blade sound. Even these very ordinary tools can create ethereal tones when they are slightly bent into an s-curve and stroked by a simple violin bow. The only deficit of these tools: they only reach a small and mostly high pitch range. Therefore saws have also explicitly been produced as “musical tools” for almost 100 years. These musical saws (or singing saws) are especially adapted to the needs of professional musicians.
To play different tones on the musical saw, the blade has to be bent with varying strength. Hand and thumb apply a constant pressure onto the blade. A handle can be attached to the far end of the blade to have better control over the degree of bending and to relieve the hand at the same time while playing. Usually the musical saws have a pitch range of two to two an a half octaves.
Regarding the sound the musical saw is an analogue option to the theremin. The wailing and carrying of the sound for several notes, which may remind of the voices of celestial nymphs and moaning sirens, have an almost hypnotic effect on the audience. These enchanting sounds have inspired compositions especially created for this instrument and have caused the professionalization of musicians in playing the musical saw. An expedition to new worlds of sound is guaranteed with this surprising instrument, the history of which dates back to the saloons and vaudevilles of the early 20th century.
Meanwhile the musical saws are at home in all kinds of genres, may it be jazz or folk, classical or contemporary music, in the chanson and cabaret. Last but not least the musical saw is a popular instrument for busking – street music. Some of the best known performers are Natalia Paruz, Elly Deliou, and Julian Koster with his band Neutral Milk Hotel.