"Got a man in it can play a tune on a saw. Play it like a banjo."

Though often thought of as a novelty instrument like the musical spoons, the saw has, since its early use in Appalachian Mountain songs, become an integral part of the American folk tradition. In the early 1900s it began to catch on amongst musicians outside of the Appalachian area, and by the 1920s it was a popular feature of travelling vaudeville shows. It is played by gripping the handle firmly between the knees and bending the blade into an S-shape. The musician draws a bow across the centre of the S to create a hauntingly ethereal vibration.  Alternatively, that ‘sweet spot’ can be struck or tapped to produce a different sound. The pitch is modulated by adjusting the curve of the blade.


Man playing the musical saw
Creative Commons AttributionMan playing the musical saw - Credit: MichaelTapp