Blog Posts

Subscribe to Updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • All
  • Advice
  • Ask Ro
  • Audio
  • Guest Authors
  • History
  • How-To
  • Musicians & Makers
  • Video

Apr 2 2024

Weaver Brothers Duet!

Here’s a real treat, a saw duet that actually sounds beautiful! It’s the Weaver Brothers playing a song  called “Dig Me A Grave In Missouri.” The Weaver Brothers and Elviry ( you can see her singing in the background) were also known as the Arkansas Travelers and were a popular radio act. This was their […]
Read More

Feb 7 2024

Really Effective Practicing by David Weiss

David Weiss was a great musician who played oboe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he was also a marvelous saw player. He was often at the IMSA summer saw festival in Santa Cruz, and he wrote a helpful and generous column for the Saw Player News, the newsletter for the International Musical Saw Association. […]
Read More

Dec 3 2023

Merry Christmas from Stanley Tools!

I think most people who play the saw, play a musical saw, but there are some intrepid musicians who play a real handsaw. It can be more of a challenge to make a regular handsaw sound good. They are usually thicker steel and they aren’t always a good shape for playing. Here’s a fellow who […]
Read More

Oct 12 2023


It’s been a while since I posted, but this new saw video will hopefully make it worth the wait. This video is by Johnnie Day Durand. It’s a beautiful combination of saw and a music box sound. The saw is great in this recording and she plays using harmonics at about 1:16. So pretty. For […]
Read More

Oct 1 2023

Dennis Teeth and a Tiny Saw

Guy Bellingham, otherwise known as Dennis Teeth, was a member of the Hot Potato Syncopators until they disbanded last year. They were a fun vaudeville type act out of England, and they played at ukulele festivals around England. Mr. Bellingham is an excellent ukulele and saw player. In the following clip you can hear him […]
Read More

Aug 4 2023

Festival Winner And Fun For Everyone!

Hi everyone! The 2023 International Musical Saw Festival was another great success this year. There was a potluck, contest, music, great company, and unbridled enthusiasm for the saw. This wonderful event has been going on for over 40 years. If you ever get the chance to attend, don’t miss it. You’ll see amazing performances.   […]
Read More

Jul 16 2023

Saw Festival! It’s early this year!

Hi everyone! The annual saw festival in Felton is a couple of weeks early this year. Check out the note below from Kenny Blacklock with specifics. It’s only two weeks away!   Dear Musical Saw Players and Friends, Our annual street jam will take place on Saturday, July 29, from 1-3 pm at 1520 Pacific […]
Read More

Apr 22 2023

Marlene Dietrich and the Saw

Marlene Dietrich was a Hollywood icon known for her beauty, unusual voice, and captivating performances. However, many fans of the German actress and singer may be surprised to learn that she was also an accomplished musician, with a talent for the musical saw. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, while living in Hollywood and […]
Read More

Mar 7 2023

“The Swan” on the Saw and How to Make A Glass Harp

In addition to people who play saws, there are people who play water glasses. Robert Tiso is an excellent glass harp player, and here you can hear him with Felice Pantone playing “The Swan” from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. It’s a beautiful combination of two unusual instruments. If you decide you […]
Read More

Jan 10 2023

Original Hillbillies

The North Carolina Jazz Band, otherwise known as The Original Hillbillies, starred in this Vitaphone short, which came out in March of 1929. They perform several songs including “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,”  “By the Old Oaken Bucket,” and “Wasn’t She a Dandy?” The saw is at the beginning and you can see that […]
Read More

Dec 9 2022

A Merry Little Christmas

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane in 1943, and it was one of the most popular songs from the movie Meet Me In St. Louis. It was a huge hit for Judy Garland who sang it in the movie. […]
Read More

Oct 26 2022

How To Win A Saw Contest

      Cartoon by Hilary B. Price (Thanks to Rene Ponder for sending this along!)
Read More

Oct 9 2022

The Saw Man and the Saw Festival, Florida! Oct. 2022!

The Barberville Saw Festival in Florida is just around the corner (two weeks!), and here’s a short video featuring Tim Martin and his saw. Tim is the founder of the festival in Barberville and a winner at the International Musical Saw Festival in Santa Cruz. He is really a marvelous player, and in the video […]
Read More

Sep 25 2022

Ford Hanford

One of the earliest recordings of the musical saw is a Victor recording of Ford Hanford playing “My Old Kentucky Home,” recorded May 2, 1921. This recording includes the musical saw with an orchestra. Mr. Hanford plays first with a hammer and then switches to a violin bow. Listen and you can hear the difference […]
Read More

Aug 19 2022

International Musical Saw Association Festival Fun!

The 2022 festival in Felton was a great success, with people coming from all over to listen to the soothing sounds of the saw. There were new faces, lots of prizes, and great music. The grand prize winner was Gerald Reynold from Fresno who wowed the audience with a beautiful rendition of “Amapola” on an […]
Read More

Jul 30 2022

Where To Play Gigs by David Weiss

As I have shared before, one of the best online resources for musical saw information is the Saw Player News, the newsletter of the IMSA. There are marvelous free articles by some of the world’s best saw players, players such as Natalia Paruz, Morgan Cowin, and David Weiss. These experts offer great advice on all […]
Read More

Jul 23 2022

Florida Saw Festival! October 22!

It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to participate the first time a big event takes place, but this year, you can be one of the first people to join in the fun at the first ever Florida Saw Festival! It’s going to be held at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement on October 22, […]
Read More

Jul 9 2022

Jim Turner and “Careless Love”

Jim Turner is a well-known saw player who appeared on the Johnny Carson Show in the 1970s. He put out a popular saw record called “The Well-Tempered Saw” in 1971. He played with symphonies and bluegrass bands and taught classes in creativity at Colorado University. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see […]
Read More

Jun 18 2022

No Place Like Home

It’s not every day that you see the musical saw used to woo a person, but in this scene from Steamboat Round the Bend (1937), we see John McGuire playing the musical saw for his sweetheart Anne Shirley. McGuire was an actor for over two decades, and you might recognize him from Charlie Chan at […]
Read More

Jun 12 2022

IMSA Saw Festival in Felton, California Is Back August 14!

    Happy News! The International Musical Saw Festival in Felton, California is returning after a two year covid hiatus. Here’s the latest from the organizer: “Dear Saw Players and Friends, The California Musical Saw Festival is back this year! Please join us on Sunday, August 14th, 10 am – 5 pm at Roaring Camp […]
Read More

Feb 4 2022

Gene Rodemich

Gene Rodemich was a fine orchestra leader and piano player who worked in the 20s and 30s. His band included many great musicians of the time, and he became well-known for his involvement in early animation. He provided the music for over 100 cartoons. Here is a marvelous recording by his band of an old […]
Read More

Jan 17 2022

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Many have speculated about the origins of the musical saw. The Hyde Park Herald, August 27, 1926 included this article explaining how it all happened: “First ‘Musical Saw'” “The idea of extracting music from such an unlikely medium as an ordinary steel saw is said to have originated more than thirty years ago in Argentina. […]
Read More

Dec 4 2021

How to prepare for a recording gig by David Weiss

How to prepare for a recording gig by David Weiss Over the years, I have played on close to 100 major motion picture soundtracks and quite a few television soundtracks and jingles. In addition, as a side musician, I’ve played on dozens of CD’s. Most of those gigs have been an oboe and or English […]
Read More

Nov 25 2021

Dr. Who and the Musical Saw

The television show Dr. Who has been around in various forms since the 1960’s. It’s about a character named Dr. Who, who travels the universe in his TARDIS, saving people from bad guys and making friends across time. The theme music was written by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire in 1963, and it sounds remarkable in this […]
Read More

Oct 15 2021

The Addam’s Family Saw! Happy Halloween!

I’ve posted this in the past, but it’s worth posting again. Enjoy! One of the best saw players in the world is the marvelous Gladys Hulot from France. She is also a great theremin player and artist. Her videos are fun and creative, and here, you can see her play two instruments, the saw and […]
Read More

Aug 27 2021

History of the Santa Cruz Saw Festival

Every August, the IMSA has a saw festival in Felton and Santa Cruz . It’s wonderful fun, and it’s been going for over 40 years now. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the pandemic, the festival has been cancelled the last two years. Hopefully, they will be back next year, but until then, you can watch […]
Read More

Jul 16 2021

Better Intonation For Dummies

The late David Weiss was a member of the L.A. Philharmonic and a celebrated oboe player. He was a regular participant in IMSA festivals, and helped many people learn to be better saw players. Luckily for all of us, he also wrote a regular column for the Saw Player News. Here is his column for […]
Read More

Jun 17 2021

Jules Lawrence: How To Amplify Your Saw

Amplification- Working out exactly how to amplify a saw can be quite tricky. However- down the ages I’ve hit on this combination which works pretty well in more or less any context. Playing from a seated position (obviously) I’ve got a short mic stand, the type used to mic up bass drums, to my right […]
Read More

May 11 2021

Passacaglia: Saw and Theremin Duet

Many saw players I meet started on the theremin and are able to play both instruments. This is probably because they can have similar sounds, so a person who enjoys the sound of a saw  might enjoy the sound of a theremin. Both instruments take great concentration to play. An exceptional theremin and saw player […]
Read More

Apr 25 2021

Play It Again, René! More Instructions!

If you want to learn to play the saw, it’s great to check out all the instructional resources you can find. Believe it or not, there are quite a few manuals, videos, and books that will help you learn to play the saw. The Forest Historical Society has an interesting set of saw playing instructions […]
Read More

Mar 22 2021

Markee de Saw: A Little Burlesque!

The musical saw and burlesque don’t usually appear in the same sentence, but here you can see a fun burlesque  performance by Markee De Saw. She’s from Glasgow, Scotland, and she’s singer, saw player, and cabaret performer. Here, she plays a great version of “Moon River,” always a musical saw favorite. She is a trained […]
Read More

Feb 17 2021

“Minor Waltz” and the Asylum Street Spankers

The Asylum Street Spankers were a great band from Austin who played a lot of Tin Pan Alley types of songs. They have disbanded, but you can still buy their recordings and see their videos on YouTube. They have a great old-timey sound. The band was founded by Christina Mars and Guy Forsyth. In this […]
Read More

Jan 14 2021

Golden Snake Dance In Spring

I don’t know much about this group, but their performance is amazing. This is one of the best musical saw videos I have seen. The Golden Snake Dance is often part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. The Chinese New Year is still a month away, but that gives you an entire month to enjoy […]
Read More

Nov 20 2020

Autumn Leaves and a Pediatrician

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about having a blog is learning about all the unexpected places the saw shows up. There are many amateur saw players around the world, in a variety of other professions. I’ve learned about saw playing photographers, actors, ministers, and construction workers. These musicians play the saw for fun and […]
Read More

Nov 8 2020

Good Advice From An Expert

I have posted about our friend and IMSA president Morgan Cowin who sadly passed away this year, but his saw playing legacy lives on. Here is his handbook on how to play the musical saw. There are quite a few online saw playing resources, but most of them are videos, and it’s nice to have […]
Read More

Sep 25 2020

Meeting In The Air

Here’s a wonderful song by saw player John King. Mr. King was a missionary who had a full life, sharing his faith around the world. He was an excellent saw player and participated in the New York City Saw Festival in 2009. There are quite a few videos of him playing the saw, but I […]
Read More

Sep 20 2020

Life On Mars

For your listening pleasure, here’s another video of hYrtis playing the lame sonore. She is an exceptional theremin player and you can see many of her theremin  videos on Youtube. She is also one of our favorite saw players at Saw Notes, and here in this video, you can see her play “Life On Mars” […]
Read More

Aug 26 2020

I Wish I Died In My Cradle

The saw shows up in old country songs, and here’s a great Soundie by Tom Emerson’s Mountaineers, “I Wish I Died In My Cradle.” There’s not a lot of information about them, but they seem to have done most of their recordings in the late 1930s and early 1940s and produced a few Soundies. In […]
Read More

Aug 8 2020

“Dear Old Pal of Mine”

Last spring, guest author Brad Kay wrote a marvelous biography of saw player Sam Moore for our blog. You can read it here. In the post, you can hear a recording of “The Last Rose Of Summer” played by Sam Moore. He made quite a few beautiful saw recordings, including “Dear Old Pal of Mine” […]
Read More

Jul 15 2020

Our Saw-Playing Friend, Morgan Cowin

Bay Area saw player, Morgan Cowin, has passed away this summer. Morgan was an excellent saw player, photographer, teacher, and friend. He was well-known in the Bay Area folk music community and often gave workshops at folk music festivals. He was the president of the International Musical Saw Association for many years, and won first […]
Read More

Jul 5 2020

Johnny Marvin and His Musical Saw

Johnny Marvin was one of the most popular entertainers of the 1920s and 30s. He recorded many records in the 20s, under his own name and many other pseudonyms. He is a member of the Ukulele Hall of Fame, and the Harmony Company of Chicago named a ukulele after him. He also worked closely with […]
Read More

Jun 13 2020

Just A Closer Walk

The musical saw is a great instrument for hymns. The saw has always been a popular instrument in churches because they are inexpensive and can be carried from place to place. Many an itinerant preacher traveled with a saw. Church music is part of the history of the musical saw. Here is a nice rendition […]
Read More

May 22 2020

Tim Martin: Saw Player Extraordinaire

Tim Martin is one of the best saw players in the US and the world. He lives in Ormond Beach, Florida. Ten years ago he saw a friend playing the saw with a screwdriver and the rest is history. He taught himself to play by watching YouTube videos, and last year, he was one of […]
Read More

May 7 2020

Jimmie Rodgers: Home Call

    Since I started listening to saw players, I’ve come across a lot of surprisingly beautiful music. The saw is often considered a novelty instrument, and for that reason, sometimes the musical skill of the sawyer can be a bit underdeveloped ( I include myself in that group). Happily, however, there are saw players […]
Read More

Apr 14 2020

Online Master Class by Eric Jon Johnson

One of the finest saw players I have met is Eric Jon Johnson from California. Not only is he an excellent saw player, but he is also a fine craftsman who specializes in making musical saws. I had the pleasure of visiting his workshop a couple of years ago, and one thing I noticed is […]
Read More

Mar 3 2020

Smiley Burnett and the Musical Saw

   Gene Autry on guitar with Smiley Burnett on accordion Gene Autry was one of the most popular movie cowboys of all time, and one of the reasons for his success was his friendly sidekick, Smiley Burnett. Smiley was born Lester Alvin Burnett in 1911, and he died in 1967. Autry and Burnett met in 1933 […]
Read More

Feb 11 2020

Jackie Jones: San Francisco’s Saw Player

Last month, San Francisco lost Jackie Jones, saw player and long-time resident of the city. She was 93 years old. She played at the Alemany Farmer’s Market for many years. Jackie was a talented woman who played many instruments besides the saw, including the accordion and the guitar. She lived in Florida and New Orleans […]
Read More

Jan 21 2020

Buying and Playing a “Real Saw”

The late, great sawyer David Weiss had a regular advice column in the International Saw Association newsletter. These articles offer wonderful advice for players of all skill levels. Here’s an excerpt from an article from 2003. Many thanks to Rodney Blacklock for his permission to reprint this. “Many of us saw players like to help beginners […]
Read More

Jan 2 2020

Hallelujah! It’s a Saw!

Charles Calvin Mourer was an evangelist during the 1920s-40s. He was an itinerant preacher who traveled and preached extensively in the Midwest, especially through Ohio and Michigan. He played the trombone, the guitar and the musical saw, which, for some reason, he sometimes called the saw-phone. The saw was a popular instrument for small churches […]
Read More

Dec 16 2019

Frosty and the Saw

Last year we featured an interview with Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel in a Christmas blog post. Well this year, we are featuring Mr. Koster playing “Frosty the Snowman” from his album entitled The Singing Saw At Christmastime. The album is a marvelous collection of twelve classic Christmas songs including “O Holy Night,” “Oh […]
Read More

Nov 30 2019

Gospel and the Sunday Morning Saw

The musical saw has always been a popular instrument in churches because saws are inexpensive and they have a beautiful other-worldly sound. In addition, saws are easy to carry from place to place for revivals. Rural churches have often been one of the most common places to hear a saw, and happily, for us the […]
Read More

Nov 5 2019

Satie and the Saw

Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies were published in the late 1880s. I’ve always loved Satie’s compositions, and I’ve always wondered what a “gymnopedie” was. Supposedly, the term refers to young men in ancient Sparta who participated in a celebration of athletics and martial arts. These compositions don’t remind me of anything that rigorous, but they do have […]
Read More

Oct 3 2019

How to Find a Saw Handle or “Cheat”

One of the big decisions a saw player must make is whether to use a saw handle or “cheat” on the end of the saw when playing. Some professional saws, such as the French lame sonore, are very thick steel and require a handle in order to bend the instrument, but for most saws, a […]
Read More

Sep 23 2019

Crickets and Saws

David Coulter is a musician and composer who lives in the Bay Area. He plays many different instruments, including the didgerido and the saw. He’s a marvelously talented composer and director. In this video you can hear him play a piece he wrote on the theme of sustainability, and he plays saw along with the […]
Read More

Aug 23 2019

42nd Annual Saw Festival: The winner is…

The second weekend of August is always the time for the International Musical Saw Festival, the longest running saw festival in the world. The festival is free, and there is a contest open to saw players of all skill levels. This year’s festival was great fun, with players from all over the country and a […]
Read More

Jul 27 2019

Fishtank Ensemble

Fishtank Ensemble is an interesting group based in Los Angeles that plays a variety of styles including gypsy, flamenco, and rock and roll. Ursula Knudsen is the saw player and singer in these marvelous videos. She’s a talented saw player and her singing blends beautifully with the saw.  Listen to the group when you need […]
Read More

May 20 2019

You Are Invited To The Musical Saw Festival In August!

Everyone is invited to the 42nd International Musical Saw Festival! The festival’s main event begins at 10 am Sunday, August 11, at Roaring Camp in Felton, California. The world’s greatest saw players will join other acoustic musicians in a variety of musical performances. You’ll hear bluegrass, country, folk, gospel, blues, classical works, and show tunes […]
Read More

May 5 2019

Mother Machree

Last spring, guest author Brad Kay wrote a marvelous biography of saw player Sam Moore for our blog. You can read it here. In the post, you can here a recording of “The Last Rose Of Summer” played by Sam Moore. Here’s another beautiful song, “Mother Machree.” In this recording, Moore is playing saw with […]
Read More

Apr 15 2019

Jake Heggie and Earthrise

Jake Heggie is an American composer who has written a variety of classical pieces, including operas, choral works and chamber works. His opera Moby Dick is one of my favorites. In 2017, he wrote a chamber piece called “Earthrise: December 24, 1968 for Musical Saw and String Quartet.” It’s unusual to find pieces that are […]
Read More

Mar 23 2019

The World’s Shortest Saw Lesson

Here’s the world’s shortest saw lesson. If you don’t know about the musical saw and just want to see how it works, watch this short video. It’s a great overview of what you need to make a sound to start playing. It’s a good idea to start out with a small hammer or even a […]
Read More

Mar 11 2019

Tom Waits and Don Neely!

I’ve always been a big fan of Tom Waits, so it’s no surprise that I’d find one of his songs included a saw. Waits is a great singer and songwriter. He’s been recording and writing since the early 1970’s. His music is a sort of combination of jazz and blues, but his songs always have […]
Read More

Feb 27 2019

Killer Warren Waid: Somewhere My Love

I haven’t been able to find out much about Killer Warren Waid, but he played the saw and the electric guitar and spent some of his time in Michigan during the 1970’s. He was a fine saw player, and he played old-timey music, accompanying dulcimer players on his electric guitar. Here is a recording of […]
Read More

Jan 17 2019

Flexo Disc Saw Duet: Old Folks At Home

Mussehl and Westphal is one of the oldest musical saw makers in the United States. They have been making beautiful saws since 1921, and in the old days the company produced small records on the Flexo label to advertise their product. These records were small flexible plastic records, and they came in a variety of […]
Read More

Jan 6 2019

Towed in a Hole

I’ve always been a big fan of Laurel and Hardy, and Towed In A Hole is one of my favorite shorts. As is usual in many of their films, Stan gets in trouble with Ollie, and in this story, Stan is sent “to his room” where he ends up fooling around with a saw. You […]
Read More

Dec 17 2018

Happy Holidays from R.O. Blechman

During the 1960s, CBS took the time to wish the audience happy holidays. This is a beautiful spot by animator and illustrator R. O. Blechman. Blechman is an animator, cartoonist, graphic novelist, and illustrator. The musical saw in the spot is a sweet symbol of peace and the holiday spirit. Blechman was inducted into the […]
Read More

Dec 10 2018

The Singing Saw At Christmastime

Julian Koster is a member of Neutral Milk Hotel and is known for using the musical saw on many of their records. The band was popular in the 1980’s, and they were known for their experimental instrumental pieces. In 2008 Koster appeared on NPR and was interviewed about his playing. This is an interview with […]
Read More

Nov 22 2018

“Turkey In The Straw” with Charlie Blacklock

Charlie Blacklock spent his life promoting the musical saw. He produced musical saws, started the International Musical Saw Festival, and taught hundreds of people how to play. He passed away in 2008, but as a result of his enthusiasm for the saw, the musical saw is now as popular as ever. His saws are a […]
Read More

Oct 2 2018

Francisca Braga Plays “Empty House”

October is the time for ghosts and vampires and saws. Francisca Braga, a sawyer from Brazil, plays the song “Empty House” in this beautiful, haunting video. The blade of the saw is used in the beginning like a mirror to give a reflected view of Francesca while she plays among the spiders and trees. She […]
Read More

Sep 22 2018

Adriano Fernandez and “Misty”

“Misty”was written by Erroll Garner in 1954 and was a big hit for Johnny Mathis. It was also a big hit for Ella Fitzgerald. This is a great version of “Misty” performed by Adriano Fernandez, a talented pianist and saw player. You can hear Ella Fitzgerald sing it too in the second video and notice […]
Read More

Aug 15 2018

Wish You Were Here: The IMSA Festival

This past weekend was the 41st annual International Musical Saw Association festival in Felton, California. The festival was started by Charlie Blacklock, and his family continues the tradition every year. It’s in a beautiful spot called Roaring Camp, in the redwoods of California with steam trains, gold panning, blacksmiths, barbecue, and of course, the annual […]
Read More

Jul 21 2018

Standby For Saws!

Standby magazine was published by WLS radio in Chicago during the 1930’s. The magazine included interviews with radio stars, and a schedule of the radio shows including the very popular radio show National Barn Dance. Farmers and relocated farmers made up much of the audience during a time when many people were moving from rural […]
Read More

Jul 12 2018

How to Compete in a Saw Contest

  Saws For The Competition   It’s fun to get in touch with other saw players, and one way to do this is to go to a saw competition or festival, but how do you find a festival or a competition? The best way is to join a saw group or a saw players Facebook […]
Read More

Jun 30 2018

“Darling Nelly Gray” and Dwight Hawkins

Here is the talented multi-instrumentalist Dwight Hawkins from Raleigh, North Carolina with the Piedmont Highballers. This is a marvelous performance of a great old song. As you watch Dwight play, you see he bows his saw and uses the bow for percussion, almost like a washboard. He knows a lot about jug band music and you can […]
Read More

Jun 21 2018

Natalia Paruz, The Saw Lady!

You can’t be a fan of the musical saw and not be familiar with marvelous Natalia Paruz, the “Saw Lady.” She lives in New York and plays saw in subways, orchestras, and on radio, television, and movies. Chances are, if you hear the saw in a commercial, it’s Natalia Paruz! In addition to the saw, she […]
Read More

Jun 10 2018

Musical Saw Festival In Taiwan

Saw players from all over the world gathered in Taiwan in May 2018 for a saw festival, and you can watch it here, two and a half hours of the musical saw. There are some amazing acts. Beautiful!
Read More

May 30 2018

“Lamento Borincano” on the Saw

I have recently had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a sawyer from Puerto Rico, José A. Hernández Vélez. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture posted a video of him playing the saw on their webpage, and he graciously gave me permission to post the video here. The title of this song is “Lamento Borincano, ” and […]
Read More

May 25 2018

Faulkner and the Musical Saw

  Sometimes the musical saw shows up in unexpected places. I wouldn’t expect the saw to play a part in literature, but much to my surprise, the musical saw shows up in a short story by William Faulkner. Faulkner is one of my favorite writers. In 1925, when he lived in New Orleans, he published […]
Read More

May 16 2018

The Flatlanders: Dallas

I’ve always loved the Flatlanders and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s voice. This song “Dallas” is from their album More A Legend Than A Band, 1972. The album was first recorded in 1972 and rereleased in 1990. The saw part in this song is nice and simple, mirroring the harmonica part in places. The saw player on “Dallas”  is Steve […]
Read More

Apr 28 2018

A Visit To Songwood Instruments

One of the best parts of playing the saw is having the opportunity to meet all the other interesting people who play the saw. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet expert sawyer and saw maker Eric Jon Johnson, owner of The Musical Saw Shop, formerly known as Songwood Instruments. He lives […]
Read More

Apr 9 2018

Cheapsuit Serenaders: I’ll See You In My Dreams

No musical saw blog would be complete without a recording from Robert Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders. Robert Crumb is a cartoonist and lover of old-time music. The Cheapsuit Serneaders made three records in the 1970s, each one a lovely collection of old-time tunes. Many of these recordings include a saw. This particular song […]
Read More

Mar 30 2018

Jules Lawrence: Extended Playing Techniques

Extended Techniques — Ramblings in My Lunch Break at the Music Shop General wisdom is that the saw is played with a violin or cello bow, a drum beater or- in some cases- a small, soft-headed hammer (Champaign cork on a stick anyone?). The effect of this is to vary the attack of each note- […]
Read More

Mar 24 2018

Jim Leonard: Scratch My Back

Scratch My Back: A Pictorial History of the Musical Saw and How to Play It  is one of the only books written about the musical saw. It was written by sawyer Jim Leonard with Janet Graebner and was published in 1989. The book includes chapters on the history of the saw, saw players, and instructions […]
Read More

Mar 13 2018

A Voice Like A Saw

The musical saw is often compared to the human voice, and that’s part of its charm. It isn’t often, however, that singers’ voices are compared to a musical saw. The Dezurik Sisters are an exception. The Dezurik Sisters, Mary Jane and Carolyn, were stars on WLS The National Barn Dance radio show in the 1930’s. They […]
Read More

Mar 12 2018

Saws and Carrots

The saw can be a beautiful instrument in the hands of an expert, and Jean-Claude Welche is  a real expert. You can listen to him play in this video. Mr. Welche plays a variety of instruments including some he makes himself. In the second video here, he makes a pan flute out of carrots and a […]
Read More

Mar 8 2018

Guest Author Jules Lawrence! How to Transport Your Saw

Now here’s an irony which has amused me for some time- how to transport one’s beloved saw or saws. Firstly you want the things safe and protected, ideally with a handle which makes them easy to carry. Secondly- in these days of paranoia the saw cold easily be construed as an offensive weapon &, at […]
Read More

Mar 6 2018


Part of the fun of playing the saw is making music from something unexpected. And dangerous! I can’t think of any other instrument that can cut off an arm. I know a violin player who has a permanent mark under her chin, and I’ve heard of oboe players having blood vessel damage from blowing into […]
Read More

Mar 3 2018

Rachmaninoff on the Saw?

When I was young, I took singing lessons for a while, and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” was one of the pieces my teacher wanted me to learn. I failed miserably. “Vocalise” is difficult for the same reason that it is beautiful. It wanders here and there in a relaxed and magical way. And it is the […]
Read More

Feb 26 2018

Poor Butterfly

Here’s Andy McCormick playing “Poor Butterfly” on the saw along with the wonderful organist Mike Grandchamp. One of the tricks to sounding nice on the saw is finding the right songs to play, and this song is perfect. This was filmed at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can watch a clip of […]
Read More

Feb 25 2018

The Reason For Rosin

You should always use rosin on your bow before you play the saw. Rosin comes from pine trees and other conifers, and it is collected like maple syrup, from small taps in the trees. Each rosin company has it’s own unique recipe and mixes the rosin with other ingredients. The rosin is then sold in […]
Read More

Feb 21 2018

A Dog’s Life

Here’s a clip from Charlie Chaplin’s movie “A Dog’s Life,” a silent movie from 1918. The soundtrack includes a saw. I think the saw works well with all the crying. The music was composed by Chaplin himself, who specifically indicated that the passages should be played by a saw. You can find out more about […]
Read More

Feb 18 2018

Let’s have an octave! Or Two! Or Four!

One of the advantages of playing a musical saw over a regular handsaw is the wider octave range. A sawyer can usually only play about one octave on a regular small handsaw, but a longer musical saw, 28 to 30″, can easily produce two octaves. In France, they have have a type of saw known […]
Read More

Dec 16 2017

Saw Player of the Month: Andy McCormick

One of my favorite saw players is Andy McCormick. He lives in Minnesota and plays in a duo called Dreamland Faces. You can’t go wrong listening to any of his recordings. Here he is playing Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” Have a listen…  
Read More

Nov 18 2017

Buzzed Bowing

Bowing on the saw, like anything, gets easier with practice. One of the problems for many people when starting out is unintentionally creating an unpleasant buzzing sound when bowing. This can be worse when bowing the lower notes. You can correct this by bowing a little faster or slower. Buzzing can also be caused by […]
Read More

Oct 20 2017

No Suits Required!

There’s nothing inherently musical about a saw, and we don’t usually think of music when we think of hand tools, but it is possible to make beautiful music on a hand saw. In order to do this, you simply need a handsaw, a bow or a hammer, and a little patience. You can play a […]
Read More

Aug 21 2017

Bows, Bows, Bows

  In order to play the saw, you need a hammer, a mallet, or a bow. It can be easier to start with a small hammer, but part of the fun of playing the saw is being able to make the lovely glissando, so most people like to play with a bow. There are many […]
Read More

Jul 26 2017

The Weaver Who?

According to the Mussehl & Westphal website, Clarence Mussehl was inspired to make musical saws after seeing the Weaver Bothers perform in 1919. But who were the Weaver Brothers? During their time, there were very popular, and they worked with many famous acts such as Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, and Roy Rogers. Leon Weaver […]
Read More

Jul 20 2017

Was Tom a Sawyer?

As far as I know, Tom Sawyer didn’t play a saw, but “sawyer” is a term used by some to refer to people who play the saw. The term usually refers to people who work sawing wood, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, before that, the term was sawer. I have no idea why […]
Read More

Jul 6 2017

My Wild Irish Saw

Mussehl and Westphal is a popular musical saw company that has been around since the 1920’s. According to their website, Clarence Mussehl, after hearing the Weaver brothers perform in 1919, decided he wanted to develop a musical saw. Mussehl and Westphal advertised in many magazines in the 1920’s, and at the height of their popularity they […]
Read More

Jun 21 2017

Saw and Organ

Enjoy this video of a musical saw and a barrel organ. If you have time, check out the websites listed at the end of the video. The Musee Baud is in Switzerland and looks like a marvelous little place full of rare music boxes and automata. And the saw player, Jean-Claude Welche, plays many unusual […]
Read More

Jun 4 2017

What About The Knees?

One of the first challenges when learning to play the saw is deciding how to hold it. There are several techniques. Most players hold the saw between their knees. Some people cross their ankles, and some simply hold their knees close with the saw between them. Some people play standing with the saw held between […]
Read More

May 11 2017

Curves Ahead!

In order to get a sound out of the saw, you must be able to bend it a little and create a slight S-curve in the blade. This is one of the benefits of using a saw that is specifically made for music. Musical saws are thinner steel than regular work saws, and so they […]
Read More

May 1 2017

More on our saw playing friend, Ford Hanford…

Popular Science included an article about Ford Hanford and his saw in their May 1921 issue: How Music Is Produced From A Saw “Go to the tool box and get your saw. Perhaps it is a musical one! And there is no sound sweeter than that which can be drawn from the right kind of […]
Read More