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 page. There are saw competitions and festivals all over the world. This year (2018)  there is a contest in Santa Cruz in August (there’s one every August). There are festivals in Taiwan and South Africa, and there is a periodic festival in New York. In 2009, the New York Saw Festival broke the Guinness World record for the largest ensemble of saw players. Some of these festivals have contests and opportunities to perform. Even if you don’t want to compete, it’s fun to go and listen and meet other saw enthusiasts. If you decide you want to compete in a contest, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of winning a prize and having a good time.

The first thing to do is to try to have fun. After all, we play the saw. If you have stage fright when performing, like I do, remind yourself that people will be happy if you just get on stage. You can practice your song in front of friends, and you can also take advantage of meeting other saw players to improve your own playing. Think of the competition as an opportunity to participate and promote the saw. If it’s your first saw festival and you don’t want to perform, many festivals offer an opportunity for all the saw players to get on stage at the end of the festival and play a song or two together. There are also usually workshops that offer tips on how to improve your saw playing.

Another thing to consider for the competition is your song choice. If it’s your first competition, consider choosing a fairly easy song so you can relax. Some competitions have different categories of song such as novelty, jazz, gospel, tradition, and classical. Choose a category and then choose a song you like so you don’t mind practicing it a lot. Some of my favorite saw songs are traditional songs such as “Beautiful Dreamer,” “I Love You Truly,” and “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s a good idea to make a recording you can practice with and then practice your song a little every day, and then you will be ready when the time for the contest comes.

The judges in the contest are going to be looking at your overall performance, so keep that in mind. They will look for your playing skill but also your presence on stage. Some people wear costumes and bring props. And some people play with bows, while others play with mallets. Some play with both bows and mallets, alternating their technique. The judges will also consider your musical skills when evaluating the performances: Can you play in tune and in time? Do you have a good bowing technique and are you able to find the sweet spot on the saw every time or do you have some dud notes? Or places with no notes at all? Is your vibrato controlled and appropriate?

Remember that no one is perfect and if you have a bad day playing, you are still having a good time just by being there. I know that some days I can play fairly well, but other days I really struggle. Even the best players have days when they struggle to play well. The point is to enjoy yourself and the performances of the other players.

So! Find a contest and have a good time. To quote my sawyer friend Morgan Cowin, “You can do this!”


The International Musical Saw Festival, Chorus of Saws, 2013






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Rowena Southard, your blog hostess, is a musical saw enthusiast who lives in California. She loves all kinds of music and has a special fondness for unusual instruments.