Saw Notes

A Resource for Musical Saw Enthusiasts

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- from the ‘swell in’ given by a bow through to the hard attack of a hammer strike. Its very much about personal playing style and context, though if anyone’s ever tried the Jack-Saw, made by index Drums (www.indexdrums.com) it pretty much necessitates using a beater due to how much they amplify any contact with the blade (very odd pieces of kit which take quite a bit of getting used to) .

I, however, was instructed in the way of the saw by the great David Coulter (davidcoulter.co.uk) & he was far more versatile in his approach to things. A mainstay of his set up was a large screwdriver- used either to hit the blade of be run up and down a saw’s teeth. The result is to add a cowbell and a washboard to the sounds available- and, in the case of hitting the face of the saw, it’s possible to  also ‘S bend’ and get a note in the sound as well. It is relatively straightforward to add an extra layer of percussion over a drummer- or build up a rhythm and be the band percussionist. One warning though- I’m on stage- the first song starts with ‘washboard effect then goes on to bowed saw; I’m holding both- I get momentarily confused- and nearly cut my bow in two by scraping the back of it down the- in those days- pretty sharp teeth of my saw. Oops…

One final one- I’ve been involved in sound tracking a couple of silent movies down the ages, always an interesting gig. This is where music and foley art seem to meet and, well- anything goes. Metal thimbles on one hand and drumming the blade creates a great sound –particularly with a bit of reverb… much fun to be had

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Jules

Jules from the south coast of the UK here. I’m, for want of a better term, a rock multi-instrumentalist specializing in various wind instruments- saxes, flute, harmonics, as well as the musical saw. While I’ve always been something of a jack-of-all-trades this has served me well down the ages- from Glastonbury through to the Vienna Jazz festival & The Barbican Centre in London….