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Musical saw

A musical instrument plucked from the toolshed, the musical saw is often a standard, manual wood-cutting saw. However, it is often the case that professional "sawyers" might opt for a custom-made musical saw, which tends to have a longer blade for a greater range, and thinner metal for sweeter notes.

Custom or no, the saw is played seated, with the handle squeezed between the legs, and the far business end held with one hand. The player creates sound by bending the saw into an lopsided S shape -- the top curve is imperceptible -- and drawing a bow across the bottom curve. The note produced depends on where one draws the bow, and the shape of the curves.

It is also possible to play this instrument by tapping it with a mallet rather than drawing a bow. A particular practioner in the late twentieth century was fond of substituting his harmonica for a mallet, thus being able to say that he was "playing the saw with the harmonica". However produced, the sound made has an eerie, vocal quality.

The musical saw can be considered a string instrument; however, playing it with a mallet makes it more like a percussion instrument. In either case, it is classified as an idiophone under the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification.



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