By Scott Langill

Marlene Dietrich and her musical saw

Marlene Dietrich and her musical saw

It’s time to start making your travel plans for the Musical Saw Festival in New York this July or the International Musical Sawplayers Festival in California this August. Technically classified as a friction idiophone, the sound of a hand saw as a musical instrument has been compared to a women’s voice or theremin. In America, the musical saw is also known as a whispering foil or flexatone. The French call it la lame musicale or la lame sonore and the Germans call it die singende Sage. Standard wood-cutting saws are often used by professional sawyers, although the range of an average hand saw is limited to one octave. So beyond your basic Stanley there are several companies that make specially crafted musical saws that are thinner, longer, and with more flexibility. The oldest name in the business is Mussehl & Westphal of Wisconsin, manufacturer of saws made of imported English steel since 1921. They’ve discontinued their gold-plated saws but you might find one on eBay. Dieter Schmid carries the Swedish Sandvik “Stradivarius” which is factory-tested by a symphony violinist. Sciemusicale in France sells a toothless (edentulous) singing blade with a range of three octaves. Feldmann singing saws are supposedly available from Pappnase & Co. but my German isn’t what it used to be. American Blacklock saws are available from Lark in the Morning and which also has tutorials and saw CDs. In addition to Marlene Dietrich, contemporary sawlady Natalia Paruz sells CDs and MP3s.

NYC Musical Saw Festival

International Musical Sawplayers Association Festival

Mussehl & Westphal

Dieter Schmid


Pappnase & Co.

Lark in the Morning

Marlene Dietrich: Aloha Oe

Natalia Paruz

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