Geschichtliche Infos zur Singenden Säge

There are no hard-and-fast historical facts to back up the history of the musical saw. It is thought to have originated among forestry workers or lumberjacks.

Perhaps a forestry worker played the cello in his spare time and was familiar with using a bow. When a two-man saw (with a handle at each narrower end) sticks in a treetrunk during felling, a touch of the blade will cause it to vibrate and produce sounds quite similar to those of a musical saw. Of course it would have needed a little imagination to come up with the idea of using a bow to create these vibrations deliberately.

It is possible that a timber saw of this kind was first played using a beater or small hammer. Because large timber saws are hard to handle, 'players' may have decided to try the smaller crosscut saw.

Lumberjacks with 2-man saw, around 1880.
Lumberjacks with 2-man saw,
around 1880.

That was around 1880 or 1890.

The musical saw probably experienced its heyday in the 1920s. Used by circus clowns and other vaudeville and variety performers, its unusual, exotic tone was extremely popular.

In the 1940s, Marlene Dietrich played her way into the hearts of the public on a musical saw. Here is a YouTube audio clip of one of her appearances. (Click twice to play. A short interview comes first and the playing starts at 1:127).

Marlene Dietrich Singende Säge Youtube-Link

As anyone who has experienced a musical saw live knows, it is an unforgettable experience!