Can anyone help me figure out my violin bow for my non-violin instrument?

February 7, 2013 at 06:27 PM · Obviously I wouldn't turn to a violin forum normally for help with a musical instrument that wasn't a violin, but, surprise surprise, there isn't a lot of places to troubleshoot musical saws, and I think my problem is actually one of rosin and bow anyway. I am desperate! I find when I play that I get a horrible squeaking. No matter how I bow, it happens. I can reduce it sometimes, but it is distracting and annoying. After reading on this forum I think the problem may be rosin. I use Super Sensitive Dark Violin Rosin right now and not very much of it. Can anyone suggest a violin rosin that would be better for this purpose? Do you guys think that a thicker rosin for, say, a cello would be better, even though I play the saw with a violin bow? I hope someone can shed light on this.

Replies (22)

February 7, 2013 at 06:36 PM · Sorry but I do not play the saw and my father was a percussive saw player. I think he preferred Ball-Peen.

There seems to be a bit on the web for example click here


Pat T.

Edit: As a follow-up when I bought my first violin in 1990 it was worked on at a shop that sadly is no longer part of Austin. One thing that I just remembered was that on one my of my visits I noticed a gold colored saw in the shop. Richard of Richard's Violin Shop told me that it was made as a musical saw, so there must have been a market for concert quality saws at one time. Personally I have no clue about his seriousness. It was priced (can't remember the amount) but I was looking for a mute that day, not a saw.

There does appear to be someone specializing in this area:

February 7, 2013 at 07:25 PM · Perhaps at least a cello or double bass bow would do with dark rosin for more friction.

I have never tried it myself, and am just assuming that you will need more energy to excite the steal. Who knows? You may end up with a viola bow.

Try before you buy.

February 7, 2013 at 09:16 PM · Try a Disston 22" rip saw. Be sure it has a tapered back. Most mass- produced hand saws these days have constant thickness and are stamped from sheet metal.

Hit the edge with linear strokes of 400-grit wet/dry paper, to give it some grab.

Be prepared to take a file to the thing, to tune it. And be sure you degrease the doggone thing. Oil and rosin don't mix.

All that said, I have gotten saws to sing, but I'd much rather be able to cut wood with them.

February 7, 2013 at 11:34 PM · I know you are new to this site, but when you ask a question that people ask ALL the time, it makes very boring. How many times can you go over rosin for your bow and saw? You should search the board for the answer to your problem before you post your question.

jk- this should win a prize for weirdest question!

Could you also post a video of you playing? How does one even do that?

February 7, 2013 at 11:47 PM · This is actually pretty cool... :)

To "answer" the OP question, it's tremendously complex. A lot of people say that Baker's rosin is really good for the violin. But a saw? I'd try a bunch and see. Hopefully you know some violinists that you could borrow a little rosin from to see what you think.

Saw video

February 8, 2013 at 12:57 AM · My cello teacher played the saw as a party piece. He used one of his cello bows, but I don't know about the rosin.

February 8, 2013 at 02:33 AM · I'll admit I'm behind the times but what is a saw?

February 8, 2013 at 02:33 AM · Sorry, double post.

February 8, 2013 at 02:34 AM · What an old saw (idiom).

Is Petr Dopita using a baroque bow it that saw video?

That's what it looks like to me.

Bev in this case the OP is referring to something you usually use to cut a piece of wood with.

Eugenia, actually I don't think the OPs problem is necessarily rosin, I think it is technique. Have to find that sweet spot. Watch the video. Each pitch has a different contact point for the bow, or mallet in my dad's case.


Pat T.

Just found a nice video: Musical saw tutorial!

February 8, 2013 at 12:52 PM · Re-hair the bow maybe?

February 8, 2013 at 12:59 PM · I just looked at the video on It sounds remarkably similar to a human soprano -- rather haunting, but quite beautiful.

February 8, 2013 at 02:00 PM · I definitely think you ought to try a heavier bow and stickier rosin, perhaps double bass rosin.

February 10, 2013 at 06:20 PM · I am a violinist who also occationally plays the musical saw. I have tried various bow and rosins for the saw. I bought a double bass bow just for this purpose, but have found a cello bow to be better - the bass bow was too heavy for my taste. I use a very sticky double bass rosin though. I think the bow used in the video by Petr Dopita is an Erhu bow. The squeaking may come from bowing in the wrong place - you have to move the bow towards the tip of the saw as you go higher. It may also have to do with too low bowing speed. The specially made musical saws are easier to play than a saw from the hardware store since they are more flexible. There are several makes available. I bought mine from Thomas Flinn & Co. in the UK. To see some first class saw (and cello!) playing look for Austin Blackburn:

I highly recommend making a sort of handle like Austin is using in this video - it saves the thumb a lot of pain.

February 11, 2013 at 03:28 AM · Here's a thought:

Instead of trying to figure out current knowledge, try and do a bit of new development?

First, find out how to clean the bow between trials; I think mineral spirits may be a good option. Another would be alcohol, but you may waste some bow hair.

Second, buy some bow hair of different qualities.

Third, create a frame (not a bow) with a clamp at each end you can easily use to grasp the hair. A longer bar clamp may be the thing; it gives you the opportunity to stretch the hair to different tensions.

Fourth, try different rosins and pitch compounds, cleaning the hair between.

Any that show promise above a basic level save for the next round.

Finally, by this time, you should have a feel for what will clean the hair, which hair may be the better hair, and which products on the hair make the better sounds.

It is now time to try on real bows.

With this testing, you should be able to become a master of saw bows, and sell your knowledge to all the up and coming sawyers.

February 11, 2013 at 02:10 PM · An advanced-fiddler friend at music camp is rather adept at musical saw :) He bought the saw from a catalog, maybe Elderly? He uses a fractional cello bow. I think 1/2 size, though it's been a while. He only draws the bow from frog to tip. Guess it doesn't work to bow both ways.

February 12, 2013 at 11:21 PM · Sure you can bow in both directions. The trick is to control the angle of the bow to the plane of the sawblade: When playing upwards (that is from the frog towards the tip - unsure wether to call that upbow or downbow ;-) the angle of the bow to the sawblade should be less than 90 degrees. And when playing from the tip towards the frog the angle should be larger than 90 degrees. In other words when bowing tip-to-frog you have to move your hand further away from your body. Think of the two corners of the edge you are bowing; the bow should be on the edge in the travelling direction. When moveing the bow up it should be on the upper edge. You can see Austin Blackburn doing just that in this video:

February 13, 2013 at 12:04 AM · In consideration of what bow to use you will note earlier I noticed that Petr Dopita (link) appears to be using a Baroque Bow.

Now I has found this video of Sakita Hajime (link) and he is using a bow I cannot identify. It definitely looks like it might actually have been made specifically for this technique.

Anyone recognize this bow.

February 13, 2013 at 05:55 PM · Emily, have you tried a heavier bow? I have seen a performer on the saw using a bass bow. Bass rosin might be a good idea, too. Pop's is the classic for bass, and it is much stickier than anything for violin. I think getting the saw blade to vibrate would be more similar to bowing a big fat bass string than to a violin string.

February 16, 2013 at 05:07 AM · Asked my husband, who is a pretty good saw player. He makes the following points:

The squeaking is probably not your equipment, but your level of experience. It is not enough to bend the saw correctly for each note, you must also bow in the exact place for each one. If you bow in the wrong place, it squeaks.

He uses a fractional bow, a very inexpensive 1/16th size, so the bow is extremely light. Having gotten the idea of a light bow, he worked his way down in stages.

He uses an ordinary rosin (I think it's Hill's dark) and he uses it in abundance. He says the pro saw players use even more than he does, but he has carefully dressed the edge of the saw to scrape less off.

I'm quite fond of the saw myself; well-played it is entrancing.

February 27, 2013 at 06:23 AM · This is all very helpful and good to read! I am taking everyone's suggestions into account. Thank you for the warm welcome and the advice!

March 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Sawyers (?) I've seen use a bass bow, with the "german" hold, i.e. palm upwards.

March 1, 2013 at 09:27 PM · In my experience the angle to the plane of the saw is not very critical. I normally aim for a 90 degrees angle. Regarding the bow hold it is almost like my violin bow hold only with the bow reversed and the thumb on to bottom of the frog.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Colburn School

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine