A saxophone ligature is a device that holds the reed against the table (flat part) of the mouthpiece. Most people wouldn’t think this is that big of a deal, I mean how hard is it to use something to make the reed stay against the mouthpiece? You could use a rubber band if push came to shove. Nevertheless, as all things in our society, the issue is made more complicated by modern marketing! It might be sales and marketing hype, but you can’t go long as a sax player before you start hearing the talk about ligatures………..Ligature A will allow the reed to vibrate more freely. Ligature B will allow the higher overtones in the sound to ring. Ligature C only contacts the reed in such a way as to allow unparalleled sound production. Ligature D will make your altissimo notes just pop out with little to no effort. Ligature E will make your tone richer. Ligature F will make your sound more vibrant and alive. Ligature G will make more reeds play better………..It goes on and on……….
Obviously, if you look at the picture you can tell that I have either fallen for the hype or I believe there are difference that can be perceived when using different ligatures. For the photo, I rounded up all my tenor,alto and clarinet ligatures ( I forgot to include my soprano saxophone ligatures). In total I have about 46 ligatures for those instruments. It made me a bit sick to do it, but I calculated a quick estimate of what these have cost me over the years. Are you ready………..1750.00 (Excuse me a moment while I cry………….although this is nothing compared to how much I’ve spent on reeds in the last 30 years!). Obviously, that is a lot of money! Do ligatures make a difference? Well, even if they don’t, I have to believe they do just to justify my money spent and not feel like a total fool.
You might think it is hogwash but I do feel and notice a difference in the way different ligatures allow the reed to vibrate. Some of these differences can be perceived by the listener and some of them can only be felt by the player himself. I have played ligatures that have made the tone darker, brighter, richer, hollower, more focused, more spread, constrained, brittle, buttery, louder and softer. Now some of these words are thoughts that only I have had and could perceive. Others are thoughts and words that others have heard when I played a certain ligature. The end result for me is that I do feel the ligature makes a difference. At times it might be subtle and not heard by the listener but if it is felt or heard by the player then it can make a big difference in how that player hears their sound and how they perform.
Now I can go into an analysis of what each ligature does and how it changes the response or sound (I will probably do this in the future) but in the end all these descriptions are totally subjective. You have to play each ligature yourself and judge for yourself. It is much like my mouthpiece reviews and clips. I can give my opinion and view on a given mouthpiece but in the end you have to play it for yourself and form your own opinion.
Anyways, let’s put this to a vote!
Does a ligature make a difference? (Poll Results)
- Yes, it’s important to find the right one! (62%, 160 Votes)
- Yes, but it is slight. Don’t waste your money. (29%, 76 Votes)
- I have no idea………… (7%, 17 Votes)
- No, no difference whatsoever. Use whatever is cheap! (2%, 7 Votes)
Total Voters: 260