Will a Pro Ligature Make My Tone Better?

Saxophone Ligatures

A Few of Questions

  • How important is a good ligature?
  • Will it make or break your playing?
  • Does it just hold the reed on?

Answer

I’ll just state my opinion right up front:

The ligature is more than a clamp holding a reed to a mouthpiece; it makes everything easier- but not too much.

My First Experience

My first experience playing on a professional ligature resulted in a response of: Wow! Then, two weeks later the feeling was not as significant. Not that the ligature was less effective, but I got used to it. However, I would never go back to a generic ligature. What am I saying with all this back and forth? A good ligature can make your life easier and increase your potential for success, but for a true musician, if the ligature is taken away, the listener would never know the difference.

The Beginner

For the beginner, there really isn’t a need for a professional ligature. The results would be limited, and maybe unnoticeable to someone who hadn’t been playing on their setup for a long time. Plus, if you had a pro ligature from day 1, you probably wouldn’t have the “Wow!” experience. In addition, generic ligatures cost around $5 compared to some pro ligatures that can easily reach $60. But there is a time to step up- we’ll talk about that later.

What’s Easier/Better/Different?

Tone

You’ll notice that the tone is different-maybe it will be darker or brighter; it just depends on what you’re looking for and how the ligature is designed. There are some ligatures that create a darker sound, and others that are much brighter.

Response (how easily the note begins/plays)

The response can actually be better or worse compared to a generic ligature. How? Some ligatures are designed to make the saxophone respond easily, but others are designed to create a darker tone. Some of the darker ligatures produce their desired result, but at the sacrifice of response.

Articulation

With some ligatures, the articulation becomes crisper and your speed can jump up a few notches. This can also help your top speed potential increase too!

Altissimo

Playing altissimo is not as easy as the middle range of the saxophone, but the right ligature can increase your success with these challenging notes

Before Buying

First of all, what’s important to you? Do you want a dark sound, brighter sound, easy response, stability of tone? Before you start sifting through the myriad of ligatures available, come up with a couple of characteristics that are most important to you. To help you get started, here are 2 general tips to point you in the right direction.

Leather Ligature

Dampens the sound so the tone is not as bright, but ease of response may suffer. Contact points (where the ligature makes contact with the reed) will also play a role in response and tone.

Metal Ligature

A brighter tone, and a faster response. Contact points will also play a role in response and tone.

When Should You Step Up?

Technically you could step up anytime, but I would suggest waiting until after you’ve chosen your mouthpiece. Once you’re comfortable with your mouthpiece, and really have a feel for it, then it’s a good time to choose a ligature. Why? Because you’ll have the ability to discern the difference. Then again, if $50-$100 is no big deal, then buy a ligature now and if you don’t like it down the road, you can look for another one.

Brands

Here are a few suggestions for popular ligature brands:

  • Vandoren
  • Rovner
  • BG
  • Oleg

Thanks again for reading, and if you found this post helpful, please feel free to share or like this article. If you have any questions about ligatures, feel free to ask in the comment section. Have fun playing!

Comments 4

  1. Great post – honest and straight forward. I have played many ligatures from Rovner to stock Selmer, Francois Louis (looks like a bird cage!), to homemade velcro and more. Recently the Vandoren folks sent me one of their M/O ligatures and I have to say it is great. I get a super response from more reeds and the difference was noticeable instantly. I look forward to sharing this post with the members of dlp Sax Club. Cheers from Dallas!

  2. Dear Jeff,
    my ligature cames with my mouthpiece: an Otto Link “new vintage” 7*.
    It is a good one? Can I use another ligature brand with this mouthpiece?
    My tenor is a Yamaha 62-II and I use a Rico Jazz Selected reed.
    Thank you,

    Antonio M

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, there are multiple companies that make ligatures for the Otto Link. Go to a website online (like wwbw.com) and check out the options. If you have any question, let me know!

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