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Ligatures: Part 2
Last week we discussed how buying saxophone equipment can be overwhelming. Why is this? There are only a few parts needed to play the saxophone:
- The saxophone itself
- The mouthpiece
- The ligature
- The neck strap
There are only 5 essential parts needed. In fact, everything (except for the reeds) on this list comes with a new saxophone purchase. Buy a new saxophone and some reeds, and you’re ready to go!
That would be too easy though. We as humans, are not satisfied with letting things be; we want to make improvements. So instead of a couple of different saxophone companies and a few reeds and mouthpieces, we have many options to choose from. As of today, wwbw.com carries the following items (and this is just one store!)
That is definitely overwhelming, considering we haven’t even discussed specifics such as size and strength. That easily places our options over 1000! No wonder it’s so overwhelming. No need to worry though; you have these posts to rely on, and you can ask for assistance anytime. Feel free to use the comment section below to ask!
So let’s make this simple and provide some specifics on ligatures!
I consider this the most basic ligature. Its main job is to do nothing but hold the reed to the mouthpiece. And with that, we have covered the beginner ligature. There’s nothing fancy about it. It just does it job. So if you’re a beginner and you’re looking for a ligature, the least expensive will do.
However, some of the cheap ligatures are made of metal and are not very durable. If you step on it, or apply any type of significant pressure, its best days may be done. Luckily, you can buy a new one for around $5.
Alternatively, you can buy a fairly inexpensive pro ligature that will last much longer and won’t matter if you step on it, or if it bends in your case (they’re made of leather). The brand recommended here, is Rovner. The Rovner Dark, or Rovner Light will work best.
Just like reeds, there really aren’t any ligatures that are going to be advertised as intermediate ligatures. It’s either a beginner ligature, or pro. Let’s talk about pro ligatures.
In contrast to the beginner ligatures, the pro ligatures are designed to do more. In addition to holding the reed on they are designed for:
- Playing jazz
- Playing classical
- Brighter tone
- Darker tone
- Crisp articulation
- Better response
- Clearer altissimo
- More flexibility
- Greater stability
And of course there are more items that could be mentioned on this list.
Making the Choice
If you are a beginner, I would recommend starting with a basic metal ligature (no brand name necessary). Usually a saxophone comes with a ligature, so there isn’t a need to rush out and purchase another (unless yours is bent).
You may wonder about the benefits from the list above and if you should consider such a ligature. A beginner won’t really notice a difference between the pro ligatures, so it’s best to wait until you can really appreciate the benefits. In addition, it will be easier at that point to make the best choice possible for you. But if you really want a pro ligature, it won’t hurt anything either.
Playing for 1 Year
If you have been playing for a year or so, you may be at a point where you could benefit from a pro ligature. In this case (like the shoe) you’ll want to decide what benefits you’re looking for in a ligature. However, all the companies boast similar benefits (according to their focus/style) so you’ll just have to try a few and see what “shoe fits”.
Recommended Pro Ligatures
Other Popular Ligatures
- Ultimate Ligature Francois Louis Saxophone Ligatures
- Theo Wayne
Here are some specific ligatures I recommend to my students:
- Vandoren Optimum Ligature (The all in one)
- Good for jazz and non-jazz/pop playing
- Contains multiple plates that provide varied contact points on the reed
- Between the 3 plates, this ligature is a good option for all styles
- BG Traditional (Great response)
- Great for non-jazz/pop playing
- Reeds vibrates easily, improving response and articulation
- Vandoren M/O (Superior stability)
- Great for non-jazz/pop playing
- However, some jazz players use this ligature
- A little darker than the BG, but provides more stability
Here’s the process for choosing a ligature:
- Understand what you’re looking for in a ligature
- Read the product description for the ligatures
- Use our suggestions and tips to help you decide
- Try as many as you can
No matter what you choose, you won’t choose poorly. For a beginner, the generic ligature will be all you need. If you choose a pro ligature, that is fine too. Either way, don’t let the huge selection of ligatures overwhelm you. Just get started and have fun!
Your Bonus Links!
Need the same type of recommendations for saxophones, reeds, and mouthpieces? Check out the following links to get started:
- Equipment Recommendations: Part 1
- Covers saxophones
- Equipment Recommendations: Part 2
- Covers mouthpieces
- Equipment Recommendations: Part 3
- Covers reeds
What ligature do you use? Feel free to share in the comment section, even if you don’t like yours. Join the conversation, as the whole community can benefit from the vast amount of experience among all of us.
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