Ligature

Get a grip

The ligature does more than

just hold the reed in place

 

If you think of the ligature as a helper to the mouthpiece its not just in its function of holding the reed firmly flat to the table. It has a very important accustical function as well. And luckely there is some logic as to how a sertain design sounds.

 

Different ligatures effect the sound in different ways. You can however devide ligatures into 3 different categories. Low Mass High contact, Medium mass Medium contact and High Mass low contact. They each bring different characteristics to the sound picture.

  • LOW MASS - high contact
  • MEDIUM MASS - medium contact
  • HIGH MASS - low contact

 

Here is a great little video, that shows the importance of having the reed seal completely to the table of the mouthpiece.

 

WAS THAT HELPFULL?

Think of it this way

Ligature

Get a grip and take a trip to the land of the ligature. It has an impact on your tone and overall sound, so go explore the possiblities

 

3 WAYS TO GO - WITCH IS THE ONE FOR YOU?

The ligature is what SATURATES the color of your sound. It frees or dampens certain areas of the dynamic range and adds or subtracts color to your palet.

 

WITCH COLOR IS YOUR SOUND?

Ligature designs

Lets analyze some well known ligatures and some not so known

Low Mass High contact ligatures like Charles Bay and Theo Wannes Brahma are made from very thin sheet material finely cut to elegant shapes to fit the mouthpiece. The Charles Bay comes in white or yellow gold plating and looks a million on your mouthpiece. Accustically it brings very much brightness to the palet especillay in the overtones. So it favors the top register because of the low mass. Touching 30-45 % of the mouthpiece does nothing but constrain the vibrations and lower the dynamic trange. These type of ligatues are well suited for LARGE chamber mouthpieces because they add top to a dark piece.

Medium Mass Medium contact are a classic kind of ligature. If you buy a Dukoff or Phil Barone it comes with a MMMC ligature. This design are probably the oldest and most widely used. They dont really add value to the sound of the mouthpiece - but lowers dynamic range from top to bottom. It just feels mellow and boxes the sound in not freeing the sound in any range. Because they touch about 25-30 % of the mouthpiece surface - they tend to lower the dynamics just as much. When you are looking for a signature sound these type ligatures you would want to avoid.

High Mass Low contact are a newer design that is developed to bring the best sound of a great mouthpiece out and free harmonics in all the range. These ligatures only touch about 2-3 % of the mouthpiece and lets the mouthpiece vibrate feeely. The SaxWorks DaVinci high mass ligature secures the reed firmly and brings ease of play to the low end of the saxophone. It ads volume the the sound without disturbing the ballance of the mouthpiece. There are a few good designs out there and I encourage you to try them out and feel the freedom they bring to your sound.

CHARLES BAY is a well known mouthpiece maker, and makes beautiful ligatures as well. This Low Mass - high contact ligature is made from very thin sheet brass only 0,25 mm thick. This ligature is Rodium plated (white gold) and has double screws that sit on top of the mouthpiece and not under the reed. It only weighs 12 grams witch makes it low mass. The surface is however large and the ligature comes in contact with the mouthpiece all 360 degrees arround. Making it a 360 contact radius ligature.

 

The low mass emphasizes the high notes and the overtone series in the upper register. The high contact lowers the dynamic range through out the register - but less than a MMMC ligature. The less material has a suttle effect but its however audible. Its not a classic high contact ligature because of all the cut outs, but its still in contact with the mouthpiece 360 degrees arround and that does effect the dynamic range.

THEO WANNE is known and respected for his great mouthpieces and is one of the few mouthpiece makers that actually designs ligatures to go with a sertain mouthpiece and often you are well of using the ligature that comes with the mouthpiece. This particullar ligature is from a Theo Wanne Brahma ebonite piece. The Brahma mouthpiece is a very dark and big sounding piece and it makes sense to put a low mass ligature as it emphasizes the high register, so the over all sound picture gets more ballanced and not just dark. Its made from 0.25 mm sheet brass and weighs only 6 grams making it one of the lightest. Its a one screw ligature and you can use it both ways: screw on top or screw below the reeed. It tends to support the reed best if screw is on top - but it sounds better if screw is below reed.

 

Its a very low mass ligature and the design is well thought out. If you turn the screw below the reed notice how the ring narrows and becomes thin. This actually helps play low notes more freely because of the lesser contact. However its still a 360 degrees contact radius ligature.

ROVNER is a ligature speciallist. They have produced ligatures for woodwind instruments for more than 40 years. Simple and easy to use design combined with a very durable product has made them very popular among players worldwide. Their design is a cross over from the low mass to the high contact. That creates an interesting ligature that is especially well designed for metal mouthpieces and does a very good job of balancing out the dynamic range. If played with an ebonite mouthpiece the sound gets very dark and does lower the dynamic range and limit the overtones. The ligature shown is made from synthetic fabric with a metal base plate insert and a one screw design. It weighs 26 grams.

 

Being a cross over ligature it also does bring something from the medium mass ligatures in terms of shear weight, but in terms of fit its a high contact ligature - not a 360 but 320 degree contact radius. Dark - yes and workes well with metal mouthpieces.

FRANCOIS LUIS Ultimate ligature was a new approach to design when it was introduced some 20 years ago. It is also in the cross over zone between the low mass and low contact. The weight is a mere 14 grams and the contact is as low as 8%. Being a low mass ligature enhances the high register and high overtones as well, but the low contact lets the mouthpiece vibrate more freely yet its still a 200 degrees contact radius because of the side tubes touching the lower end of the mouthpiece. Its a metal ligature and the direct contact with a metal mouthpiece will emphasize the high register, so this type of ligature works well on ebonite pieces.

 

It has tendency to sit very loose on the mouthpiece and easily fall of because of the low contact ratio. So if you like a very clear sound with lots of high overtones try out the FL ligature.

PHIL BARONE is best known for his great mouthpieces. This ligature s a classic Medium Mass Medium contact ligature. It brings very little to the palet. Its made of 0,6 mm thick brass plate that has been rosegold plated. Double screws for tightning. Its a 360 degrees contact radius ligature, but the design facilitates it only to be a medium contact design. Screws are designed to be under reed as most traditional ligatures are.

 

This design is as you can imagin very limited to ONE mouthpiece because of its design and very small margin for variation in mouthpiece radius. It often comes standard with a mouthpiece and a cap that fits. It has very litttle adjustment possibilites in terms of adjusting how the preasure is applied to the reed, so if you have a reed that does not fit the table of the mouthpiece just right - this type of ligature is of no use at all. Generelly you would be advised to leave the reed on the mouthpiece for its intire lifespan if you are using this type of ligature. The reed always marries the mouthpiece shortly after they meet - call it romantic or not. If readjusted you might end up with a non fitting reed.

SAXWORKS DaVinci High Mass Low contact is a brand new approach to ligature design. With its super low contact ratio of only 2% and as low as 20 % contact radius it almost orbits the mouthpiece as a satelite. Further more the rubber on the contact feet keeps the vibrations from the mouthpiece inside the mouthpiece and lets it vibrate freely in almost the full register. The freedom and ease of play is especially noticable in the lower end of the register. The rubber further more ads solid grip to the ligature holding the reed in place on metal and ebonite alike. The moste noticable difference is in the volume of the tone. Because ot the contact radius being only 20% the tone comes alive in a colorful palet of saturated tones.

 

The high mass adds to the low end of the dynamic rang. It emphasizes the low range without dampening the rest of the dynamic range. Works well on both ebonite and metal pieces. Ring is made of hand hammered solid 3mm brass. Support arms of 4 mm solid brass rods. It weighs 36 grams.