The purpose of the Saxophone Ligature is to allow a thin wooden sliver, known as a reed, to vibrate in a controlled way atop a mouthpiece. The Ligature is a specialized clamp that allows a reed to attach firmly to the flat region, or facing, of the mouthpiece.
Most mouthpieces are sold with a matching ligature, however, there are advantages to using separately-purchased mouthpieces and ligatures together. Be sure to play-test both together to ensure they fit securely with each other when combined with a reed.
Most ligatures are made of metal, leather, or plastic. Depending on the material, you will want to use either a woodwind cleaner or soap and water to clean it if it becomes dirty. If a mouthpiece or ligature is not visibly dirty, it is not necessary to wash it after every use.
Some ligatures are made of interchangeable parts, such as the Vandoren Optimum. It has changeable contact plates to vary the kind and amount of pressure holding the reed onto the mouthpiece. Others, such as a Rovner Dark, are a continuous piece of fabric that wraps tightly around both the reed and mouthpiece.
Which Ligature works best?
In general, fabric ligatures are thought of as providing darker, warmer tones than metal ligatures. Some companies also offer accessories for your ligature, such as additional plates or clasps, that can further enhance tone when used on a compatible ligature. If you are unsure of whether an accessory will work, don’t hesitate to send the manufacturer or storefront the details of your mouthpiece setup before making a purchase.
When purchasing a new ligature, you may need to invest in a new mouthpiece cap to accommodate it. Don’t force the mouthpiece cap if it’s too tight, as you may risk damaging the ligature.Maybe it’s not a case of needing a new ligature, because you can also experiment with the placement of a ligature on the mouthpiece to achieve a different reed response like a harder – or softer – reed, simply by moving the ligature closer or further from the tip in small amounts. Experimentation with a new ligature is crucial to make sure you are able to achieve the sound you want.