The saxophone is a unique instrument that produces sounds that many listeners experience as emotions – ranging from the feeling of dreamlike bliss to that of a playful romantic romp. But as a woodwind instrument, its sound depends on its mouthpiece, reed, and ligature assembly. And of those, the ligature plays a bigger role than you’d think. That makes choosing the right one critical. To help, here’s what to look for in a saxophone ligature and a list of the top eight best saxophone ligatures available today.
What Is a Saxophone Ligature?
According to JazzFuel.com, a saxophone ligature is:
a small but vital part of the saxophone, attaching the reed to the mouthpiece.
The flat butt of the reed is pressed against the flat underside of the mouthpiece – sometimes known as the table – allowing the reed’s tip to vibrate, thus producing a sound.
What to Look For in the Best Saxophone Ligatures
To understand how to choose the correct saxophone ligature for your needs, you have to understand the factors that set them apart from one another. Here’s what they are.
Fit and Grip
The two most important things you should look for in a saxophone ligature are that it’s a good fit for your mouthpiece and that it keeps a secure grip on your reed. What you want is a stable union of the mouthpiece and reed. And it would be best if you didn’t have to tighten a good ligature much to end up with a reed that won’t budge while you play.
A high-quality saxophone ligature should last for years, and most will last a lifetime. Their durability, however, varies with the materials used to make them. Some are made from wire, plastic, or even nylon fabric. But today’s most durable ligatures are most often made of leather or metal, and their high-quality craftsmanship is evident.
Like most other products, you can find a saxophone ligature to suit almost any budget. Beginners, for example, might get away with a ligature that costs as little as $20. But more experienced players typically own ligatures that cost upwards of $100. But don’t worry, not all of the best saxophone ligatures come in at the higher end of that range.
What Are the Best Saxophone Ligatures?
Choosing the best saxophone ligatures isn’t easy to do. They all lend slightly different qualities to your instrument’s sound and have different strengths and weaknesses. Here are the ones most players will agree are the best.
1. Vandoren lc07p Optimum Ligature – Best Ligature for Alto Sax
Released around 20 years ago, the Vandoren LC07P Optimum Ligature is still the best choice among alto saxophone players today.
What’s most notable about it is that it comes standard with three different interchangeable pressure plates. They allow you to alter the type and amount of contact the ligature has with the reed, resulting in a wide variety of available sound profiles. But that’s not its only impressive feature.
The Vandoren LC07P Optimum is also solidly built and features a single-screw tightening mechanism that applies pressure from both sides of the ligature. That makes for a stable fit that won’t require much tightening.
Alto sax players who use this Vandoren ligature all tend to note that it sounds better than other options. Many even report that this ligature helps them exercise more control over each note as they play.
2. D’Addario Tenor H-Ligature & Cap – Best Ligature for Tenor Sax
As its name implies, this best ligature for tenor sax relies on a four-point system with two screws to provide even pressure on the reed. The design is a modern take on the famous Harrison ligature.
It is relatively stable and will hold your reed firmly to the mouthpiece table. But the D’Addario Tenor H-Ligature stands out for the type of sound it enables.
The four-point system is purpose-built to minimize contact with the reed, allowing it to travel and vibrate more than other designs. That creates a brighter sound with a better response. It’s a simple difference you’ll undoubtedly feel the first time you use one.
3. Rovner 1rvs Soprano Saxophone Ligature – Best Ligature for Soprano
For proof that the best ligature isn’t always the most expensive one, look no further than the Rovner 1RVS soprano saxophone ligature. It’s one of the most inexpensive ligatures you can buy, owing to its synthetic leather construction. But don’t let the price fool you.
It’s a favorite of professional jazz saxophonists the world over, and with good reason. The nature of the artificial leather combined with its two-bar single-screw fastening system makes for even reed pressure by default. And the material tends to produce a dark and resonant tone that’s a natural fit for a high-pitched soprano saxophone.
As a testament to its quality and durability, the Rovner 1RVS is the go-to recommendation of music teachers everywhere who know that most students would destroy a lesser ligature in no time.
4. Vandoren lc29p Leather Ligature and Plastic Cap – Best Ligature for Baritone
The Vandoren LC29P leather ligature looks quite a bit like the Rovner 1RVS. But if you were to hold both in your hands, you’d immediately see there’s a massive difference between the two.
The first is that the Vandoren LC29P’s made of genuine leather, which is sturdy and luxurious. Plus, the stitching is perfect on the inside as the outside – the mark of the highest possible craftsmanship. But the Vandoren LC29P has other tricks up its sleeve, too.
It features a single-screw fastener with threading on both sides, leading to firm and even pressure on your mouthpiece. It also comes with three interchangeable pressure plates, much like the Vandoren model covered earlier. But in this case, the plates are made from leather, rubber, and metal.
They give the ligature the ability to produce three distinct sound qualities, making it a perfect all-purpose ligature for baritone saxophone players.
Other Saxophone Ligatures Worth Checking Out
The four ligatures mentioned so far all make excellent choices for their respective instrument types. But they’re not the only great ligatures you can buy. Here are four more worth checking out.
5. Rovner Alto Sax Ligature 1rl, Gold
The Rovner 1RL for alto saxophones is an excellent, inexpensive ligature. It’s durable and produces the dark tone Rovner’s known for. And, it’s easy to secure, and beginners love it – they say it helps get rid of the squeaks inexperienced players often struggle with.
6. Yamaha Yac 1611 Lacquered Brass Tenor Saxophone Ligature
If you’re looking for a utilitarian ligature for your tenor saxophone, the Yamaha YAC 1611 should be your only option. It’s a simple lacquered brass ligature with a two-screw fastener system. It’s stable and will look great on your instrument. Its only downside is that it’s a bit delicate, but no more so than the rest of your saxophone, at least.
7. D’Addario Rico H-Ligature and Cap for Saxophone Soprano
The D’Addario Rico H-Ligature for soprano saxophones is almost identical to our top tenor ligature pick. That means you get the same beautiful bright sound and response and four-point reed pressure system. And if it weren’t for Rovner’s do-it-all 1RVS, it’d be the best ligature you could get for your soprano saxophone.
8. BG l15 Ligature With Cap
The BG L15 ligature is a soft, simple solution for baritone saxophone players. It features a rubber inlay to prevent reed slippage and produces a dark, round tone. It works incredibly well when paired with thicker, synthetic reeds.
No matter what type of saxophone you play, there’s a ligature out there that will suit your needs and style. But don’t forget to choose the right one so you get the most out of your instrument and produce the tone and sound you want. So, all that’s left for you to do is to pick the one that suits you best.