When it comes to playing the clarinet, every detail matters, including the ligature you choose. A clarinet ligature may seem like a small component, but it plays a crucial role in producing the desired sound quality, response and articulation. Selecting the right ligature can greatly enhance your playing experience, while choosing the wrong one can hinder your progress. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key factors to consider when purchasing a clarinet ligature and present you with the top ten options that guarantee exceptional sound and performance.

 

 

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Clarinet Ligature

1
Compatibility:

Consider the type of clarinet you play and ensure the ligature is compatible with your instrument. Different clarinet types require specific ligatures, such as smaller ligatures for E-flat clarinets, larger ones for B-flat clarinets and even larger for Bass clarinets.

2
Inverted vs. Standard Ligatures:

Decide whether you prefer a standard or inverted ligature. Inverted ligatures have screws at the front side of the mouthpiece, pointing away from the musician, while standard ligatures have screws pointing towards the musician. The choice depends on personal preference, although many opt for inverted ligatures as they allow the reed to vibrate more freely, reducing direct pressure against it.

3
Type of Ligature:

Explore different types of ligatures available, considering their designs and materials. Ligatures come in various materials like metal or plastic, each affecting durability and price. Opt for a ligature that strikes a balance between flexibility, allowing versatility in different settings, and long-lasting quality within your budget.

 

Most common materials and designs

 

The material of a ligature plays a crucial role in shaping the tone and overall sound quality produced by a clarinet. Different materials exhibit varying characteristics, influencing the resonance, response, and timbre of the instrument. Here, we'll explore the impact of common ligature materials on the clarinet's tone:

 

Metal Ligatures

Typically made of brass or other metallic alloys, are known for their bright and focused sound. They provide excellent projection and clarity, enhancing the instrument's overall presence in an ensemble setting. Metal ligatures often offer a quick response and precise articulation, making them popular among jazz and contemporary clarinetists who require a cutting and vibrant tone. However, it's important to note that metal ligatures can occasionally introduce a slight edge or brilliance to the sound, which may not be desired for all musical styles. It can also be an important factor to cosider that you have to be able to remove the ligature fast in a concert situation and probably don’t want to waste any extra time with it. Double screw ligatures are much slower in this process.

Leather Ligatures

Leather ligatures, usually constructed with synthetic or genuine leather materials, tend to produce a warmer and mellower sound compared to metal ligatures. The natural flexibility and softness of leather allow for increased resonance and a more rounded tonal quality. Leather ligatures are commonly favored by classical clarinetists who seek a rich and dark sound, particularly when playing solo or chamber music. They often contribute to a smoother and more expressive legato playing style, adding a touch of warmth and depth to the instrument's timbre.

String ligatures

Leather ligatures, usually constructed with synthetic or genuine leather materials, tend to produce a warmer and mellower sound compared to metal ligatures. The natural flexibility and softness of leather allow for increased resonance and a more rounded tonal quality. Leather ligatures are commonly favored by classical clarinetists who seek a rich and dark sound, particularly when playing solo or chamber music. They often contribute to a smoother and more expressive legato playing style, adding a touch of warmth and depth to the instrument's timbre.

Wooden Ligatures

Wood ligatures, made from hardwood like grenadilla or rosewood, offer a warm and organic tone to the clarinet. They enhance the instrument's timbre, adding richness and depth. The wood's properties increase tonal complexity, resulting in a nuanced sound with more overtones. Clarinetists seeking expressive and nuanced playing appreciate the unique tonal colors wooden ligatures provide. They also offer stability, precise control, improved intonation, and centered tone. However, wooden ligatures require special care and maintenance. Availability and options may be limited compared to other materials. Personal preferences, playing style, and musical context should be considered when choosing a ligature for your clarinet.

 

Best Ligatures to Buy under 50$

Vandoren LC51PP Ligature and Plastic Cap

 

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to set up
  • Quick and symmetrical tightening with a unique double-track screw mechanism
  • Inverted tightening with only two small contact points on the reed

 

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Belmonte 332N (Nickel)

 

  • Durable and reliable
  • Great for beginners and marching band
  • Fits most mouthpieces

 

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BG-L4R-Revelation

 

  • Used by beginners and professionals
  • An ideal ligature for ensemble and chamber music
  • Lightweight

 

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Best Clarinet Ligatures under 100$

Vandoren LC21P Leather Ligature and Plastic Cap

 

  • 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
  • Quick and precise tightening
  • Expression with freedom
  • Made from high impact plastic

 

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Vandoren LC31P with Plastic Cap

 

  • Adjustable and easy to fit woven ligature
  • Precisely fits the reed to the mouthpiece
  • Perfectly centered sound
  • Comes with plastic cap

 

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Vandoren LC01P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap

 

  • Quick and precise tightening
  • Expression with freedom
  • Pressure plates and cap available as replacements
  • Achieve comfortability in dynamics and tone production in the entire range
  • Keeps the reed firm on mouthpiece table

 

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Best Premium Ligatures

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HEXA CLARINET LIGATURE – GEN. 5

 

The HEXA ligature from Silverstein is a true leap forward in ligature design. With six cords and four fine tuners, this ligature offers unprecedented focus and control while remaining easy to play. The additional cord adds a small amount of resistance and enhances the focus and tonal profile of the sound. The crystal decorations also add an extra touch of beauty.

Features:

  • New! Patented Rocking Bridge
  • 6 cords
  • Crystal Decoration on top of Puller unit and Fine Tuners
  • Cord-end aglet for preventing cord deformation and fraying
  • Anti-scratch rubber feet on the new patented rocking bridge

Also included:

  • OmniCap II – Soprano, Baritone Saxophone and Bass Clarinet size come with OmniCap I.
  • Rocking Bridge rubber shoes
  • 1.5mm Allen key
  • User manual with warranty registration card
  • 2-Year Warranty

Standard Features:

  • HARMONIC PARTIALS: The first thing you will notice is how free the reed becomes, resulting in increased harmonic partials for depth of sound.
  • 2ND EVOLUTION CORD: Improved cord technology results in a thinner thread for even less contact and pressure on the reed.
  • TONAL CONTROL: New fine tuners change how the ligature responds to the vibrations of the reed, tuning the focus and color of your sound to give unprecedented control and flexibility.
  • SOUND ADJUSTMENT: The nut regulates tension on the cord. By tightening less, the reed vibrates more for a darker sound.
  • PRECISION FIT: Easily customize the ligature using a standard hex wrench.
  • HAND-FINISHED: The elegant design and craftsmanship speaks for itself.

 

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QUATTRO CLARINET LIGATURE – GEN. 5

 

The QUATTRO is our affordable four-cord version with two fine tuners. It is designed to provide an open, free-blowing approach while maintaining warmth and definition. Add two additional fine tuners for an instant upgrade to produce a richer sound with even more harmonics!

Yellow Gold plating (18k) and Silver versions each offer the same easy playability and full sound.

New Patented Rocking Bridge

Gen. 5 Silverstein ligatures are distinguished by a completely redesigned bridge. The rocking action of the bridge automatically achieves an optimal alignment with your mouthpiece. And, the elongated feet provide secure grip to prevent slipping, even when quickly changing mouthpieces. The direct contact of the bridge feet on the mouthpiece acts as resonance plates, which further integrates your setup for maximum and efficient sound production.

Also included:

  • OmniCap
  • Rocking Bridge rubber shoes
  • 1.5mm Allen key
  • User manual with warranty registration card
  • 1-Year Warranty

Old-World Ingenuity Meets 21st Century Design

Every Silverstein ligature includes these standard features:

  • Harmonic Partials: The first thing you will notice is how free the reed becomes, resulting in increased harmonic partials for depth of sound.
  • 2nd Evolution Cord: Improved cord technology results in a thinner thread for even less contact and pressure on the reed.
  • Tonal Control: New fine tuners change how the ligature responds to the vibrations of the reed, tuning the focus and color of your sound to give unprecedented control and flexibility.
  • Sound Adjustment: The nut regulates tension on the cord. By tightening less, the reed vibrates more for a darker sound.
  • Precision Fit: Easily customize the ligature using a standard hex wrench.
  • Hand-Finished: The elegant design and craftsmanship speaks for itself.

 

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Does the Ligature affect timbre?

 

I have tested Wooden, Leather, String and Metal Ligatures with Tuning Charts

When analyzing the timbre of ligatures, the spectral centroid can offer valuable information about their tonal qualities. It can help identify the distribution of frequency energy across the spectrum, revealing whether an instrument produces a brighter or dark sound.

Here are my results:

Clarinet Ligature Timbre

The metal ligature has slightly more overtones compared to the string ligature. It produces a focused, bright sound with good response. 

Clarinet Ligature Timbre

The leather ligature produced a much darker, warmer sound compared to the metal one.

Clarinet Ligature Timbre

The wooden ligature produced similar brightness as the metal one.

And this is how all of them stack up:

Clarinet Ligature Timbre

 

As a classical clarinetist, I prefer a much darker sound. The string ligature seems to be slightly brighter than the leather, however it gives me much wider dynamics and better response. 

If you want to test your ligatures and compare the timbre, go to our AI Tuner.

 

Ligature Cleaning and Maintenance

 

  • Maintaining clarinet ligatures is crucial for the longevity. The ligature should be handled with care to avoid any damage.
     
  • After each use, it should be wiped clean of any moisture or debris using a soft, dry cloth.
     
  • If your ligature is made of metal, avoid using any harsh cleaning agents that could tarnish or corrode the material.
     
  • For fabric or leather ligatures, a gentle wipe should suffice.
     
  • Always ensure that the screws are not overly tightened as this can warp the shape over time. When not in use, store your ligature in a safe place (normally on the mouthpiece) to avoid any accidental damage.
     
  • Regular inspection for any signs of wear or damage can help detect issues early and ensure your clarinet produces the best sound possible.
     
  • For metal ligatures: As time passes, even durable metals can experience wear and tear. In the case of ligatures with silver or gold plating, the outer layer will gradually erode, revealing the less expensive metal beneath, often copper. This may lead to a greenish stain on your skin due to a reaction with the underlying metal. The best tip is to keep them dry and try not to damage the plating.

 

Some Fancy Designs

 

 

 
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