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Favorite Ligature and affects on tonal qualities

Discussion in 'Ligatures' started by Steve, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    Do ligatures really make a difference in tonal qualities ?

    If a mouthpiece has a perfectly flat table how does the ligature affect the way the reed responds ?

    Many experts say , well, many things. Some say a ligature has no impact others say it does.

    I believe a ligature does have an impact on tonal qualities. Assuming a good embouchure (and reed). Try to use as light pressure as possible on the ligature while maintaining good tone. I think if the ligature is not "crushing" the reed it will allow the reed to vibrate more freely.

    Several years ago I played one of my clarinets for a retired pro player. He interupted me and said that I had great tone and technique but my tone had a very high pitched squeal to it. It took me a minute to recognize that but he was right. it was there.

    Why? How?

    We happened to have about 8 clarinets, over a dozen mouthpieces etc at my disposal right there. So I went through different clarinets and different mouthpieces even different reeds !! the squeal was still there !!!

    Why? How ?

    The only item I did not change through this entire endeavor was the ligature. It was a simple lower double screw. I found a ligature with a flat plate that held the reed. I tried it ... to my amazement the squeal was now gone. completely. My tone was now much more pure and clear .. wow.

    It goes to show you no matter what, there is always someone else that knows more and can hear things that you may be overlooking.

    But, there are many, many ligatures on the market today. I don't play the ligature GAS game. I visually look at them and identify whether I think they could help my tone. Some I avoid because they look too delicate, or too expensive.

    The best ligature I've found for the money are:

    Vandoren Klassik - a string ligature which seems to allow the reed freedom and gives the tone more colors. I would only use for extended playing though as I would not want to stretch it out too much.

    Vandoren Optimum (or Masters) - The optimum really lets you play around with your tonal quality. the 3 plates vary it ever so slightly. but be aware that the plate with the 4 pins needs to be on light pressure, otherwise you simply entrench the pins into the reed. The Masters is nice too as it is cheaper but duplicates the plate with the high and low ridges.

    Rovner or DG other other leather ligs - very quick and easy too use and inexpensive. Though these seem to deaden the tone a bit especially if over tightened.

    So why did the double ligature create such a problem? looking at it it seems to pinch the reed from the sides way too much and also clamps down from the top. Other lower double screw ligatures vary in their clamp but this is certainly something to look out for.

    before anyone asks .... no scientific study was done .. i just tried a bunch of ligatures, fiddled with screw pressure, etc over time.
     
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  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Remember, original clarinet ligatures were essentially strings tied around the reed.

    And the reed faced up, not down, but that's a different issue :).

    I like the leather ligs, but I've also been partial to the Gigligotti. Cheaper, even. Durable. But I've used approximately this Rovner, too.

    (Interesting aside: the Gigliotti clarinet lig can fit on a Berg Larsen hard rubber bari sax mouthpiece. And I've used this for gigs.)

    The one problem, even with the leather ligs, is that there can be a little too much extra material -- or pull, at least -- on the sides of the mouthpiece. If the idea behind a lig is to have consistent pressure on the reed, that'd be a problem.

    FWIW, I've found that I can play harder reeds with some different ligs.
     
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    (Continuing, after lunch.)

    So, my point is, I wonder if the lig you were using that caused the "squeal" was damaged in some way, even if just a stripped screw. Further, I'd think that the "squeal" was an overtone caused by the reed vibrating in an odd manner because of some problem with the lig.

    Another point to mention would be that it's not necessarily the ligature that makes the difference, but where it's being positioned on the reed, itself. One of the reasons I liked using Vandoren (and Rico Royal) reeds was because there was that little "cut" (no, I don't know reed terminology; sorry) where you could line up your ligature and it'd be almost perfect.
     
  4. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    The French filed reeds have a straight line where the bark starts. I assume you mean that line.
     
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    That sounds about right to me, Ed.

    Since we're talking clarinet, Vandoren (just went to their website) only has this "line" on the V12 and "Traditional" reeds, not the 56. So there you go.

    Hmmm. I thought it'd be easy to find a "reed nomenclature" chart, out there. Interesting that neither Vandoren.com or Ricoreeds.com seem to have one.
     
  6. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Ah. Here we go.

    It's the line that's cut on the aforementioned reeds between the vamp and the stock.
     
  7. Roger Aldridge

    Roger Aldridge Composer in Residence Distinguished Member

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    Steve,

    Vandoren Klassik has my vote.

    When I first tried the Klassik it completely destroyed the preconceptions I had about a string ligature....that it would be difficult to use, that it would darken or have a muting effect on my sound. A classical clarinet buddy of mine recommended the Klassik to me. So, I tried it on clarinet and was amazed at how my sound was actually bigger, more vibrant, and had a greater amount of projection with the Klassik string ligature. Being deeply impressed with the Klassik on clarinet, I got an alto saxophone version of the Klassik (from 1stopclarinet.com) and happily discovered that it expanded enough to easily fit my Morgan 6C tenor mouthpiece. I was equally happy with the Klassik on tenor. No question about it, I'm happier with the Klassik than with any of the metal ligs I've used over the years.

    I've been curious about WHY Klassik works like it does. It's my theory that string does not inhibit the vibrations of the reed and mouthpiece in the way metal or fabric does.

    Now, Vandoren needs to make a Klassik for bass clarinet!

    PS, I've not had any problems with the Klassik stretching. After I play, I put my Klassik back on the wooden plug it came on with the ligature cap.

    Roger
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    Pete,
    the metal lower double screw lig is original equipment with a 1970s Noblet clarinet. Nothing is busted, broken, bent et all. Like i said, I didn't even notice any squealing. It's not immediately visible to the ear .. it was very, very, very, very, very faint but still there.

    it was gone after a change of ligs I'm not saying all double lower screw ligs are exactly the same - that was just my experience on one such lig of that nature.
     
  9. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    Roger,
    With the Klassic i'm just nervous because I may switch between 10 mpcs in 20 minutes. That's not all the time, just sometimes. I plan on keeping the Klassic for those special occasions or long practice sessions.
     
  10. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I'd actually like to try something like the Klassik, primarily because it's so 17th century. And it might just be "better".
     
  11. Roger Aldridge

    Roger Aldridge Composer in Residence Distinguished Member

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    Steve,

    Of course, the Klassik does not make sense to use when you're working on or testing mouthpieces and need to switch quickly. I'm speaking about for performances or even practice.

    Roger
     
  12. Tony

    Tony

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    I'm using a nylon Luyben model. Screws are on the top. The lig has 4 posts that pin the reed against the mpc.
     
  13. GKern

    GKern

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    The lig that I like the resultant sound best is string. However, I don't have the patience to deal with it except when practicing at home, and I feel the Bois Classique ligature is the next best thing. And by far the quickest to put on or change.
     
  14. Groovekiller

    Groovekiller Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

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    Whatever difference a ligature makes is very slight. I think if you need a special lig to achieve anything, you just need to practice more or get a better reed.

    By the way, I buy almost every ligature known to mankind because I love gimmicks. But the ligatures I use for performances only need to fulfill 2 requirements:

    1. The lig has to fit the mouthpiece perfectly
    2. The lig can't slip if I need to re-tune the horn by pushing in or pulling out the mouthpiece quickly during a tune.

    Often as not, a 2 screw standard lig wins. Single screw ligs have the advantage that they often fit better on a mouthpiece with an odd external taper.

    Sometimes even standard 2 screw ligatures slip a lot, especially clarinet ligatures that are nickle plated. Simply rough up the INSIDE of the ligature with coarse sandpaper. Problem solved.
     
  15. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    I use my ligature on clarinets and bass clarinets (US Patent 4,796,507). It offers the sensation of string with the easy adjustment and application enabled by the fabric/hook & loop structure.

    One of the reasons that I put this ligature out in the first place was the feeling of freedom that the string approach gave. It was quite a bit of trouble to adjust a string ligature, even if you are able to apply it rapidily and properly. Different mouthpiece cones made string/rigid combinations like the Lorenzini and the Rovner problematic. My clever little design solves it all, all with one strip of custom material costing a tenth of what the others charge.

    The same ligature can be used on saxophones (you can even use the same ligature on every saxophone from soprano to bass, although there's a lot of excess when a bass sized one is applied to the soprano), but I've found that the rapid horn changes increase the possibility of disruption on the metal mouthpieces that I use. So I stick with the two screw items fit to the mouthpiece by the manufacturer.

    Both, I'm jsut as quick to acknowledge that there are many different approaches to this problem.
     
  16. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    (To clarify, SOTSDO's talking about his patented lig. I still think he should give everyone at the WF a free one or two.)

    I think the problem is that we're not defining "tone" in this thread. If you're calling "tone" the "sound that comes from the horn," I think ligatures do have an affect: damaged parts vibrating against the mouthpiece, squeaks (or a squeaky overtone), etc. However, if you're defining "tone" in the sense of "a Buffet R13 and a Leblanc Bliss have a different tone," I don't think so.
     
  17. shmuelyosef

    shmuelyosef

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    I mostly use a Bonade inverted. There are some things I don't like about them, and I have modified the two I have, but they work pretty well, are easy to line up and press on the Reed with two long bars.

    I like the Optimum but it is too big for both my favorite mouthpieces (Fobes and Grabner) and the design doesn't allow for opening it up to apply a cork spacer as I have done with the Bonade.
     
  18. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    I'm of 2 minds about the discussion whether or not ligatures effect the tone: both based upon my experience. On saxophones I have used Rovner light and dark ligs for about 20 years. I'm not even sure anymore why I started using them--perhaps at the urging of an instructor at some point--but they work extremely well at keeping the reed tight on the MP, with the added flexibility of being able to slightly "brighten" or "darken" one's tone depending how one chooses to tighten it.

    That being said, if say, I swap out the Rovner lig on my Berg Larsen bari piece for one of the stock ligs, I don't notice a perceptible change in tone.

    Now for clarinet and bass clarinet, my experiences have been quite different. When just over a year ago I started playing clarinet again after nearly a 30 year break, I had an absolute awful tone. (No surprise there really, is there. ;) ) I was also constantly cracking notes--especially when I went over the break. As soon as I switched to a Rovner lig on my clarinet MP, my tone improved greatly, and my cracked notes decreased as well.

    Recently I bought a vintage bass clarinet, which came with 2 vintage MPs and matching traditional metal ligs. For months now I have using these, but I was having the occasional problems with notes cracking when I went over the break. I decided I would try a Rovner on the bass as well. Interestingly enough, the lig has also improved the tone of the bass.

    This bass clarinet is late 50s to early 60s, and so are the MPs and ligs. Therefore it wouldn't surprise me if the metal of the ligs has maybe become a bit fatigued, and is no longer able to seal the reed to the MP as tightly as well as they did when new. Also, I use Legere Signature Series reeds, which are not as thick as cane reeds, which could also be a reason there might not be as good of an airtight seal.

    Since I also use Legere on my conventional clarinet, I might have had an issue with the seal on it. Or, another explanation is that my clarinet skills are just not as strong as my sax skills, thus I need the extra "help" that the Rovner can provide me with.

    Whatever the case, those are my experiences/thoughts about ligs and MPs FWIW.
     
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  19. saxhound

    saxhound Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    My take is similar to yours. I think some ligs just allow you to blow easier - hence less hiccups and better tone. I used Rovners for years and they were better than the traditional 2 screw ligs that come standard on so many mouthpieces. I did feel like the dark ones sounded more muffled than the light ones. A few years ago, I switched to the Brancher Leggiero on tenor and bari (fortunately before they jacked up the price by over 100%!). I really like how much they changed the response - much easier to play soft, loud, subtone, etc. As a result, I liked my overall sound better. I don't know if I sound any different to a third party. Chicken or egg?

    On clarinet, I have been using the plastic Luyben. It's cheap, it works, and I don't have to worry about it getting damaged if I drop it. I ruined two Bonade ligatures by dropping them on a hard floor. Of course, I stepped on one of them while searching for it on a dark stage. The other one popped a weld when it hit the ground.
     
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