I stole this excerpt from http://clarinetperfection.com/clacoustics.htm without permission .. but then ... i haven't asked myself yet Ligatures and Tonal Variance I am a believer that ligatures can make a difference in ones' tone. Not necessarily major differences but at least minor differences (including the screw tightness as it can affect how the reed ultimately responds - always make sure screws are lubricated). But lets look at the basic concept. Older ligatures (not antique/vintage as they were simple string around a mouthpiece) were simply a metal round loop with screws on it. This round loop pushed at the side edges of the reed moreso than pushing the reed up against the mouthpiece. Later on those loops had indentations for the reed location, and then they evolved into the hundreds of options that we see today. Several years ago I was playing for a retired pro clarinet player. He loved my playing (playing from his big band books) though he said that my tone had a high pitch squeal to it. This high pitch squeal was not audible to myself until I really listened to the tonal quality then it was quite prevalent. We had about 8 clarinets there, numerous mouthpieces and numerous reeds. I went through all of them trying to determine how that high pitch squeal was there but to no avail. Then I recalled that I had used the same ligature on all the tests of various reed, mouthpiece, and clarinet changes. I switched ligatures to a metal band with a floating cradle to better support the reed. The squeal was GONE. After that I really worked on improving my ability of hearing variances in tonal qualities based on the ligature and everything else. To my amazement I certainly could hear variances among ligatures. To quote Jack Brymer from his book "Clarinet", 1977, pg 70 "If one produces a deep, rich note on any musical instrument, and listens to it with care over a fairly long period, other higher notes soon begin to make themselves audible in the sound, and to emerge into the consciousness, most of the pleasantly related to harmonically but a few of them slightly dissonant." That quote rang true in my learnings with the above ligature example. In short, metal ligatures that are based on a loop and fully cradled the reed (I only tested a few) tended to have slightly higher harmonics to them than the non-metal ligatures. But most of the fabric/rubber ones that fully cradled the reed tended to slightly darken the harmonics by comparison. My favorite is a BG revelation ligature which is fabric with a metal insert to push the reed up to the mouthpiece in a cradle. The sides of the ligature do not touch the reed. My other favorites are: Vandoren Klassik (a 100% string ligature, Vandoren Masters (metal), Vandoren Optima with the horizontal ridges (note: the 4 pinned plate must not be over tightened otherwise the pins dig into the reed and create a full platform); Rovner dark (though this tends to deaden the tone a bit as it cradles the entire width of the reed). Players should not worry about ligatures until they mature to a certain level. Reeds vary greatly too and one should listen to their teacher for direction here until they are mature enough to move forward with their own experiments. In Summary Only more mature players may audibly hear the minute differences. The ligature design of how it cradles the reeds affects the tonal quality The tightness of the screws affects the response and tonal quality Always lubricate the screw(s) - this eases it's installation Example Ligatures NOTE: double click on each picture for a larger view LEFT: a 1974 Noblet ligature. Even though it has a small cradle the pressure points are not up on the reed. RIGHT: a 1972 Bonade inverted ligature. It has two metal ridges that rise up from the bottom to put upwards pressure on a reed. LEFT: BG revelation ligature which when the single screw, and metal ridges in the base cradle. As tightened it provides upward pressure of the reed to the mpc. RIGHT: Vandoren Optimum which provides upward pressure to the reed. The plate in the lig has 2 horizontal ridges. Behind to the left are vertical ridges, and a 4 pin. The 4 pin provides an idea of how lightly a ligature should be put on - or how not so tight. IF put on tightly the 4 pins will embed into the reed. LEFT: Luyben inverted plastic ligature RIGHT: Rovner style ligature. This provides pressure across the entire back of the reed. LEFT: early Penzel-Muller which has a floating reed platform, similar to idea Vandoren Optimum now uses RIGHT: 1980s Harrison which uses specific pressure points, and inverted, to lift the reed to the mpc BOTTOM: Vandoren Klassik which is all string which provides an even support for the reed Ligature Pressure Points (Reed support) Pictures with arrows shows the pressure points from the ligature to the reed. A reed shaped piece of foam with square lines on the back end was used to identify which parts of the reed got compression from which direction then noted. Pictures below show a cane reed installed. GENERIC The generic ligature, when you tighten the double screw puts pressure mostly sideways on the reed in addition to towards the mouthpiece. True, round loops pinches the reed from the sides. Not the optimum designs. ROVER STYLE The Rovner style mouthpiece, due to it's flexibility, never pinches the reed but puts pressure across the entire width of the reed downwards onto the mouthpiece. VANDOREN OPTIMUM The Vandoren Optimum was designed to push the reed from the top down onto the mouthpiece. The various plates cradle the reed in various methods. BG The BG revelation ligature has metal cradles which, when the ligature is tightened, push the reed toward the mouthpiece. BONADE The inverted Bonade ligature, when tightened, pushed the reed towards the mouthpiece. One important factor about inverted metal ligatures is that if they are over tightened on can change the form of the metal where it could then cause the metal sides to press up against the reed. This is "blow out" of the ligature itself. Ligatures can be repaired from this but care has to be taken from that point on as metals are not designed to be reshaped and tend to break after several reshapings. LUYBEN The Luyben ligature has 4 round pins which put pressure on the reed to take it to the mouthpiece. This plastic ligature can be over tightened and the plastic stretched. They are cheap and can be replaced quite inexpensively. But they seem to stretch and never allow a super tight fit and the screws are hard to screw into the plastic threads. VANDOREN KLASSIK Vandoren created this ligature as the "shoe string" ligature, or wrap ligature from early clarinets. This cradles the reed without over tightening.