Saxophone ligatures might get a lot less attention that your choice of reed or mouthpiece, but they play a subtly important role in getting the sound you want as a musician.
In this article we’re going to look a little closer at 10 of the best saxophone ligatures for jazz.
First, though, check out our top three picks for 2022…
|BG Revelation (Otto Link)|
A traditional ligature that offers a bright, clear jazz tone with easy articulation
|Check Price on Amazon|
|Francois Louis Ultimate Ligature|
A mix of modern-meets-classic with a choice of 3 finishes depending on your sound
|Check Price on Amazon|
Innovative, technology-led approach to ligature design - which also looks great!
|Check Price on Thomann|
The 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.
A saxophonist’s choice of reed, mouthpiece and ligature is called a setup.
There’s an almost limitless number of products and combinations to choose from when assembling this setup, and the results can have a drastic effect on your sound.
In fact, if you’re curious, we put together a guide to what 10 legendary saxophonists used as their set up.
Ligatures are probably talked about and agonised over a bit less than saxophone mouthpieces and reeds, and their effect is perhaps a little less obvious.
But they can certainly make a big difference to how it feels to play your horn, and most top players have put a considerable amount of thought into choosing the ligature they use.
Traditionally, saxophone ligatures were simple affairs made of metal, with two screws for adjustment.
However, a whole range of options are now available, and ligatures come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes.
Some of these are marketed specifically for use in jazz, while others have simply proved particularly popular with those playing the genre, despite not being marketed as specialist jazz products.
Anyway, read on for our pick of 10 saxophone ligatures that you might want to consider as part of your jazz setup.
BG Revelation Jazz Ligature
BG Franck Bichon is a French company that has focused on selling high quality saxophone and clarinet accessories since 1985.
Among its products are mouthpieces, mouthpiece patches, pull-throughs, saxophone straps and a wide selection of ligatures.
This fabric ligature is, as the name suggests, aimed at jazz specialists, and is designed to fit most ebonite mouthpieces, such as the classic Meyer range.
The BG Revelation Jazz features a silver-plated surface with dual rails at the point of the ligature that makes contact with the reed, offering the player a brighter, clearer tone and aiding ease of articulation.
BG also produces the Universal Jazz ligature, which is plated with 24K gold and is designed to fit 90% of metal mouthpieces.
|BG L24RJ Tenor Saxophone Revelation Jazz Ligature with Cap - Otto Link||Check Price on Amazon|
JodyJazz Power Ring
A common complaint surrounding some ligatures is that they do not allow the reed to vibrate freely.
JodyJazz aims to combat this problem with its unusual-looking Power Ring, which bears little resemblance to a traditional ligature.
It has no screws or moving parts, and its concave inner design reduces the number of contact points with the reed. This allows for greater vibration and a richer, more harmonic-laden sound, and a free-blowing, powerful feel to the horn.
Jody Espina is an experienced jazz saxophonist and educator.
His JodyJazz company is best known for its sax mouthpieces, which are designed in the USA and play-tested extensively by professional saxophonists.
The Power Ring ligature is designed to fit various JodyJazz mouthpieces, so it may not be compatible with mouthpieces made by other brands.
|Jody Jazz Power Ring||Check Price on Thomann|
Silverstein Works Original Saxophone Ligature
Silverstein Works is an American company that takes an innovative, technology-led approach to ligature design.
Its stylish products are hand-crafted in the USA and are some of the more expensive ligatures on the market, costing considerably more than some sax mouthpieces.
The reed is held in place by interspersed dotted cord, which allows the reed to vibrate freely, while the metal part of the ligature goes through a Cryogenic Treatment Process, changing the crystal structure of the metal and resulting in a more resonant sound.
The sound adjustment nut at the top of the ligature allows the player to tighten or loosen the tension, creating a darker or brighter tone as desired, and potentially compensating for a softer or harder reed.
Silverstein Works endorsing artists include high profile American jazz saxophonists Dave Liebman, Greg Osby (who we interviewed here for Jazzfuel) and Jerry Bergonzi.
Francois Louis Ultimate Ligature
These instantly recognisable, delicate-looking ligatures feature four cylinders held together by two thin pieces of wire, with a large single screw for adjustment at the top.
This ensures an even distribution of pressure on the saxophone reed, without dampening the natural vibration of the mouthpiece.
The Francois Louis Ultimate Ligature is available in three finishes:
- Brass for more resonance and vibration.
- Silver for more resistance and a darker sound.
- Gold for a polished, elegant tone.
Joe Lovano, Ralph Lallana and Steve Slagle have all used Francois Louis ligatures.
|Francois Louis Ultimate Ligature Tenor Saxophone Ligature and Cap||Check Price on Amazon|
The most notable feature of the Vandoren Optimum ligature is its ‘pressure plates’.
Each ligature comes with three different pressure plates – small, rectangular pieces of metal, which press against the reed, with each one possessing different tonal characteristics.
These may make each one preferable for different genres of music, so the player might use one plate in a jazz setting, and another plate for classical concerts.
This stylish gold-coloured product has a distinctive branded ‘V’ cut out on each side of the ligature.
Unusually, it features a horizontal screw at the bottom, rather than on top, of the ligature. Its unique double-track screw system allows for quick, symmetrical tightening and loosening.
|Vandoren LC07P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap for Alto Saxophone Gilded with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates||Check Price on Amazon|
Wood Stone Metal Ligatures
Wood Stone products are entirely handmade in Japan by the Ishimori family.
Their metal ligatures have a classic look, with two screws for adjustment and are available in a range of metal finishes, including solid silver and and pink gold, which offer different tonal qualities and varying amounts of resistance.
Wood Stone ligatures are specifically designed to fit various mouthpieces.
For example, you can select a ligature to fit Selmer ebonite mouthpieces, or one that is designed for metal Guardalas.
Jazz saxophonists who have opted for Wood Stone ligatures include Lew Tabackin, Bob Mintzer and Bob Sheppard.
“The Wood Stone ligature is a simply designed ligature that affords the player optimum reed vibration and a full, warm sound. It holds the reed securely on the mouthpiece while not constricting the sound in the least.” Bob Mintzer
Rovner has been making saxophone and clarinet ligatures since 1974, with a focus on affordable fabric-based products.
The original Rovner ligature was the DARK model, which tends to be favoured by classical players and, as the name suggests, offers a darker, centred tone.
The Rovner LIGHT, on the other hand, is more responsive and free-blowing, and is aimed at jazz improvisers and those desiring a more contemporary sound. Within a few weeks the fabric should have moulded itself to the shape of your ebonite mouthpiece.
This no-nonsense ligature also offers admirable value for money.
|Rovner L-2R(L-8) Tenor Saxophone Ligature||Check Price on Amazon|
Boston Sax Shop Superlative Ligature
The Boston Sax Shop is a second hand instrument retailer and repair shop that has recently begun to make waves in the saxophone world with its own acclaimed products.
These are designed from a player’s perspective, as founder Jack Finucane has a Masters degree in saxophone performance from the New England Conservatory.
This is combined with savvy social media marketing: hip, young endorsees of the brand include Melissa Aldana, Immanuel Wilkins and Ben Wendel.
The company’s Superlative Ligature has a vintage-inspired single-piece body design for a solid and stable fit. The laser cut contact plate grips the reed evenly, whilst giving the middle section of the reed room to breathe, and it has a classic double screw system.
It is also available in an 18K gold plating, and a ‘stippled’ brass option, which is hand finished by Finucane himself.
Wood Stone KOMADA II
Hand-crafted in Japan, these ligatures will fit most ebonite mouthpieces.
Unusually, the Komada is made primarily from leather, which gives a warm, centred sound and an easy response.
In addition to a single, horizontal screw, the reed is helped to resonate by touchplates that are made from Massaranduba wood, a high density hardwood that is noted for its durability and is harvested from the Amazon rainforest in South America.
“To my great surprise it made my horn sing. The KOMADA ligature brings out colours in your sound that are hidden with other ligatures.” Vincent Herring
Oleg was founded in Los Angeles in 1980. Its eye-catching high-end ligatures are made from a sort of meshed chainmail effect, which aims to provide a fuller timbre, a swifter response, better intonation and a more powerful sound.
In fact, Oleg’s website points to a scientific study which claims that the Olegature has a richer harmonic spectrum in comparison to both hard metal and fabric ligatures.
Meanwhile, its sensitivity to screw tightness gives the musician huge control over the darkness or brightness of the sound, meaning that the ligature may be adjusted according to the given musical setting.
It is available in a range of sizes to cater for all saxophone mouthpieces.
“Incredible. The Olegature finally opened the door to my true sound.” – Benny Golson
That’s it from us!
Hopefully it’s given you some good insight on which saxophone ligatures are out there, with a focus on that jazz sound.
If you’re still working on perfecting your set up, you might be interested to check out our round up of the best mouthpieces, reeds and saxophones for jazz.
And don’t forget to check out our round up of essential saxophone accessories.
International jazz booking agent, manager and host of Jazzfuel.
Join the mailing list for more free content, or become a member of Jazzfuel Manager (members.jazzfuel.com) for 1-to-1 support & feedback.