Clarinet Ligatures: How to Choose the Best One

So, you’ve been playing the clarinet for a while and want to start experimenting with its sound? Since a clarinet’s ligature affects how the reed vibrates, most clarinetists match their ligature to the type of music they’re playing. If you’re in the market for a new clarinet ligature, consider the type of clarinet you have, the sound you want your clarinet to produce, cost of the ligature, and durability. Before you make your final selection, know how much you’re comfortable paying and what to expect. Read on for more information about the above.

What’s a Ligature Anyways?

Before you can purchase a clarinet ligature, it’s important to understand what it is and what function it serves. The ligature is the device that holds the reed onto the mouthpiece. In order to work properly, the ligature must secure the reed firmly against the mouthpiece while at the same time allowing the reed to vibrate freely. Early ligatures were made of string, while modern-day ligatures are usually made of metal plated in gold, silver, or nickel. In some cases, they can even be made from wire, plastic, nylon, fabric, wood, string, or leather. It’s not uncommon for ligatures to come with multiple pressure plates, giving the performer more choices in tonal color and response.

Match It To Your Clarinet

Your clarinet may be bass, alto, contra bass, contra alto, or something else. Since the type of clarinet you have has an effect on which clarinet ligature you choose, take some time to learn about your clarinet, specifically which type you own. Some ligatures come in slightly different sizes and shapes that are meant for a specific clarinet, while others are more versatile in nature and can be used on more than one type. Next, some ligatures are constructed specifically for clarinets manufactured from certain materials, so keep an eye out for ligatures that are meant to work with either plastic, wood, or a combination of the two.

Think About Tone

Which type of ligature you choose depends heavily on what type of sound you want to produce. Take a moment to think about what type of music you intend to play, and where you plan on playing it. Some clarinetists own a variety of ligatures, and pick and choose which one to use depending on the situation. Metal ligatures produce a rich, full sound. These are best used in large concert halls, or for soloists who need to be heard. Ligatures made from fabric produce a softer sound that works well for smaller venues or group performances. If you’re just getting used to ligatures and don’t perform very often, fabric ligatures are recommended. Plus, once you do start to perform in larger venues, you can always purchase and add another ligature to your arsenal.

BG Metal Tradition Clarinet Ligatures Designed as the soloist’s ligature, the Tradition is ideal for both orchestral and studio work. It offers a sound that is brilliant, colorful, flexible and free blowing. Learn More

Think About Price

Because of the wide range of materials used and complexity of the different manufacturing processes, a brand new ligature can end up being rather costly. Since the type of ligature you purchase may not significantly impact your clarinet’s sound, it’s probably a good idea to start with something more on the inexpensive side. Once you have a chance to understand ligatures and how they work with your instrument, you can always upgrade and experiment with more expensive models. For more information on general price ranges or recommended brands, head to your local Music & Arts store or speak with your child’s clarinet instructor.

Inverted vs. Standard

When it comes to clarinet ligatures, another you should think about is whether you want to purchase an inverted or standard ligature. Inverted ligatures have screws that point away from the musician, while standard ligatures have screws that point towards the musician. At the end of the day, which you choose depend purely on preference. Although some clarinetists believe that inverted ligatures allow the reed to blow more freely, it’s important to experiment with both types until you can make a decision on your own. Some clarinetists trade-off between the two, while others select one or the other and stick with it throughout the course of their playing.

BG L8 Standard Eb Clarinet Ligature Standard Enjoy a rich, covered sound. An ideal ligature for ensemble work and chamber music, the Standard provides a dark yet focused sound and is extremely free blowing. Learn More

Purchase Clarinet Ligatures at Music & Arts

Purchasing a clarinet ligature can be a complicated process, which is why finding something affordable and high-quality is so important. That’s why many parents turn to Music & Arts. With over 130 stores across 23 states and over 50,000 products on our website, you’ll find one of the largest selections of gear, accessories, and instruments on our website. If you have questions about the specificities of a particular ligature, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions. With one of the largest product offerings in the world, we offer educator-approved band instruments and accessories, including a variety of clarinet ligatures, from some of the most-trusted brands in the industry.

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  1. I am returning after a significant injury an much time. Conservatories in Chicago are now gone. My old sources for supplies and repair are gone. What has happened over the years!!
    Anyway, COST of any of these things: reeds, ligature, barrel are shocking now.
    Internet purchase strikes me as a gambling game since all you see is a picture and biased descriptions.
    What about USED above items? Yes/No?
    My two clarinets, one wood from decades ago and the other Leblanc plastic are all of lesser cost than any one of the three important items, barrel, mouthpiece, ligature.
    The above is only an ad lib commentary on my observations.
    Discard as you see fit.

  2. Properly balanced reeds far out more important than the ligature. Ridnour”s You Tube videos and publications are critical pedagogical pieces!

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