What Is a Saxophone Ligature?

by Cara Batema Google

A saxophone ligature is the metal clamp that holds the reed in place to the mouthpiece. Many beginning players do not think the ligature has an effect on the saxophone's sound, but each ligature is meant to accompany the specific mouthpiece and reed you're using. The fit of the ligature can affect your embouchure, which in turn affects the tone you produce.


The saxophone ligature is used to secure the reed to the mouthpiece; most ligatures are made of metal. The ligature wraps around the mouthpiece and is tightened into place with two screws. The ligature should fit snugly against the reed; if the ligature is too flat, the reed will not be secure around its edges, while if a ligature is too concave, the reed will not be supported in the middle. If you tighten the ligature too much, the fibers of the reed can become compressed, which can affect your tone.


While the majority of ligatures are made of metal, you can find models made of leather or plastic. Ligatures made from a polymer blend tend to let your reed vibrate more freely, which gives the player more control over the sound. Other metal ligatures have only one screw but are designed to tighten both sides of the ligature equally. The type of ligature you should use depends on your proficiency, mouthpiece and reed.

Sound Characteristics

Players who use non-metal ligatures tend to feel more buzz from their reeds since their reeds are allowed to vibrate more freely. You should tighten the ligature just enough to keep the reed in place; over-tightening the reed can cause a muffled or poor sound, and sound will be more difficult to produce. Playing low notes quietly will be very difficult if your reed is not fastened properly with the ligature. Players cannot agree whether metal or non-metal ligatures produce a better sound, but many players tend to favor the more flexible ligatures as it given the player more control over his tone. Only poorly fitting ligatures will really result in an unsuitable sound quality.


If you are purchasing a ligature, ask on what mouthpiece it was previously used or which mouthpiece it is designed for; the shape of your mouthpiece and the reeds you use can affect what type of ligature is best for your instrument. Classical saxophone players tend to favor metal ligatures, while many jazz players prefer other types. Do not simply take the ligature that comes with your saxophone; feel free to experiment with different types until you find the one you like the best. Nonmetal ligatures are a bit more durable because they do not get damaged if they are dropped.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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