Ligature Pressure Alters Tone

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
Messages
5,803
Location
Peeblesshire
#1
We all know that we should overtighten the lig, don't we?

Well I forgot

I have a PPT metal with a Morgan Fry compression ligature modification (like the Lawton rail and screw). I use this mouthpiece for any gig involving electric guitars because it favours high harmonics, it is easy to reach altissimo and the overall effect cuts through the sonic melee

Except last time it didn't. I found altissimo unstable and tone a bit squished (there's the clue I ignored)

Experimenting last night, I was moving the reed about to try to get back to my more usual tone and altissimo stability, but failing. I wondered if the Légère was giving up on me, but it's relatively new. One more fiddle, one more reed inspection and then, at last, I took notice of the lig pressure. I eased the pressure off and beautiful, crisp, stable tonal normality was restored

It's easy to overtighten the rail and screw style lig, and I may be guilty of the same mistake with a Francoise Louis that I use on a Morgan Fry mouthpiece which usually produces a very satisfying tone, but which has been thinning recently

So there you have it

According to my inadvertant research over-tightening really does affect tone

So don't do it kids
 
Last edited:

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
11,722
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
#3
Early pieces had a concave table to allow the player to alter the tip opening by increasing and decreasing ligature pressure. With a flat table it shouldn't matter how tight the ligature is imo. If ligature pressure is altering tone on a modern piece, I suspect the ligature is over the facing curve and interfering with reed vibration.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,121
Location
leicester
#4
Having experimented a lot with the positioning and tension of a normal 2 screw ligature on a variety of mouthpieces, I'd agree that it can have an effect on the response of the reed.
In theory, the back end of the reed should be clamped tightly to the table and only the tapered bit should be free to vibrate over the facing curve - any vibration or movement of the back of the reed would result in a loss of efficiency, or so my basic engineering education would have me believe...
However, reality (or at least my version of reality) is a lot more complex than that and some degree of experimentation may be required to find the right position and tightness for your ligature on your mouthpiece with your choice of reed. In the case of a two screw lig, you can also experiment with the tension of each of the screws - I like to have the front screw slackened off a bit.
My suspicion is that the reed may vibrate a bit more freely if it can 'buzz' a little bit against the flat part of the facing between the table and the beginning of the facing curve and this can make the tone a tiny bit brighter and the reed a tiny bit more responsive with a slightly faster attack which may also be perceived as being brighter and more free blowing.
While it's not the same thing, anyone who ever spent their schooldays twanging a ruler on the edge of a desk will know that the sound can be varied by how hard you hold down the ruler and how far from the edge of the desk you hold it. Of course with ruler twanging, the sound is created by the ruler vibrating against the desk and the pitch determined by the length of ruler overhang and that's not the same as the vibration of a saxophone reed, but it's the closest analogy I can think of., Maybe someone's done some research om the vibration of saxophone reeds and there's a better way of putting it
A bit or reed against table vibration may be desirable for some people. Others may hate it.
Rovner style fabric or leather ligs might reduce this effect
Thicker reeds with more core may not be so susceptible to these nuances and it may be less noticeable on mouthpieces with shorter facings.
Lip and embouchure will also probably have an effect

To be clear, I'm not one of those people who believes in the amazing tonal properties of expensive fancy ligs. I've always stuck to the old fashioned metal 2 screw lig because they hold the reed in place well with less possibility of it slewing out of alignment.

I also don't play vintage mouthpieces with concave tables, my entirely subjective observations have been on a variety of mouthpieces including Runyon, Lawton, Berg Larsen, Bari, Rico and Jody Jazz - using Fibracell and Bari synthetic reeds.


I don't think the PPT that Ivan is using will have a concave table, but Pete would know more about that
 

nigeld

I think I need a different ligature
Subscriber
Messages
3,890
Location
Bristol
#5
In the spirit of scientific experimentation I did a very quick trial by tightening my ligature very tight and then having it quite loose. I couldn't feel or hear a difference. I also tried tightening the front screw but not the back and vice versa. Also no difference. (Selmer Soloist mouthpiece, Selmer metal 2-screw ligature, Hemke cane reed) Maybe plastic reeds behave differently.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
2,182
Location
Victoria BC Canada
#6
When I use my Silverstein lig (on a 10MFan 8*) the position of the tone bars makes a difference in the response. I only notice it when the tone bars a right next to the reed . which takes all the pressure off the edges of the reed.

When I use my PPT 11* with its two screw reed I think I might be able to detect a difference if it was so loose that the reed would move around with vibration but there are so many other variables that it would be hard to make a scientific conclusion. I will further experiment with the too loose
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,121
Location
leicester
#7
In the spirit of scientific experimentation I did a very quick trial by tightening my ligature very tight and then having it quite loose. I couldn't feel or hear a difference. I also tried tightening the front screw but not the back and vice versa. Also no difference. (Selmer Soloist mouthpiece, Selmer metal 2-screw ligature, Hemke cane reed) Maybe plastic reeds behave differently.
I first noticed this 'phenomenon' years ago, when I was playing cane reeds - Rico and Vandoren Java, but it's been so long since I played a cane reed that I can't accurately remember ... certainly I'd expect harder reeds to be less prone to any effects of lig tightening and the more 'classical' mouthpieces that I have don'r exhibit these properties very much, if at all.
People who play with a very focussed airstream may not notice any effect.
My preference these days is for lighter reeds and a very responsive setup, so it can be a bit like walking on eggshells barefoot - I need a certain amount of potential instablity and mathematical chaos to get the sounds that I want, so any variable is more noticeable
I've never played a Selmer soloist, so can't comment, but as I said above, any effect of lig positioning and tension may not be apparent with some mouthpieces and reeds and embouchure etc - for some people, the difference between two reeds out of the same box may be far greater than how much you tighten the ligature
 

Ivan

Undecided
Subscriber
Messages
5,803
Location
Peeblesshire
#8
With a flat table it shouldn't matter how tight the ligature is imo
My experiment says otherwise
Also no difference. (Selmer Soloist mouthpiece, Selmer metal 2-screw ligature, Hemke cane reed)
Maybe twoscrew ligs hug the reed differently... MF (Lawton style) lig has four stabbing pins at each corner and Francoise Louis presses along the outer edges only
I need a certain amount of potential instablity
The altissimo instability I found was that it broke up to nothing but a wheeze. I could get it, off and on, with a precise, static embouchure and furrowed brow but in normal play that sweet spot kept hiding from me and where I would usually command a good note I mostly produced a dull asthmatic disappointment... quite the opposite of what you are after
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
2,182
Location
Victoria BC Canada
#9
My experiment says otherwise

Maybe twoscrew ligs hug the reed differently... MF (Lawton style) lig has four stabbing pins at each corner and Francoise Louis presses along the outer edges only

The altissimo instability I found was that it broke up to nothing but a wheeze. I could get it, off and on, with a precise, static embouchure and furrowed brow but in normal play that sweet spot kept hiding from me and where I would usually command a good note I mostly produced a dull asthmatic disappointment... quite the opposite of what you are after
I know that feeling. If I dont have my lig and signature where they need to be .....way more focus required

My experience with my various ligs in the collection is that the high tech ????? ones require correct placement and pressure to optimize their potential. Two screws, even my one with rails doesn't seem to me to be sensitive to this.

Steve Lacy played with a homemade lig that used 4 set screws to apply pressure on the reed. on his wide open mpce. He had a great sound.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
11,722
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
#10
With a flat table it shouldn't matter how tight the ligature is imo.
My experiment says otherwise
I should have qualified that. Too loose and it won't work. I suppose there's degrees of not working before it completely fails. Some players may enjoy some of these stages. Me? I like it tight. Having said that, when the reed "glues" itself to the table it is possible to get a few phrases with no lig at al,l until the "glue" fails. How tight is that? ;)
 
Top Bottom