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A Ligature is No Small Thing

by Lynn Reeder, Rovner Products

In the quest to coax the best performance from any level band student, it’s important to leave no stone unturned. Woodwind students, most of whom are usually renting their first instruments, have the deck stacked against them from the very beginning. They are attempting to hone their musical skills on an instrument that, for starters, may not be in the finest shape mechanically. The rented instrument comes equipped with only a basic, entry-level mouthpiece and a generic metal ligature. Those “standard issue” accessory items can have a tremendous impact on the performance of a young player, and on his or her sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Even the most eager and dedicated beginner will experience frustration and will struggle to meet his full potential when playing on lesser-quality equipment. If the individual student’s performance is hampered, then the quality of the performance of the entire band suffers, as well.

Entry-level mouthpieces are notoriously inconsistent in quality, lacking the engineering, finer craftsmanship and narrower tolerances that the motivated player will ultimately seek out to improve his sound. The performance of flimsy, stamped metal ligatures rapidly deteriorates under the daily rigors and occasional abuse delivered by the student musician. Once kinked or deformed, the ligature will no longer hold the reed properly, interfering with the student’s ability to play. Finally, student and pro woodwind players alike face the trial-and-error challenge of finding an acceptable, playable reed. With so many variables to troubleshoot, tenacity becomes almost as important as a well-developed embouchure. Investing in better-quality equipment would obviously positively impact the student’s performance, but that improvement may come at a price that most parents are reluctant to pay until the student has “proven” his or her commitment to the chosen instrument. However, the relatively minor cost of a high-performance ligature offers an excellent bang for your buck, helping to eliminate “squeaks” and shrillness, and greatly improving intonation and ease of play. As a bonus and a money saver, a ligature upgrade can yield more playable reeds. You’ll notice better tonal quality from your woodwinds, and your students will struggle less with their instruments and start having fun!

Advanced students and professional players know the benefits of finding the right ligature to help them achieve the best sound, and often have a “wardrobe” of woodwind accessories which they tailor to the type of music they’re playing. The more experienced the player, the more discerning he will be in selecting a ligature, and the more “personal” his experience of the ligature becomes. As students progress and become better performers, they’ll seek out ligatures that can increase their dynamic range and presence. For years, band directors have insisted on Rovner ligatures to help eliminate a lot of the problems in their woodwind sections and to elevate the overall performance of the band. Rovner Products now offers seven different ligatures, each with its own unique characteristics, in an extensive array of sizes to fit almost any clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece. Three of these ligatures are new “Next Generation” products…value priced, yet engineered for extreme performance.

The Star Series ligature is the easiest on the wallet, which makes it an excellent student ligature. It is durable, takes a standard cap, can withstand a bit of rough handling, allows the reed to vibrate freely and provides far better intonation than the standard issue metal ligature. Although inexpensive, it offers the same elevated performance one would expect from any Rovner ligature, to include the ever-popular Rovner Dark, and is the ligature of choice for acclaimed woodwind artist Steve Wilkerson, who was on hand at this year’s ClarinetFest in Austin, Texas, to demonstrate its capabilities. Steve gives the Star Series an even greater power boost with the addition of Rovner’s Turbo-Charger Kit, another “Next Generation” innovation which increases the ligature’s resonance and presence.

If you are a woodwind player in a marching band, you have to be one of many in order to compete with your brass-playing brethren. Rovner’s Legacy ligature is like a mini amplifier, increasing tonal quality while providing greater presence and projection, even in outdoor settings. Jazz players will also love the Legacy’s increased facility and superb dynamics. The serious classical player might prefer Rovner’s only all-metal ligature, the elegant and powerful Platinum, for its surprisingly rich, dark, centered tones. Utilizing Rovner’s Mass-Loaded Technology TM, the Platinum is superbly fluid with great clarity and ring.

From the simplicity of the Star Series, to the agility of the Legacy, to the Platinum’s ‘bling’, every “Next Generation” Rovner ligature offers superior articulation and excellent intonation at a surprisingly affordable price. To quote Kyle Luck, Director of Bands at Pasadena City College, Tournament of Roses Honor Band, “We love our new Rovner [Star Series] ligatures! Our entire clarinet and saxophone section is using them and they really help to produce an open, beautiful, dark, rich reed timbre in our concert and marching bands. I’ve always been a fan of Rovner Products and we are thrilled to be using them in our bands here at Pasadena City College.” Helping your students choose the right ligature is an excellent strategy for enhancing your band’s performance, too.

Lynn Reeder
Rovner Products

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