The 8 Best Clarinet Ligatures in 2021: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re a beginner of more advanced, choosing the best ligature can be hard. There is so much information out there about how to choose the right one for your instrument and it gets overwhelming really fast.

To help you make sense of it all, we’ve put together a complete buying guide to walk you through everything you need to know to make a purchase and then we’ve reviewed what we think are the best clarinet ligatures on the market.

Quick Answer: The Top Clarinet Ligatures

How to Choose a Clarinet Ligature

Although it is one of the smallest parts of the clarinet, the ligature is one of the most important parts. As you hopefully already know, the ligature is a round device that holds the reed to the mouthpiece. The placement of the ligature over the reed and the amount of pressure that the ligature places on the reed determines how much the reed can vibrate, which impacts the sound quality. It is therefore important to choose the right ligature for you and your instrument.

What is a Ligature?

A ligature is a piece of musical equipment that secures a reed onto an instrument’s mouthpiece. The goal of a clarinet ligature (and ligatures for other single-reed instruments like saxophones) is to press the reed tightly against the mouthpiece while simultaneously allowing the reed to vibrate and produce sound. 

Types of Ligatures for Different Instruments

Lots of instruments use reeds and therefore ligatures, ligatures are not one-size-fits-all. You want to make sure to choose a ligature for your particular instrument. This is because each instrument type has slightly differently sized and shaped reeds and mouthpieces.

A clarinet, for example, requires a very different ligature than a saxophone. Even within the clarinet family, there are subtle differences. The B flat clarinet ligature is smaller than the bass clarinet ligature and larger than the E flat clarinet ligature. Even though ligatures tighten and loosen, one meant for one type of instrument will never produce the desired sound with another type of instrument.

Ligature Materials

The earliest ligatures were simply string wound around the reed and mouthpiece. Today, ligatures come in a wide range of materials at a wide range of prices. Each material type has pros and cons, but finding the right ligature for you is very similar to finding the right pair of shoes. They can look great and feel great on one person but not another.

Sometimes you have to play trial and error a little bit until you find the ligature that produces the best sound for your instrument and preferred reeds. Since each material produces a slightly unique tone quality, many professional level clarinetists keep several different ligatures on hand to change their sound based on the needs of distinct pieces and solos passages.

Plastic

Plastic ligatures are some of the least expensive options, ranging between $10 and $15. These softer ligatures allow the ligature to form more exactly to the shapes of the reeds and mouthpieces, providing more even pressure for a more even sound.

The downside of the softness of even the nicest plastic ligatures is that they place less pressure on the reed, making it more difficult to create a deep and rich tone. Plastic ligatures are therefore best for more experienced clarinetists with more developed embouchures who know how to create this sound with their lips.

Metal

Metal ligatures come in the widest range of materials and prices. Materials include nickel, copper, silver, rose gold, and gold, and the prices increase along this spectrum from about $10 for the least expensive nickel options up to over $100 for the finest pure gold ligatures.

Nickel is a great affordable option for beginners as it’s a reliably sturdy medal that will hold a steady pressure on the reed and allow the new player to focus on fingering and introductory embouchure skills. The more precious the metal, the softer the material. For more expert clarinetists, what is great about this is that these ligatures form to the reed and mouthpiece similarly to the plastic options, but still produce the depth and richness in tone characteristic of metal.

Vandoren is the leading brand for metal ligatures. One downside of any metal ligature is that they are less durable than plastic options, susceptible to bending in the softer metals and corroding in the nickel. Metal ligatures also more easily damage the reeds if tightened just a little too much.

Leather

Leather ligatures have been gaining popularity among clarinetists. Proponents of the leather ligature like the even pressure offered by its full wraparound design. They feel the leather ligature produces a rounder sound in comparison with both metal and plastic ligatures. They also have faster responsiveness, which means how quickly the clarinet moves from a lower to a higher register or vice versa without that infamous squeak and other warped sounds.

Since responsiveness is a quality needed for more advanced pieces, leather ligatures are typically better choices for intermediate through professional level clarinetists. Rovner and Ishimori are popular brands for leather ligatures among leather ligature enthusiasts.

One drawback is that leather ligatures, like anything made of leather, require a care regime to keep them from cracking. Even if they are properly cared for, their lifespan is shorter than that of metal or plastic ligatures. At between $25 and over $100 each, the leather ligature is a bit more of an investment. At the upper end of this spectrum are leather ligatures that include a metal or plastic reed plate, which combines the values of both types of materials.

Wooden

The last type are wooden ligatures which are uncommon and unconventional, but those who choose them love them. Made of one solid cylindrical piece of wood, these ligatures require no tightening of screws. They are durable, and they produce a characteristically warm tone that most clarinets are always striving to achieve from this woodwind instrument. They also have the fastest degree of responsiveness between registers.

At over $100, these ligatures are expensive, and since you can’t manipulate them at all, they should really be custom made to each individual clarinet. Encore and Roberto’s Winds are the most popular makers of the wooden ligature. Given that there is little opportunity for ligature adjustment and placement needs to be so specific, wooden ligatures are best for more professional clarinets with dynamic embouchure skills.

Plates and Rails

Two aspects common to most plastic and metal ligatures, and therefore the majority of commonly used ligatures, are the plates and rails. The plate is the part that lies directly over the reed, and the rails are the parts that extend horizontally around the ligature to hold it to the mouthpiece. Sometimes the rails extend across the reed rather than there being a reed plate at all.

There are many different configurations of plates and rails. Each affects the reed’s vibrations differently and requires a different amount of tightening. For example, two rails that extend across the reed will allow for more reed vibration than a reed plate, which can produce a louder and brighter sound, but also requires a more specific amount of pressure from the screws to prevent bending or cutting into the reed and warping the sound. Skill level and preference will determine the construct of the ligature’s rails and plate that work best for you.

Inverted vs Standard Screws

Ligatures with standard screws have the screws placed over the reed, while those with inverted screws have them placed over the front of the mouthpiece. The main difference between the two is that the inverted screws allow the reed to vibrate more freely since the pressure is applied at the front of the mouthpiece and therefore more evenly distributed among the reed plate or back rails.

On the other hand, some clarinetists like the ability to control the pressure directly to the reed through standard screws. This choice is therefore a matter of preference. Most beginner ligatures have standard screws in order to help novice players achieve the desired pressure until they learn how to change it through their embouchure.

How Climate Affects Ligatures

While climate does not necessarily need to be a determining factor in your ligature choice, it should be a consideration. Leather and wooden ligatures are susceptible to shrinking and warping if exposed to too much moisture. If you are playing often in a humid climate or one where the atmosphere shifts frequently, these ligatures may not last as long and will certainly require a great deal more adjusting on your part to maintain the desired amount of pressure on the reed.

Remember that humidity will make the reed swell and soften too, which requires you to loosen the ligature accordingly regardless of its material. Always check the temperature and humidity levels of new rehearsal and concert locations in order to prepare for how you will need to adjust your ligature throughout the process.

How to Use a Ligature

Regardless of what type of ligature you choose, creating the ideal sound begins with using it correctly. The first rule of thumb is to never unscrew the ligature fully or tighten it completely. All this does is make it more difficult for you to find its proper tightness each time.

For all but the wooden ligatures, properly place the reed first, and then loosen the ligature just enough to slide over the reed and mouthpiece. If you have two screws, gradually alternate turns between the two rather than tightening one completely and then the other. You will know when you have achieved desired tightness when the reed stays in place but the ligature is not cutting into the reed. This is especially important for metal and plastic ligatures and leather ligatures with reed plates.

For wooden ligatures, turn them slowly with gentle downward pressure until it stops. If you have a ligature with screws, never place inverted screws over the reed and vice versa. The screws of standard ligatures are specially designed to go over the reed, and the plates and rails of inverted ligatures are designed the same way.

For more information check out our guide to changing a clarinet reed here.

Choosing a Ligature

Choosing the right ligature is a fun part of being a clarinet player. Your choice of ligature will likely change over time, as you expand your skill set and dabble in different genres of music that require different tone qualities. You might find yourself collecting different ligatures that you use for different occasions. Return to this guide each time you find yourself wondering if you are ready to expand your ligature collection or progress to a new level.

The Best Rated Clarinet Ligature Reviews

Now that we’ve explained what to look for we’ll cover some specific models and brands that we recommend looking at when buying a clarinet ligature.

1. Vandoren LC01P Clarinet Reeds

Vandoren LC01P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet Silver Plated with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
366 Reviews
Vandoren LC01P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet Silver Plated with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
  • Quick and precise tightening
  • Expression with freedom
  • Pressure plates and cap available as replacements

The Vandoren LCO1P ligature has ranked among the most popular clarinet ligatures for years, dressed to impress with its sleek silver color and standing strong with a durable and well-engineered design. 

Its unique, double-track screw construction lets instrumentalists tighten both sides of the reed for comfortable play and achieve a high-quality, wide-ranging sound. The ligature successfully holds the reed on the mouthpiece, resulting in improved performance. 

This particular ligature comes with three pressure plates that can help you adjust your sound’s color, flexibility, and response whenever and however you please. It’s also effortless to put in and manage. 

These ligatures are available for Eb through Bass clarinets as well as soprano through baritone saxophone. Each ligature package includes a plastic cap for protective purposes. 

The Vandoren LCO1P seems to pair well with a hard rubber mouthpiece and is commonly recommended to students by clarinet instructors to use during practice.

2. Rovner V-1R Clarinet Ligature

Rovner V-1R Clarinet Ligature
120 Reviews
Rovner V-1R Clarinet Ligature
  • Brand: Rovner
  • Product Code: V1R
  • Professional ligature for both clarinet and saxophone players

The Rovner Eddie Daniels II has recently received a performance and design upgrade, now featuring a brand new cradle and enhanced gold body material. This exceptional and highly-rated ligature offers incredible tonal control and note-hitting precision on all registers. 

This ligature has a metal cradle that can be adjusted to produce six separate tones, offering maximum versatility for a variety of clarinets and saxophones. Performers also benefit from no pressure points on the reed, allowing for improved clarity and a professional-grade tone. 

It’s worth mentioning that this product cannot be inverted into different positions. Installation is simple, and the ligature itself is built to last – perfect for the professional performer who’s always playing and sharpening their skills. 

With the Rovner V-1R ligature, players can enjoy a smooth, clear sound during play, as well as a noticeable increase in comfort level. And you can obtain this high-quality sound at an extremely affordable price.

3. Vandoren LC21P Leather Ligature

Vandoren LC21P Leather Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
142 Reviews
Vandoren LC21P Leather Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
  • Quick and precise tightening
  • Expression with freedom
  • Pressure plates and cap available as replacements

The Vandoren LC21P Leather ligature offers a modern, genuine leather design with a gorgeous handcrafted finish. Not only does it look great with its high impact plastic exterior, but it can also significantly enhance the sound quality of your clarinet. 

Players can personalize their playing style by experimenting with the three interchangeable pressure plates included in the package. Practice time and performances are even more enjoyable, as you can switch from tone to tone. 

This ligature is offered in a sleek, black color and also includes pressure plates that can be used as replacements if needed and a convenient, protective cap. You can also easily and quickly adjust the screws to fit any clarinet mouthpiece you want to use. 

The Vandoren LC21P is compatible with the Vandoren V16 A6 mouthpiece but may not fit all mouthpieces. Overall, this sturdy ligature is built for professional use.

4. Vandoren LC51BP M/O Ligature and Plastic Cap

Vandoren LC51BP M/O Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet; Black Finish
85 Reviews
Vandoren LC51BP M/O Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet; Black Finish
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to set up
  • Quick and symmetrical tightening with a unique double-track screw mechanism

This more delicate ligature is available in a smooth, black finish and includes a handy plastic cap for protection. Its lightweight design makes for easy installation and a straightforward, user-friendly setup. 

This particular ligature offers inverted tightening using only two small contact points on the reed. The double-track screw system allows for quick and easy tightening, which is terrific for professional and amateur clarinet players alike. 

Performers can select from a variety of colors such as gold, silver, black, and pewter. Be aware that this ligature may not fit all mouthpieces, but it’s compatible with the Vandoren M15 mouthpiece. 

Those who opt for the Vandoren LC51BP ligature will benefit from warm, sweet sounds and improved play in all registers, even after the first use. Many customers find it’s much easier to play the clarinet when using this impressive ligature, and of course, enjoy the fantastic sound quality. 

5. D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature & Cap, Bb Clarinet

D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature & Cap, Bb Clarinet, Silver-plated - HCL1S
205 Reviews
D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature & Cap, Bb Clarinet, Silver-plated - HCL1S
  • Silver-plated
  • Includes mouthpiece cap
  • Four-point "H" system applies equal pressure

It’s important to note that this ligature should only be installed on a Bb clarinet, as it will not work correctly on other kinds. The D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature stems from the famous Harrison ligature model, which has been used by a variety of well-known clarinetists and saxophonists around the world. 

Customers can choose from either a silver or gold color with the retro-style D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature. When you purchase this ligature, you receive a unique, over-molded, plastic mouthpiece cap and two screws intended for inversion. 

This ligature features a unique four-point system, which works to apply even pressure on the reed and hold it in place. As a result, players can experience improved contact and sound quality. This design also reduces leaks that often occur on the side rails, enhancing tonal clarity. 

Professional musicians and amateurs can reap this impressive clarinet ligature’s benefits and enhance their playing capabilities tremendously. 

6. D’Addario Rico H-Ligature and Cap

H-Ligature & Cap, Bb Clarinet, Gold-plated
205 Reviews
H-Ligature & Cap, Bb Clarinet, Gold-plated
  • Gold-plated
  • Includes mouthpiece cap
  • Four-point "H" system applies equal pressure

The D’Addario Rico H-Ligature is made especially for Bb clarinets and features a robust, gold-plated exterior. As with the D’Addario Woodwinds H-Ligature, this product includes a unique mouthpiece cap and offers a two-screw, inverted design for pristine tone.

The innovative, four-point “H” system spreads pressure across the reed for better contact for the player and a higher-quality overall sound during practice and performance. The manufacturer also recently added ligature brackets to offer extra support and lengthen this product’s lifespan, which is beneficial for those who perform regularly and practice often.

This ligature fits many metal link style mouthpieces and can be a solid upgrade option for professionals and beginners. Many famous musicians have utilized this popular ligature, from Chris Potter and Ernie Watts to Eric Alexander and Henri Bok. 

In sum, the well-known D’Addario Rico H-Ligature offers excellent vibration, incredible durability, and substantial sound improvement, all at a low price.

7. Rovner Dark 1R Bb

Sale
Rovner Dark 1R Bb Clarinet Ligature and Cap
598 Reviews
Rovner Dark 1R Bb Clarinet Ligature and Cap
  • Assists in producing a full, centered tone
  • Enjoyed especially by classical performers for its warm sound
  • Ligatures hold the reed to the mouthpiece with no pressure points

The Rovner Dark 1R ligature is only available in black and is also among the cheapest ligature options on this list; however, it doesn’t compromise its quality for the price. Players will notice a comfortable feel, as this ligature does not hold the reed to the mouthpiece with pressure points. 

We recommend this particular ligature for classical performers, as its strength is producing warmer, full, and centered sounds. The lack of pressure points on the reed results in a beautiful and clear tone. 

This ligature is also one of the most commonly used and top-selling ligatures for the Rovner brand, as it’s incredibly user-friendly and one of the best options for beginner players. It can easily be compared to the vintage string ligatures of earlier days. 

The Rovner Dark 1R ligature works well on the Selmer C85 mouthpiece but can adapt to a variety of shapes and sizes. It also includes a protective cap. 

8. Selmer 1719 Nickel Clarinet Ligature

Selmer 1719 Nickel Clarinet Ligature
414 Reviews
Selmer 1719 Nickel Clarinet Ligature
  • package height : 19.9 cm
  • package length : 3.6 cm
  • package width : 9.5 cm

The Selmer 1719 Nickel Clarinet ligature is also one of the cheapest ligatures we’ve discussed. This ligature comes in either the nickel or limited edition styles and is surprisingly durable for the inexpensive price. 

As a note of caution, plastic mouthpieces will not work with this product. We advise using a hard rubber mouthpiece. Also, be careful not to overtighten the screws, as they can break off if tightened too much. This may not be the best option for a professional, as the sound quality may be lower than desired. 

This ligature is a great replacement option for broken or poorly-functioning ligatures. Using a 3 ½ Rico or 3 Vandoren mouthpiece may be a better fit. 

There’s really nothing fancy about this ligature; it simply does its job without any bonus features. Beginner to intermediate performers can benefit from the decent sound enhancement and easy-to-use nature of the Selmer 1719. 

Conclusion: Which One Should You Buy? 

Your choice of ligature certainly depends on your skill level. Are you a seasoned clarinetist or a beginner? Once you determine where you stand, it’ll be much easier to find the right ligature for you.

If you’re a beginner on a budget, we’d highly recommend the Rovner Dark 1R Bb. It has stellar five-star reviews and had nearly perfect ratings for beginners, ease of use, sound quality, and value for money. 

On the other hand, professionals and more seasoned performers may want to go for the Vandoren LC01P for its outstanding track record, durability, versatility, and remarkable sound quality.

Vandoren LC01P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet Silver Plated with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
366 Reviews
Vandoren LC01P Optimum Ligature and Plastic Cap for Bb Clarinet Silver Plated with 3 Interchangeable Pressure Plates
  • Quick and precise tightening
  • Expression with freedom
  • Pressure plates and cap available as replacements