When I was in my first year as a music major at WSU, several new ligatures came to my notice. I noticed that the new products advertised that they were “as good as string.” I have continued to see other products advertised with similar statements. So I thought, “If string is so good, why not just use that?”
At the time I was using a Bonade ligature, which has two rails that hold the reed. This gives better response than the plain, default ligatures. They come in the traditional or inverted style (with the screws on the back of the mouthpiece).
A rare Penzel-Mueller ligature, marked Brevete SGDG, has a plate that would hold the reed evenly.
It seems that flexibility is one key to a good ligature, and not tightening the screws so as to strangle the reed. The Luyben ligature was popular back in my day. The early ones would often give out because people still tried to twist the screws too tightly, and so stripped the threads, which were only made in the plastic. Eventually Luyben produced a model that had a brass sleeve for the threads, so that it was harder to strip the threads. The other one pictured below is a no-name plastic ligature. Also, not pictured, the Rovner ligatures are now popular. They have one screw on the back, instead of two, and basically wrap a piece of leather around the reed.
I had a sax teacher in college who used plumbers O-rings as a ligature. Just put the reed in place and slip three O rings in place, spaced evenly in the ligature area. This is certainly a cheap ligature idea, but they do eventually stretch out. So if you use this option, carry spares in your case.
Not all that different from using an O-ring, is a much newer product called the Bois Ligature. I liked the way this product sounded, and it is “just as good as string.”
Annette sent me excellent pictures of how she wraps her ligature. She must be left handed! I wind with my right hand.
Below is the link to my YouTube video showing how I wind my ligature. I forgot to say that when I am ready to make the final loop, I hold the string winding on the back of the mouthpiece. Even though I didn't say that, you can sort of see me doing it on the video.
The string I use now is a very soft and flexible black nylon string that I bought in Indonesia. It is braided with many strands (rather hairy looking), and is the string used to hang a seminar name tag around one's neck. Thirty inches of it will stretch easily to thirty-three inches. I find that this string does not slip easily.
Before my current string, I used nylon braided chalk-line string, found in hardware stores. It comes in white, and doesn't take well to being dyed black. That string slips off the mouthpiece a little easier. So before my current Indonesian string, I used to add a little insurance against slipping by etching horizontal lines on the back of the mouthpiece with a file.
LINK: PhilPedler's Video Debut Demonstration of how to apply a string ligature
Woodwind.org article on Shoestring Ligature
German method for applying a string ligature: http://wurlitzerclarinetsamerica.com/learn/schnur.html
Silverio from Patagonia, Argentina has sent pictures of his ligature. It is just a slip-on mouthpiece. He says it's quick and sounds great.
Thanks to Chris Norris for the translation!