Meri’s Musical Musings

Is the ligature sometimes at fault?

Posted on: April 8, 2009

A beginning student can have a good-quality instrument, good-quality reeds, a good-quality mouthpiece, and a good teacher. However, there are problems with the ligature: even when very loose and the student is placing it in a correct position (or trying to place it in a correct position), there are still problems with the sound quality. What is causing the stuffiness? The rigidity of the ligature and the size of the ligature—too small to fit comfortably below the cut portion of the reed.

Such an occurence happened with my very first student. He told me that he was having problems with his sound, and that his ligature would not go below the cut portion of the reed. Problems with his mouthpiece and his instrument were ruled out, because both were of high quality. For some reason, I decided to test his ligature. Turned out I too had a very hard time getting his ligature below the cut portion of the reed, and also found it very stuffy. The very next lesson, I gave him one of my spare ligatures. The stuffiness was gone, and he could easily place the ligature below the cut portion of the reed.

I initially thought this was a rare occurence, since I did not know any other clarinet instructor who have had this problem. However, one night I overheard the conductor of one of the bands I played with (also a clarinetist) talk about how many ligatures he found that did not fit the mouthpiece properly. I also asked my teacher too if he ever discovered a student’s ligature was too small, and he said it has happened a few times, mostly with beginners.

So, if you, or your students, are having problems with stuffiness in the sound, and problems with embouchure, reeds, mouthpieces, and the instrument can be ruled out, test the ligature—it may be the root of the problem.


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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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