It was late one night, and in one of my classic “get off my lawn” moments, I posted my frustration on Facebook. I was wondering why, with all the wonderfully original ligatures on the market, I couldn't seem to find a quality, 2-screw brass ligature like the ones I grew up using. I loved the classic Selmer ligatures, but in a design change that defied all logic and reason, they stopped making them in favor of an inverted single-screw ligature that doesn't fit their mouthpieces. Don’t get me wrong, I love new ideas and innovations, but sometimes I want something simple without having to pay a fortune or treasure hunt on eBay.
No sooner did I post my rant, I began receiving comments with a name, Marmaduke included. Now, if you are of a certain age, that name is reserved for an adorable cartoon pet that belonged to the Winslow family (see Cartoon Marmaduke). In this instance, Marmaduke is in reference to the classic Charlie Parker composition and the namesake of a Japanese company that specializes in mouthpieces, neck straps and other accoutrement for the saxophone. I reached out to owner, Tatsuro Miyatake and he was kind enough to send me two T-Balance ligatures in raw brass and gold-plate.
The T-Balance ligature is just what this doctor ordered. It is a traditional brass, two-screw ligature, that allows the pressure on the front and back of the reed to be adjusted independently. That is the beauty and simplicity of the two-screw ligature. Unlike other ligatures I have used by Selmer and Yamaha, the T Balance is constructed of a much thinner metal. In fact this is thinnest gauged brass I have encountered (0.3mm). This thin-wall construction reminds me of the classic Charles Bay ligatures but with a different sonic footprint.
I tested both gold-plated and raw brass versions on Selmer Concept, Greg Weir, and 10MFan mouthpieces. On my Selmer Concept mouthpiece, the raw brass T Balance ligature offered amazing vibration and player feedback. It produced a brilliant sound that allowed me a full sonic spectrum from which to choose. Articulation was quick and response was immediate. The gold-plated version produced a slightly darker and more compact sound. I found the gold T Balance also to be responsive but with somewhat more resistance. I enjoyed using this ligature when my reeds started to get weak or on my brighter jazz mouthpieces. It offered a beautifully compact core with a nice compliment of mid overtones.
As I mentioned, these ligatures are thin. So, one should be mindful when tightening and handling them. The thinness of the metal will cause stretching if you are one of those players who has a habit of over-tightening your ligatures. A fall from a table will inevitably cause them to bend, and I would even go as far as to protect them in the case. All that said, they do an excellent job keeping the reed (both cane and synthetic were used in this test) secure and in place. Perhaps the best part of these ligatures is the price. At $40-brass and $68-gold plated you can enjoy a wonderful ligature without having to take out a personal line of credit. I loved these ligatures so much they are now a part of the gear that I use. They are simple, classic and
effective. What more could you ask for? Except to get off my lawn!