I remember a time when a ligature did one thing; hold the reed onto the mouthpiece. Now they do so many things like…hold the reed onto the mouthpiece. That's right, that is still the major function of a ligature. If that's the case, then why is there so much fuss made about something so simple? Because the ligature is active at the point of actuation, where air meets reed, and the sound is born. If the ligature is too tight, it will dampen vibrations. Additionally, one must consider how it supports the reed, the materials used in the ligature’s construction, and how it affects both the tone, and the response to the player. You see, this is a simple process, but a complex piece of equipment.
Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of ligatures, each offering their unique take on this simple concept. The newest addition to the ligature market is from Saxcraft. Saxcraft was founded in 2009 by Pieter van Kessel as a means of selling vintage saxophones. Captivated by all-things saxophone, van Kessel decided to start crafting ligatures and today makes them in the small hamlet of Oranjedorp, Netherlands.
At first glance you are struck by the modern simplicity of the design. Like a piece of contemporary European sculpture, the Saxcraft ligature is designed with a stainless steel body, single adjustment screw, and thin brass reed plate (more on that later). This makes the ligature incredibly strong. I promise you that if the Saxcraft ligature falls to the floor, you should be more concerned about what it does to your floor than any damage to the ligature.
Everything about the Saxcraft ligature exudes craftsmanship. From the precise fit (mine is designed for a Selmer Concept mouthpiece) to the solid brass reed plate, and stainless-steel adjustment screw, everything is of the highest quality. There is no excess play, rattling, or inefficiency. The brass contact plate is narrow, but strong, and fits the entire width of the reed. The thinness of the contact plate, along with the brass alloy, allows the reed to vibrate more, creating a deep, robust tone. I enjoyed the increased response of the reed, and felt more connected to my saxophone. The full configuration of the ligature means it transmits the resonance through the instrument. The player may notice a bit of resistance, but it is a welcome resistance.
The knurling of the contact plate is rather deep, which I see as both a positive and negative. The positive side is that once secured; the reed does not move. We tried a variety of cane, and synthetic reeds on the Saxcraft ligature and not one of them moved. So, you can rest easy knowing that when you adjust your mouthpiece, the reed will not shift. The only downside is that knurling on the plate will, over time, leave an imprint on the reed. This is really nothing more than a cosmetic issue, but it shows the tremendous amount of torque that is applied to the reed if one is not careful. Likewise, the length of the screw could be an issue depending on where you place the ligature. I noticed that when I wanted to move the ligature up on the mouthpiece, to compensate for a warp in the reed, I would hit my chin on the screw. This occurrence was seldom but it was an issue when it happened. As I understand it, Saxcraft has recognized this issue and adjusted the design with their new ligatures.
The Saxcraft ligature comes with a cap and an incredible 10-year warranty. Equally amazing is that you have a 4-week trial period in which to decide if the Saxcraft ligature is right for you. If, after four weeks, you are not satisfied with the ligature, simply send it back, using the enclosed shipping label, and you will be issued a full refund. This type of trial period demonstrates the confidence van Kessel has in his product. Chances are you will lose the ligature before it breaks. At $219 (195 Euros) it is expensive but far from being the most costly ligature on the market. With the quality of construction and a ten-year guarantee, it may be the last ligature you will own. From materials and design to performance and warranty, this is a special product and certainly one worthy of your time. Check it out, you will be most happy you did.