Silverstein Ligature- Free the Reed!

 My buddy Tim Wilcox started playing on a Silverstein ligature recently and seemed very happy with it and it looked like a very interesting design, so I decided to check them out. The design is kind of similar to the old string ligatures, but the Silverstein ligs have just five thin cords that look kind of like hair ties that hold the reed in place. The cords are attached to a bar on top that also has a screw that pushes a V shaped clamp into the mouthpiece to tighten the cords and pull the reed from the bottom. It is actually quite an elegant design and the workmanship is excellent. There are two bars on either side of the lig that keep the cords spaced evenly and can be moved toward the reed or toward the reed the give different tonal colors. It makes a lot of sense to have as little ligature as possible touching the reed to allow for maximum vibration and the Sivlerstein ligature certainly achieves this end. You can also soak the ligature in water before putting it on so the cords absorb moisture. This is supposed to keep your reed from drying out as quickly while you play it. The ligs are obviously very well made and come with a lifetime guarantee.

Here is what the website has to say:
 The Silverstein Ligature was designed to give players the purest sound, to accompany musicians with the support and dedication they and their instruments deserve. The self-adjusting design adjusts itself and conforms to your mouthpiece over time, actually getting even better and growing with you. Use the patented Fine Tuner Bars on the sides of the Ligature for unprecedented control. Moving the bars up and down will change the color and focus of your sound. No other ligature allows such an easy one-touch adjustment for the perfectionist in you. The Moisture Retention feature provides real constant moisture directly to your reed. Soaking the Ligature before mounting can help reduce reed warpage during a performance by more than 50%, and helping your reeds last twice as long. The unique features of the Silverstein Ligature were designed with the perfectionist musician in mind and is a true innovation. The bar has been raised; rethink what you knew to be truth about your sound and find out what the very best have begun to notice. Cutting edge technology with a delicate touch that truly amplifies your style, the Silverstein Ligature is the ultimate realization of what a ligature can and should do.

 Before getting into my impressions about how the ligature played I should tell you that I have played on a Rovner lig for about 34 years, so my entire sound concept is adapted to the Rovner, which is one of the darkest ligatures on the market. I think of ligatures as kind of the final tonal adjustment that you make after the horn, mouthpiece and reed. If the rest of your set up is a bit darker than you'd like then you can choose a ligature that gives just a bit more brightness, or vice versa. Personally, I like the darker sound that the Rovner gives, even though I do sacrifice a certain amount of response, volume and resonance by using it. Just about any other ligature that I have tried feels too bright to me. There is always a trade off, if you are looking for response, volume and clarity then you must give up some warmth and complexity.

 I first put the Silverstein on at a gig and I wasn't really prepared for the radical difference in sound or feel that I experienced. My horn felt and sounded totally different, it was louder, clearer, and brighter. It did seem to make my horn respond quicker as well. I had never tried a ligature before that had changed my sound so dramatically. The thing that was a bit unsettling was that my intonation felt less stable than with my Rovner. You could positively spin this by saying that the Silvertstein had more flexibility than the Rovner. It think that it something that I might be able to get used to over time, but it really did surprise me when I first put it on. There was a general clarity to my sound with the Silverstein, but I wouldn't say that it really felt overly bright, like the Francois ligs feel to me. It did feel like the reed was really freely vibrating, but this also seemed to cause less pitch stability than my Rovner.

 Because I have played a Rovner for so many years and have developed my sound concept with that ligature it would make it tough for me to make such a radical change in my setup at this point. That said, I think that the Silverstein design makes perfect sense and it worth a try for any serious saxophonist. Ligatures are very difficult to write accurately about because every player has a different setup and will have a completely different playing experience when trying one. For me, the Silverstein was brighter than what I am used to, but another player will have the opposite impression when trying one. A lot of players that I respect have had great results with the Silversteins and from what I can tell they are very different from everything else currently on the market.

 The price, at $140, is higher than most other ligatures, but if you are a working professional or serious student then paying this much for a significant improvement in response, resonance and volume is not out of line. Silverstein has a Pro trial policy where they will send you a ligature to try for a month without charging you. You just need to apply and tell them a bit about yourself and give them a credit card, which will only be charged if you do not return the ligature.

Silverstein web site

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