The Selmer Magni-Tone Ligature
The Selmer Magni-Tone Ligature

The Selmer Magni-Tone Ligature

Reeds. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are to a huge degree responsible for our sound. And while some people worship at the shrine of the cane reed god, others have made the switch, and are playing some variation of man-made fibres. Regardless of what type of reed you choose to play though, a proper fitting, good quality ligature is key for ensuring that your reed plays its best.

Just as reed technology has improved drastically over the decades, so has the technology surrounding ligatures. Take for example, the Selmer Magni-tone that was for sale starting around 1939.

ligature, saxophone, clarinet, Selmer Magni-tone, vintage

Source: knclodge21 on eBay.com

While it was revolutionary when it was invented, it didn’t spawn a great deal of (any?) imitators. Furthermore, you don’t see many of these original ligatures around today anymore either.

My only experience with these ligatures was a number of years ago, because a student of mine had one. He was using a Selmer Cigar Cutter that had belonged to his Grandfather. In the case was an old Selmer mouthpiece, and one of these ligs. I knew nothing about them at the time, and until today, didn’t know that they were adjustable for alto, C melody, or tenor saxophones, as well as Bb and alto clarinets.

Today I happened to see a seller on eBay who has 7 of these Selmer Magni-tone ligatures for sale. The one shown on eBay comes complete with the original box and instruction sheet, and appears to have never been used. The seller states:

Up for bid is an original Vintage Selmer MAGNI-TONE LIGATURE for clarinet and alto, tenor, and bari saxes.

This is new in the original box with insert instructions.

This ligature is in MINT condition!

The item you will receive is like the one in the photos.

Ligature is in mint condition.

Source: knclodge21 on eBay.com

Did you happen to note the original price on the box? It cost $1.00 way back around 1940. Today the seller is asking $119.99 at the Buy It Now price. (Hey, it’s got the Selmer name on it. This means the price automatically is 3 to 4 times that of what you would see on a similar item sans the Selmer name.) 😈

Not so fast… In order to pull in the big bucks from collectors, the Selmer name needs to mean Selmer Paris. Right?… That is if horn sales are any predictor of collectors’ wants in the accessory market.

It turns out that US Patent 2200054, was issued to none other than George Bundy et al., assignor to Selmer USA, on May 7, 1940.

According to the patent application, the ligature was designed to overcome the following problems associated with conventional ligs:

  • The unyielding pressure exerted by regular ligs, which can “crush the resilient fibers of the reed and indent the surface of the reed”;
  • Warping of mouthpieces because of the pressure exerted;
  • A stifling of the vibration of the reed and mouthpiece, thereby dampening the instrument’s natural tone.

Therefore these new, soon-to-be-called Selmer Magni-tone ligatures were designed to:

  • Overcome the above-noted problems of conventional ligs;
  • Stretch to conform to the shape to the mouthpiece to which it is applied;
  • Have a uniform ring around the mouthpiece and reed;
  • Be adjustable without having a tightening screw.

This is what the original patent drawing looked like:

Source: Google Patents

Unlike many patents drawings, this one actually looks like the final product. (It’s quite possible that the ligature was already in production at this time.)

I haven’t been able to find anything that indicates how long Selmer sold these Magni-tone ligatures for. However, I did notice that Borgani has remade them, as is currently selling them under the Flexitone Adjustable label. Matt Stohrer has more info about them on his site, and is also selling them if anyone is interested.

If on the other hand, you want the original Selmer Magni-tone ligature, you only have a few hours before the auction is over. The auction ends later today.

My prediction: We’ll see them again. The seller does have 7 after all. And for $119.99, they aren’t all going to be sold in the next 8 hours.

4 Comments

  1. leonAzul

    These are actually very nice ligatures and do exactly what it says on the tin: they hold a reed firmly enough so that it doesn’t wander around, but are flexible enough to allow for swelling and shrinkage without causing the reed to warp. Unlike fabric-based ligs, they don’t get sticky in high humidity or dry out and crack.

    But they are not $120.00 nice. That’s just bat-guano insane.

    The patent is also very interesting. The drawings are clear and specific. The claims are limited and reasonable. This is exactly the sort of innovation the patent system is supposed to encourage.

    1. The seller has re-listed already, and there are 3 offers. Auction to run until Feb. 7 this time. Let’s see what happens this time around…

      Do you use one of these? Borgani’s version is $75. Even that’s a bit on the high side, IMHO anyway, for a freakin’ ligature. All it does is hold a reed for cryin’ out loud. Mind you, even Rovners have gotten stupidly priced as of late.

      Everybody is making money off the backs of musicians, but musicians themselves… Don’t even get me started on that rant… :rant:

      1. Theo

        Hi Helen,

        No problems with :rant: rants here:

        Economics in music is a strange thing.
        There are too many musicians for the amount of money involved. Still musicians are rare therefore prices for gear are high. The chineese philosophy of economics is to sell large amounts of goods with a small margin. So goods are made in China and sold for 12 times their price in the rest of the world. Chineese marketing has no problems with intelectual property or parallel imports, so you can buy the same ligatures often for two prices. Now by brand name simplicity we prefer not to buy a ligature 12 times cheaper. Therefore we have a lot of cognitive dissonance to work with in music.
        So the logical thing to do is to write a cognitive dissonance song on our saxophone mouthpiece ligatures and make a lot of money.

      2. leonAzul

        Hi Helen,

        Sorry I took so long to reply.

        I don’t use one currently, but I used one on a metal round-chambered Selmer tenor piece (pre-horseshoe, a nice player, btw) that I sold together as a package when it became obvious that there weren’t many more legit concerts in my future.

        Like you, I have a rather pragmatic approach to such things. 😉 Bargain-basement ligs tend to fall apart at the worst possible moments. Zirconium-encrusted confections from the Professor Butts skunk-works aren’t in my budget.

        Peace,

        paul

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