by legendary euphonium soloist, Arthur Lehman U.S. Marine Band,
edited by David Werden
When I first joined the U.S. Marine Band (in early August 1947), all of the euphonium players used Conns. These were silver plated and most were double bell horns. Only Buddy Burroughs played a single bell four value Conn ‑ because it was lighter in weight. We did more parading in those days and Buddy felt the weight of the heavy double bell Conns, as all of us did.
I wasn't satisfied with the tone of the Conn after hearing Harold Brasch perform solos on his Boosey and Hawkes "Imperial" euphonium and, of course, even before I had even thought of joining the Marine Band, I was collecting British Brass and Military Band recordings. I liked the nice tone their youffers obtained. I tried to get the same tone on my personal Conn (before joining the Marine Band) and on the G.I. instrument they gave me when I first got into the band. This big tone was impossible on a Conn but I continued trying.
Towards the goal of obtaining a bigger and better tone, I was experimenting with, mouthpieces. The standard Conn euphonium mouthpiece was too small for my taste. I had Giardinelli in NYC make me various mouthpieces with ever-deeper cups and wider throats. These seemed to help. I even got some measuring instruments and a rat-tailed file with which to enlarge the throat as it struck my fancy.
As soon as I received my Boosey and Hawkes "Imperial" euphonium from England (in January 1949), 1 found that the mouthpiece they sent me with the horn did not suit me at all so I somehow I probably bought it from Harold Brasch with whom I was studying obtained an old style B&H euphonium mouthpiece and this worked out just fine. These old B&H mouthpieces had a very wide rim and a decent inside rim diameter and depth of cup.
As time went on, and as I tried always to get a bigger and better tone, I got dissatisfied with the B&H mouthpiece and, even though I had altered several of the identical ones I had picked up along the way, none seemed to suit me exactly. I was floating around for quite a while in a sea of‑confusion about mouthpieces but soon Louie Saverino put me on the right track.
From the time when I joined the Marine Band until the present day, I have admired, respected, and almost worshiped Louie Saverino for his marvelous musical talent and ability. He was, when I first got into the Marine Band, the very best tuba player I ever heard. WHAT A TONE! When he was first promoted to assistant Director, Dale Harpham, himself a very fine trombone soloist, said to me one day when we were chatting in his office, "He has an unbelievable tone!" He was, of course, referring to Louie Saverino and his tuba tone. I've never heard anyone with such a wonderful tone since last I heard Louie play.
Anyway, I had asked Louie for help all along the way from the moment I joined the Marine Band. I guess, in effect, you could say that while I was studying with Harold Brasch formally, I was also studying with Louie, informally. That is, I drove over to South June Street in Arlington, Va. every week for a lesson with Harold but every single day I was talking with Louie and working on various things he got me interested in. Such things as using double tonguing for triplets, etc. I'd work on such techniques and with Louie's help I would improve and, sometimes, even master them.
I was always asking Louie for his advice. He'd help me in lots of ways. Probably the best help he gave me was by his example. And because of his wonderful tone, I started looking at his mouthpiece. It was a Del Negro mouthpiece, which he had altered in several ways. Eventually, I measured his mouthpiece very carefully and drew up the contours and dimensions on graph paper. I liked the top part of his mouthpiece but not the shank, which seemed too long for me. Therefore, I started to design a scaled‑down version of his tuba mouthpiece. However, I used my own idea for the throat and shank. I wanted a short throat, which meant a "quick" backbore. Although some players disagreed completely with this, a quick backbore is what I wanted and that's what I designed.
When I had my drawings and templates made up ‑ well refined by then ‑I sent them along with instructions to Del Osa in Philadelphia for him to make me two copies. He did so and sent them off to me. One was a dandy and the other wasn't nearly as good. You see, he was making Mouthpieces by "feel" rather than scientifically. Anyway, as long as I had ONE that suited me, I was in business.
I started using the big Lehman model mouthpiece early in 1956, probably in April. I remember that when I designed this mouthpiece and used a short shank, I had been claiming that the short shank would pull down my high notes. It sure did that, for the first thing which hit me was on my first Radio Broadcast we did the Prologue from "Pagliacci" as a band number. We didn't have Bill Jones to sing these arias as yet so I got stuck on the solo parts. Oh, boy! Did I seem flat on all of the high notes! Many years later when I again heard this radio broadcast (when I was listening to all of the Marine Band radio broadcast transcription discs up at the Library of Congress for Bob Hoe), it sounded okay to me. But after so much playing too sharp in the high register, as I had been forced to do on the Conn and later on the B&H, when I finally was able to pull down on the high notes, they sounded flat to me. They weren't flat. I just needed more education with my "ear" as I used the new mouthpiece.
At this exact time I stayed after lunch one day ‑ after band rehearsal and dismissal ‑ and was working with the band's strobotuner. I was checking on my intonation with my old mouthpiece and then with my newly designed Lehman model mouthpiece. As revealed by the strobotuner, the intonation was greatly improved by the new mouthpiece.
When I was busily engaged with the strobotuner in the Band Hall, who should rush into the hall but Major Schoepper. (I believe that he was a Major then, in early 1956). He wanted to know just what I was doing. He was in a good mood, I guess, for he was very friendly about it. I explained that I had designed a new euphonium mouthpiece and I was checking my intonation, as I used the new mouthpiece, with the strobotuner. He said held sit back in the auditorium and listen and I was to continue. After listening for a while, Major Schoepper announced to me, "Not only is your intonation improved with that mouthpiece. Lehman, but your tone is better, as well!" He left, apparently pleased that I was doing something to improve myself.
Almost immediately he landed upon poor Bill Scheneman like a ton of bricks. While I had never spoken to Major Schoepper about Bill's bad tuning, he ‑took my cue ‑ from my check of intonation with the new mouthpiece against the strobotuner ‑ and started listening to the euphoniums. First thing he noticed was that somewhere in the lower brasses there was some bad (sharp) playing. He was running thru some piece that was on the broadcast we were rehearsing for. He heard something bad and said as much to the band. First he had the tubas play a passage. That was okay. He tried the trombones and they were okay. Oh, boy. That left the euphoniums and held hit me and I was on a new mouthpiece. Would I be singled out as a complete dope for using some new mouthpiece? However, he asked the euphoniums to play that passage. (He demanded that we play it, is a better way of putting it.) We did so and he yelled out, "That's it. Someone is SHARP!" Bill Scheneman was sitting on my left so he was the first one to be required to play a Bb with the solo cornet. "Sharp, Scheneman. Pull out your slide." Bill pulled out the slide about 1/2". They tried the Bb again. Still sharp. The Major was getting furious by ‑then. "Pull it out some more." Bill pulled it out another 1/2". "STILL sharp. Pull it OUT!" Bill pulled it out another 1/2" and this time he had reached the proper tuning pitch. 1-1/2" too sharp on the tuning slide! He wouldn't listen to me as I was telling him almost daily to pull out his tuning slide. "You are sharp, Bill." He would reply, "You are flat". Anyway, from then on Bill played with the correct tuning and he was actually a very good player. Just very lazy.
The entire matter was caused, quite unintentionally, by me when I was "caught" working with the strobotuner in the Band Hall to check on my new mouthpiece. Incidentally, the Major had yelled at poor Bill, "Scheneman, you are skating on thin ice around here!" And he ordered him to start using a bigger mouthpiece. Again, I was the cause of all of Bill's grief, but it was purely unintentional, I continue to remind you. Bill asked me what kind of mouthpiece he should use. He had been using a tiny mouthpiece actually smaller than those our tenor trombone players were using. Knowing what a jolt it is to change mouthpieces, I advised Bill to try a Kosicup model, put out by B&H at that time. While I never liked these Kosicups, they weren't too big, although much bigger than Bill's mouthpiece, so I figured that a Kosicup would be a good compromise. Not as large as my new mouthpiece but lots larger than his tiny mouthpiece. I gave him a Kosicup mouthpiece and he used it as long as he remained in the Marine Band. He seemed to like it and it worked well for him. He was well in tune and his intonation was decent from then on.
Eventually, I experimented and had a couple of different variations on my original big mouthpiece made by Giardinelli. They had a contour machine there and when they copied a mouthpiece, it was a perfect copy. They also could do any new work that I required. I eventually designed a set of Lehman model mouthpieces There were three mouthpieces in the set ‑one was identical with the original Lehman model mouthpiece; one was smaller in depth of cup; and one was larger in depth of cup. Rim size and shape were the same with all three as was the I.D. of the throat.
Eventually, I changed to the largest mouthpiece of the three-mouthpiece set and had Giardinelli make me a copy with a screw rim. I used the mouthpiece for about my last 10 years with the Marine Band, While it may not have had as good a tone as the original mouthpiece, I always felt that I could play better in tune with it. And when working with an electronic tuner, this was confirmed. The bigger mouthpiece yielded a softer tone with not as much volume and therefore one had to work harder to make himself heard. However, in those days I was always able to play as loudly as necessary and, occasionally, too loudly. Alas!
This, then, is the complete story of the mouthpiece and much more than you ever wanted to hear or know, I am sure.
Incidentally, there is a commercial brass instrument mouthpiece maker who has exclusive rights to the Lehman model:
Mr. David Houser
Houser Mouthpiece Works
10 Clyston Circle R.D. #2
Norristown, Pa 19403
Written by Arthur Lehman, December 7,1996