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Thread: The British Euphonium Sound

  1. The British Euphonium Sound

    Hello everyone,

    I have been browsing through a number of topics on this forum. Whilst reading through a number of topics I have noticed a number of references to the British Euphonium Sound and I am curious to find out a little more about this topic. I have always been an avid listener of all forms of music and I love being exposed to new sounds and I was curious to find out about other individuals definitions of what makes a British Euphonium Sound.

    During my time at university studying under Steven Mead, I had the opportunity to play for a number of years in a championship section band sitting next to an an ex Yorkshire Building Society Band euphonium player and I absolutely fell in love with this sound. Just prior to joining the band, I deputised with the band sitting next to an individual who had just finished his studies under David Childs and at the end of the concert he turned to me and said, "I can tell you are a student of Steven Mead's". We both laughed and I said that I could tell that he was a student of David Childs and we sat and discussed how we emulated the styles of our teachers and how students selected their university courses based on the teachers they would have.

    Over time my own sound has changed, I think my sound would best be described as being similar to Steven Mead and switching to a more traditional sound when doing a lot of brass band playing. I find this subject rather fascinating especially when compared to the American or European Euphonium Sound.

    I look forward to reading your opinions on this subject.

    Best Wishes,

    Micah Dominic Parsons

  2. #2
    I doubt I have anything useful to add, but here's the take of a nerd that just likes playing anything remotely resembling a brass instrument.

    I always called the British sound a "tone bath". The horns are generally developed for playing indoors in very large rooms and that's what they're good at. That also happens to be why I don't really like that sound very much. British Euphs often lack a lot of focus and core to the sound, instead producing an extremely broad sound. The instrumentation and context of the British brass band is able to completely mitigate this, but it's not as fun when you're just a hobbyist trying to entertain yourself in a small room. Historically speaking (and ONLY), compared to the American Euphoniums and European Baritones, British players have been much larger mouthpieces for much longer, so this also contributes to the difference. I'm not old enough to know for sure, but I credit the increased popularity of British Euphoniums in the 60s and 70s with the increase in modern mouthpiece size.

    For the old American style horns, context is incredibly important. These instruments were developed and sold in an era where music played outdoors was popular, and instruments were considered a source of entertainment. Also worth considering is the instrumentation. The Euphonium was a solo instrument in American bands, just like British bands, but it lost its smaller 9'Bb support in favor of Saxophones. The result is that you need a sound that is focused enough to carry itself and be heard outside. Thus, slightly smaller instruments with smaller mouthpieces. The sound is brighter, but I like that sort of thing.

    European military bands prior from like 1910 to 1980 needed something totally different from their larger 9'Bb instruments because they used the smaller Bb Tenorhorn as the solo instrument. The larger Baritone instead needs to produce a sound that can be used as a background instrument. This is really evident with the Soviet models. Both horns are using the same bore! So the result is an incredibly powerful Tenorhorn sound, and a ridiculously loud, yet majestic and subtle Baritone. Of course, the modern day shift to the Tenorhorn being almost completely forgotten just goes to show that the Rotary Baritone has no trouble handling itself. The nature of the ovalform horns and the rotary proportion in general requires a different mouthpiece than either the American or British Euphs, and so that's another source of difference.

    As for modern day examples like the King 2280 and Adams Euphoniums, I dunno. Modern technology allows manufacturers to engineer different behaviors into an instrument. There's a lot of different flavors of Euphonium available on the market that look almost completely identical and sound nothing alike. Seems like a lot of people have a really specific idea of what they think a Euphonium sounds like, too.
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Smoketown, Pa
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    I've played for the most part of my life American/German euphoniums. I do own a Wessex Festivo which I purchased to help with the arthritis developing in my hands. For some reason I prefer the German sound. I also use a baryton (rotary) which is kind of a cross of euphonium and baritone. I never heard of the British Euphonium sound until I joined this forum.
    B&S 3046 Baritone/Euphonium
    B&S PT33-S Euphonium
    B&S PT37-S
    Schilke ST20 Tenor Trombone

  4. #4
    I'm pretty sure I did not have a modern concept of the "British sound" in my early CG Band days. I had old records from British brass bands and know what some of their soloists sounded like. The tone color appealed to me (although in that era they cut off notes with their tongue in an obvious way and had vibrato that was wider/faster than I liked). The NS Besson I had sounded better than my old King, so I had that much of a concept. In 1978 at a T.U.B.A. conference I had a chance to try to Willson and Hirsbrunner, and thought they sounded nice, but too sterile compared to the Besson. Still, I desired a larger, darker sound. Next I heard a couple British players, or at least British concept players: William Himes from the Chicago Staff Band of the Salvation Army and Wilfred Mountain of the Hollywood Tabernacle Band (also SA). Himes especially had an amazing tone. It was dark, rich, and filled a large concert hall with no sense of strain! In 1980 I heard 21 brass bands in Royal Albert Hall (London) and got a reinforced concept, but along the same lines.

    At that 1978 conference I played a (privately-owned, not-yet-imported) Besson 967 and fell in love with the tone. I was able to get one in 1980 when I became a Besson artist.

    My concept is that a British sound should rich and full, and I also like it to be large (though some Brits prefer the smaller sound of the NS or the Sovereign 968). There has to be an attractive "core" to the sound.

    In my experience, I find that sound in the Adams, Besson (though not as much as when they were made in Britain, and allowing for that fact I have not played the new -2 model), and Sterling Virtuoso.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. I grew up with the "American sound" based on listening to the recordings of Leonard Falcone. In central California, I had no access to SA bands, British brass bands, or even US Military bands. My only other influence was a recording of Earle Louder made at the Gunnison Summer Music Camp in 1960 or 61 of Endearing Young Charms. At the time (I have later learned) Earle was playing a New Standard (or Imperial) using a Bach 12 or 13! So needless to say, his sound was not British. On my own, I decided I liked a bigger, fuller sound. My teacher was from Univ. of Michigan, just prior to Brian Bowman entering as a freshman. He made sure I learned a controlled yet active vibrato by the time I was 16 years old. I also grew from a Bach 12 to a 6 1/2AL while I was still playing an Amrican baritone (Conn 24I Connstellation). So my sound was a full sounding, American sound.

    I played my teacher's New Standard for my senior solo in 1969 (still on the Bach 12). I loved the projection from the horn and the power. The sound that would surround me rather than just project to the audience was addicting. With two more years in Junior College on Connstellations, my sound model changed towards trying to achieve the sound of the Besson while playing the Conn. I switched to the 6 1/2 AL and matured (and strengthened physically) to get the darkest, lyrical sound I could with the most projection short of the the blatty, trombone sound these horns can be subject to.

    Once I got to UC Berkeley in 1971 and was given a New Standard with the 6.5AL I was in heaven. Listening back to recordings of the 2nd Suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, and other tunes recorded in that era, I realize I had inadvertently ended up sliding into the "British Sound" model on my own. When I bought my 967 in 1980 and trained myself to use the Wick 4AL, the process was nearly complete.

    Before I started listening carefully to US Military band players of the modern era (save Dave Werden from whom I took monthly lessons in the early 1980s when I lived about 130 miles from him), I read the articles by Arthur Lehman on David's web site. Arthur Lehman discussed the difference between "power" and "control" players within the military bands and how they tended towards "control" players in the modern era. This led me to understand that I was definitely a "power" player, willing to push to the limits (hopefully not beyond) to get the euphonium to project over the band (and the damn saxophones). I think (with greatest respect) that the influence of Dr. Bowman in the "control" direction using smaller equipment (Willson 2900 and 51D/BB1) tended to support this. As the military bands came to idealize the American sound evolving out of the bell-front Conn's using a more focused, blended, controlled ensemble approach in wind bands (appropriately), it all makes sense.

    Finally regarding vibrato. Whether I listen to David Childs, Steven Mead, Gary Curtin, or Dan Thomas (all my heroes in British banding), they no longer use the wide, fast, always on, string-like vibrato typical of the classic era of British euphonium players (even Trevor Groom?). I love their approach using musically appropriate vibrato similar to perhaps a good jazz singer or Frank Sinatra.

    So British Sound - very powerful when needed, broad sound with wider focus (not "unfocused"), widest dynamic range, soaring in high range, musical vibrato, dark in mid-low range.
    American Sound - more controlled, more focused, lyrical, sweet, more designed to blend with a more multiphonic ensemble.

    This is what I believe. - Doug
    Last edited by daruby; 11-01-2020 at 01:04 PM.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  6. Hello everyone,

    I have been reading all of your posts with great interest. One of the things I love about this forum is reading different people’s opinions, it really pushes me to think of things from a different perspective which is superb!

    I have to admit I feel that the sound of the Euphonium has changed within the United Kingdom in recent years. I can really notice this when I compare my own playing to the approach that my Dad takes. I am twenty six years old and my Dad is seventy eight years old and our experiences of banding have been vastly different! I still have memories of my Dad practicing at 6:00pm every morning without exception, he still practices now but at a much more civilised time.

    I remember that his English built Besson Prestige 2052-2 Euphonium was not allowed to be touched by any of us and for me it was the perfect start in understanding the sound of the Euphonium. I often wonder how sound is developed and I often wonder if this is an inbuilt thing or if there are different influences at play which is why I find this topic so interesting.

    I have spent a lot of time listening to Steven Mead and I have a set of recordings from around 1991 which feature Steven Mead playing and the sound is slightly different from the sound that I know now.

    It is a fascinating subject. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    Best Wishes,

    Micah Dominic Parsons

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