This report covers:
- Surprise, surprise!
- What comes next?
- So — which one to get?
- The deal
- Forget ukuleles
Today I’d like to discuss what this blog is really about. Sometimes I look into other interest areas to gain a fresh perspective on my writing style.
I was recently looking at the movie Journey 2 in which the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) plays a ukulele. That got me interested in ukuleles I thought I would check them out. If the Rock can play one, I thought — how hard can it be?
At first I was focused on building a cigar box uke, so I looked into that for about a week. But none of the builders I saw had anything exciting — at least not for me. Do you remember our contest back in 2020 where we designed an airgun? Most of their presentations were the instructions for building a specific kit.
Then I started listening to uke players on You Tube. They don’t just play; they also talk about getting started with ukuleles. There are several good channels with clear presentations, but most of them are amateurish with poor sound. Poor sound is the kiss of death for musical instrument. But I kept searching and it finally paid off.
I found a You Tube channel that is exemplary! The title is Bernadette Teaches Music and, while she doesn’t have a website that I can find, she does have a very active channel on You Tube. I watched several of her video lessons and I was hooked. Yes, old BB Pelletier can be enabled just like you readers. And you know what does it for me? Honesty!
Bernadette Etcheverry is a young stringed instrument music teacher whose personality comes through in her videos. She’s very easy on the eyes, but it’s her style of presentation that really attracts me. She understands the problems beginners have and she shows them how to correct their mistakes, and even how to do things right in the first place.
She breaks her exercises into very small bites in each lesson. When I played the drums as a kid in the 1950s I got bored because all my teacher had me do for the first year was practice the rudiments on a practice pad, which is a square of rubber glued to a wood platform. I was supposed to practice them for at least one hour each day, but I have to tell you there are only so many times you can play a 13-stroke roll or a flam paradiddle diddle before your eyes glaze over.
As I watched Bernadette’s tutorial on playing a progression of chords on the uke I found myself holding an imaginary instrument and trying to finger the same chords. Okay — BB was hooked! Now what does he do?
Like a new airgunner I searched to discover what I didn’t know — which was pretty much everything. I first learned a lot about ukuleles (well, a lot more than I had known), and that then begged my question of which size instrument I needed. I won’t bore you with those details, but imagine trying to explain the operation of a spring-piston airgun that has a gas spring to someone who has been corrupted by the term gas ram. He’ll want to know what the difference is between a gas ram and a gas spring and also why you insist in calling it a spring-piston airgun. Aren’t springs those curly things made out of steel wire? What does gas have to do with a spring? Arrrgh!
What comes next?
Okay, I was going to learn how to play a ukulele or my name isn’t Jiminy Cricket — and that is an inside joke that some of you will get. The rest of you need to send me five dollars and a self-addressed stamped envelope for your secret decoder ring. Hurry, while supplies last!
Want to know why I chose the uke? Okay, I’ll tell you. At the age of 75 I’m too old to recreate the embouchure I had when I played the trombone at age 14. Trust me on that — I can prove it — on my trombone.
And I absolutely refuse to go through the horror of selecting a reed that’s soft enough to play yet hard enough to hit the high notes on a clarinet. Yes — BB also played a licorice stick for a couple years.
BB even took piano for a while! But he didn’t take it far enough — it kept coming back. Don’t laugh — there is a lot to be said for mediocrity on a musical instrument and BB was nearly there!
Then along comes the Rock and he plays What a Wonderful Life in that movie I told you about. He is surprisingly good, but what BB noticed was that the uke plays mostly chords and doesn’t require picking single strings that much. And a uke has just 4 strings, so BB won’t get lost, or if he does he should be able to find his way back.
So — which one to get?
And right here is where it all comes home, folks. Because this blog is about airguns — not ukuleles or BB Pelletier’s musical background.
This is the point of today’s report. Bernadette Etcheverry gets the same questions about ukuleles that BB gets about airguns — which instrument/airgun should a newbie buy? She has several videos that touch on the subject, and here I would like to contrast what she does against the stuff that many of the other You Tubers do. The others either test the absolute cheapest ukes money can buy (from a plastic toy costing 8 American dollars, one that cannot be tuned) to an instrument someone can actually play. Yes, these people are all skilled players, but please don’t waste my time showing me garbage!
Then there is Bernadette. She shows real ukuleles and then tells her viewers why she likes each one she shows. Then she plays an identical set of chords on each instrument so you can listen. THAT, my friends, is how to demonstrate the differences between things!
So I spent a week looking at all the ukuleles in my chosen size, which is the concert size, and I wound up more confused than when I started. One guy says this $59 model is well worth twice the price and another guy criticizes a $500 model because the nut is too high — whatever that means. I know what it means — that isn’t the point. The point is, these reviewers are each more personally subjective than the instruments they are reviewing. And I bet it’s that way for you new airgunners, isn’t it?
But Bernadette isn’t that subjective. She tells you what’s what and then she tells you why she says that. And here is what sold BB. She was reviewing a model from a maker called Enya. And, by the way, there is no connection between this uke maker and Enya the singer. As Bernadette was reviewing it she said she likes to recommend Enya instruments to beginners because they are CONSISTENT. That was all it took for me. If Enya ukes are consistent then all I need is to figure out which Enya is right for me.
I know the size I want — concert. That narrows it down a lot, because all their models are not made in the concert size. I don’t want a soprano and I don’t want a tenor and I certainly don’t want a baritone uke. I know the limit of what I’m willing to pay so NOW is the time that the money comes into play. Not earlier, when I didn’t know why a beginner’s model needs fret markers (whatever they are) on the side of the neck.
Let’s switch back to airguns. A beginner (who can be a person brand new to shooting, or an experienced shooter who is new to airguns, or an airgunner who only shoots spring-piston guns and now wants to transition to the dark side of precharged pneumatics) needs advice on his first airgun (or his first one of a powerplant with which he has no experience.
And BB knows which models are consistent. Nothing is ever 100 percent but with certain brands the buyer has a fighting chance of getting something good. In spring-piston guns BB likes to recommend Dianas, Weihrauchs and the spring guns made by Air Arms. Why? Because BB knows those makers’ guns are consistent. He knows that all three makers’ guns have good triggers and they are all accurate. I’m not saying that they are all the same, I’m saying that one Diana 54 is like another Diana 54 and that I can adjust the trigger of one Beeman R9 to be just as nice (whatever that means) as another Beeman R9.
That doesn’t mean other brands are bad. What it means is with other brands you may need to concentrate on certain models. That’s one reason behind my extended testing of the Crosman Fire breakbarrel.
In multi-pump pneumatics you have watched BB Pelletier cheer loudly for the Seneca Dragonfly. He practically lost his mind over that multi-pump, so if you trust him and want a pumper, that’s a good way to go.
In today’s report I have pulled back the curtain a little to let you see what goes on in my life as I write these reports for you. I described why I admire someone teaching something that’s not related to airguns and why I want to emulate her teaching technique. When I grow up I want to be just like Bernadette Etcheverry, because in my opinion she embodies what a real teacher should be. Don’t show me what you can do. Teach me how to do it.