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Teaching versus showing

This report covers:

  • Honesty
  • Surprise, surprise!
  • What comes next?
  • So — which one to get?
  • The deal
  • Bingo!
  • Forget ukuleles
  • Summary

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!

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.

Surprise, surprise!

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. 

Stock up on Air Gun Ammo

The deal

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!

Bingo!

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.

Forget ukuleles

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.

Summary

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.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

28 thoughts on “Teaching versus showing”

  1. BB,

    My music skills are limited to playing MP3s …and don’t ask me to sing LOL! Bought a book on instruments and would like to make a pan flute; think I might be able to handle a couple of notes on one of those.

    Find that teaching is anything but easy. I’ve often been called on to be an instructor, even taught at the college level for several years. Enjoy the challenge as you really have to think through, analyze and re-evaluate all the things that you do “out of habit” because you have forgotten all the ways you discovered what didn’t work. 🙂

    Been instructing a guy in archery recently. One on one is easily the best way to show someone a new skill as you can see what is happening and adjust to address the rough spots. Videos are one-sided but not bad to learn from if they are well done. Text and pictures instructions are the most challengivng both to create and to learn from; what to explain and in how much detail, so much depends on the background knowledge of the reader.

    Ukulele eh? Have fun with that BB! I like to try new things as well, getting into watercolor painting this winter.

    Hank

  2. BB
    Just posted a half finished entry by accident? and then deleted it. So once again.
    Since todays subject is a bit off topic, I will be somewhat on and off my self.
    About that part on being 75. I think rolling around in my sleep uses muscles that I do not use all day. Same with taking a shower, and results in me feeling worn out after a goodnight’s? sleep. Waking up in my recliner, on my back, is another story. More much gooder!
    In the Navy when you moved into a supervisory or leader position they sent you to LMET School. Leadership, Management, Education and Training. Very eye opening. On top of that I went through Instructor Training. Being an active duty Reservist a big part of our job was to train the Weekend Warriors.
    I had no idea there was so much information out there on how to do all the above properly and be successful at it. Not only that but how to determine which type of leadership to use and when.
    The simple mater of setting goals is no so simple and there are very specific steps to take in writing and presenting a training course or class.
    Made it clear to me that many people today have no Idea what they are doing in their supervisory positions.
    Now you are doing a great job here with this blog but I recommend looking into information available someplace, perhaps on line, that may open your eyes to the various procedures recommended that may make it easier for you to educate, train and inform people here. Lots of nice to know info available.
    Actually surprised the heck out of me that there were right and wrong ways documented to do it all. Always thought it just came natural for some, more than others. That’s probably true too, to some extent and would include you unless you have had training in these areas already. Not sure what they teach Officers before they are thrown into the lions den.

  3. BB,

    Ukuleles, eh? I would have figured you more for a squeezebox or banjo man.

    Bernadette is now wondering what’s going on today as her YouTube videos get by far the most views in a single day ever. I can picture her explaining to her girlfriends over coffee this afternoon that she has all these new subscribers with colourful handles such as Syrian Nico, Deck Runner, Ridge Sniper and Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetley-Widebottom 🙂

    The ukulele is a cool instrument and its popularity is spreading around the globe. It even reached the shores of Iceland a few years ago https://youtu.be/B8JU2HnGhMw

  4. BB

    This post and your focus on consistency gave me a thought for a topic: test another Dragonfly.

    Yes, you have certainly gushed over it, to the point of almost getting me to buy one just to have. Yours clearly is a gem of a gun. But do you really know if they are consistent? All the other guns you recommend are ones of which you have shot many different samples, but is that true for the Seneca Dragonfly? If so, great, but it might be good to pick up another and do a few tests on it focused just on the consistency aspect.

    Have a great day with your Uke!

    Alan

    • Alan,

      I have talked extensively with Tyler Patner on the Dragonfly. The principal problem was the inlet valve, but owners described their problems in so many different ways that it sounded like the whole rifle had problems.

      The pump linkage can also have issues.

      Pyramyd AIR has talked with the manufacturer and they believe they have a fix on the situation. I guess time will tell.

      BB

  5. Interesting, FM worked for years with an Etcheverry, Basque surname. There may be a family tie there somewhere. My coworker did not play the ukulele, though he was well-read in Spanish literature. He also battled MS for years but carried on unflinchingly, without complaint. Have found through experience real teachers have a passion for their subject and are great communicators. It also helps if their pupils are good listeners and follow directions.

    FM is certain you could have taught Tiny Tim – not the Dickensian one – to be a good airgunner, B.B.; you’ve certainly helped make old shorstuff here at least a passable one. “So easy even FM can do it!”

    • FM,

      Good interview – thanks for posting the link!

      Think this is profound:
      >>> the threshold for feeling successful with the instrument was too high. <<<

      Seen that with a great many things, people often stop just short of being successful not realizing how close they were. Goals and expectations should be reasonable and attainable to promote success eh?

      Teaching a guy archery buy setting it up so that he is successful (at very close range then increasing the range) and working from there as the skill allows.

      Very impressed with Ms. Etcheverry.

      Hank

      • “As has been said before, “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Also, as stated by other blog contributors, “practice, practice, practice.” That was brought home to FM this AM when taking a shot at one of the pestilential reptiles around here – should have been an easy “bullseye,” but no, near miss. The intruder scampered off. FM is a little rusty.

  6. B.B. and readership, this ties in so well with recent discussions on what airgun to recommend to beginners, and how the airguns that are offered at the big box stores are often the only airguns available to beginners, but they are often the most dissatisfied and frustrating airguns to start on. And our own Godfather’s attempt at creating a great and economical starting airgun, the Bronco, is no longer made, principally because it is too expensive to make. Well here is the challenge for the growth of our sport. Providing the tools and information to get folks (kids of all ages) started and reasonably priced airguns of reasonable quality that will help them have a successful start. And make that info and those airguns readily available to the masses where they will first look for them. Is the great info available here and at P.A.’s Airgun Academy sufficient? Can more be done? Could airgun companies market and sell a starter package with everything you need in the box? Probably.

  7. Well this is just me.
    I found that the passionate teachers I have had usually was my best teachers.

    But on the other hand if I wasn’t a passionate student on a given subjuct I did learn or in other words I didn’t learn as thoroughly as I could of.

    Teaching is a 2 way street. Both the teacher and student need to be willing.

    And yes. Hope you all are practicing at what your learning. One day all that practice you have done was really enjoyment you didn’t realize you was getting at the time. 🙂

  8. “Don’t show me what you can do. Teach me how to do it.”
    B.B.,
    Exactly!
    I have a younger brother who is a master musician on piano and guitar…but he cannot teach.
    He has God-given talent and kind of just expects you to be able to do what he does. LOL! 🙂
    Blessings to you,
    dave

  9. thedavemyster,

    I agree with you for most things.
    B.B. is correct in not showing but teaching is what works best. But as a Flight Instructor showing was the first step in teaching a new maneuver on a training flight. The Student Aviator had already studied the process and often tried it in a simulator but the real world typically required a demonstration especially for aerobatic or combat maneuvers. The three dimensional visual, physical (G Forces) and control forces just could not be taught without a perfect demonstration by the flight instructor followed by the Student Aviator giving it a try.
    I think i remember my first hand grenade toss following similar steps….

    But life and learning is full of exceptions.

    shootski

    • shootski,
      That’s so cool that you’re a Flight Instructor; yes, in my first time at the actual controls of an aircraft, there was no substitute for an actual 3D real-world demo by my instructor. But my instructor could also explain the how and why of what I needed to do; that’s the part I left out about my little bro (God love him); he could listen to any song on the radio, then sit down and play it on the piano; lacking his God-given talent, I could not do likewise, and he couldn’t figure out why, LOL! 🙂
      Blessings to you,
      dave

      • Dave,

        I’m a retired Flight Instructor. I was lucky and started instruction in the BIG radial engine T-28B/C Trojan, T-34A/C Mentor/TurboMentor, TA-4 Skyhawk, and a bunch of Fleet Aircraft over my Naval Career. Learning in the reciprocating radials and transitioning to turboprop and turbojets made my time as a Naval Aviator the best of times in aviation. My only regret was missing the flying boat days…i would have loved having the opportunity of flying a XP6M SeaMaster. Not a single example of the fabulous before-it’s-time aircraft was saved when the US Navy cancelled the project!

        shootski

    • Last year at FM & Friends’ Fisheating Creek (FL) campout, one of his beastie besties gifted him a 3-throwing axes kit, even making a target out of cardboard and heavy-duty tape to go with it. We had a ball throwing at the target, even hitting it most of the time. FM axes himself why he does not enjoy that more often – maybe should combine air gunnery and ax-tossing sessions.

      Pyramyd’s offerings are pretty nice – resist the temptation or not? That is the question; to ax or not to ax?

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