The trials of being Schrödinger's Ukulele Reviewer - RANT

12 Dec 2022

The trials of being Schrödinger's Ukulele Reviewer - RANT

I'ver not written a ukulele rant for a while, and I suppose this isn't a rant, more an observation which I think I need to personally process, but also, I suppose, try to explain a bit. The trials of being Schrödinger's Ukulele Reviewer.

Schrodinger's Ukulele Reviewer

Being out there getting a lot of readers and views on posts that have largely gone up every week for many years means that you do get exposed to some of the keyboard warriors of Social Media circles. Alex Beds and I discussed this in a recent podcast and it seems he's struggled with it too (and had it worse than me). But I guess it goes with the territory and the greater the number of subscribers you have, the greater the chances.

I've had them throughout my time online - most commonly the 'he's just paid by the brands to say nice things' brigade (I am not, and when you see the points below, that is clearly absurd in any case).  I even had one chap take to the keyboard to tell me he didn't 'like my accent', and another berating a review in which I was sniffing (because I had a bad cold..). 

The paid reviews DO exist of course and are easily spotted as they are usually nothing but gushingly positive. Sadly very few put 'paid promotion' banners up (some do, but they are in the minority..) and don't get me started on the brands on Amazon setting up 'groups' for positive reviews in return for instruments or even hard cash. But then when you are trying to be honest and independent (as I am) you open the gates to complaints at the exact opposite end of the scale. You can't win!

These people are funny, confusing, scary and rather sad in equal measure. I also pointed out to Alex that with me, the oddballs tend to come in waves. Sure enough, after not having any for a while... like buses.

First was the anonymous (SO many are anonymous) claim that I 'had nothing nice to say' about a particular ukulele (A cheap Fender).

'Nothing more than feedback'... Ummm, yes, it's a review..

You can hunt down the instrument by the date of the comment, but you tell me. I have ALWAYS, from day one, said I would be honest about what is in front of me and this one was extremely average, poorly finished and sounded extremely bland. Yes it was cheap (so what?), yes there are other cheap ukes (and?) - but the key point there is that it was almost but not quite diving into another common negative comment I used to get ALL the time - that Got A Ukulele never says anything nice about cheap ukuleles. And that is simply NOT the case.

Sure, at the cheap end the chances of an instrument being lousy are much greater than if you are spending hundreds (if not thousands), but I have actively gone out of my way to try to track down ultra cheap ukes I can recommend. I do that because I am fully aware that not everybody can even justify finding even thirty quid to spend on an instrument.. And they DO exist. I don't need to link to every one to defend myself - they are all on my review list, but brands like Makala, Dolphin, Octopus, Bumblebee, Baton Rouge, Flight, Dean, Hola, Donner have also crept into my '8 out of 10's' for very little money. The reason the Fender didn't? Well, it actually was quite a bit more than the examples from the brands I just mentioned, but it was also just cynical, cheap and poorly done - a cheap uke with a Fender logo slapped on. Simple as that. I wasn't dismissive for the sake of it, just factual based on what was in front of me. Why would I say it was great when I could reel off many others for less money that were better propositions? That would be loopy!

Then fast forward to the wonderful John W Leys who seemed intent on not only saying that EVERYTHING I write is negative, but taking time out of his day to throw barbed insults too..

john leys ukulele complaint

This wasn't in response to a review, just in response to me sharing the rants page. The rants are, of course, grumpy by their very nature - but the very reason for them is not to be negative for the sake of it, but to try to find a POSITIVE for readers and steer them right and away from the shills, the bad advice, the crooks. That is anything but negative and to suggest otherwise totally misses the point of them (and gives support to the accuracy of many of them too!)

But of course John had to go further with the claim (no citation) that 90% of my reviews are full of complaints. This is an odd one to pin down, but I would point out that if you look at reviews of mine in the last few years, the percentage of those getting a 'recommended' or a 'highly recommended' is far, FAR higher than I can ever remember. As I said to Alex in an interview, i can't think of a better time to be a uke buyer in my life with the instrument. The 'utter crap' that used to be in the majority is now firmly in the minority. But any uke, even expensive ones can come with foibles. Should I shut up about them?Should I ignore them? Should I say everything is wonderful? What would be the point of that, and HOW would that be a review?

But hang on - I thought I was on the payroll and only write to promote things?

It seems I am Schrödingers Ukulele Reviewer - simultaneously being paid to say everything is wonderful whilst also saying everything is terrible..

As I also discussed with Alex, I love the instrument, love the community and the number of people who are decent VASTLY out-numbers the negatives. If I see something that is lousy I WILL say so because I want my readers to be steered correctly and not lied to. Alex explained that people complain about him because he is gushing about what he stocks. But he is a DEALER - why would he stock rubbish?? There are some seriously angry odd people out there.

So if you want to take time out of your day to type out an insult to a stranger on the internet, I'd kindly suggest you address shortcomings with your own life first.

And if you like the idea of the rants that Johnny boy was so offended by and are new to them - the full list is here. And as I say - they are written to HELP you not just to grumble for the sake of it.







  1. You are entitled to your rant. Right on point. The interwebs have given the village idiots a voice well in excess of their importance. illegitimi non carborundum: Don't let the b---tards wear you down.

  2. Keep them coming Barry.... All of it. Rants and reviews. There are so, so many of us that appreciate all you do.

  3. With so much dishonesty in so many areas in the world, it is surprising that anyone would complain about someone being honest!!! Especially since there ARE people who need to scrape money together with difficulty to be able to buy an instrument. Your honest reviews HAVE saved me money, and given me the opportunity to love good ukuleles and make better investments. Thank you Baz!!!

  4. I always found you to be quite exited when you get a good uke to review, but shit ukuleles are mmm shit

  5. Keep up the great reviews. I really enjoy watching every week. Regards Richard S

  6. I Love your site and am at the moment using it because I started in Feb with a cheapo brunswick as a is was easy to carry on to a plane and practice when overseas. my Easter egg was a really lovely Kala concert which I love. Im ready for an electric pick up concert level and am interested in a tanglewood that I heard you review but dont need a tuner .I should add that Im a keyboard musician and quite fussy about sounds and tend to favour the meelow rather than the bright sound Keep going Baz ,and have a merry strummer of a Christmas.

  7. You can't please all the people all the time! Well done Baz, I think you do a very difficult job very well. An instrument is a personal choice, some would put looks above sound when choosing. I think you honestly reflect the true nature of the instrument, allowing us to choose what would be suitable for each individual. Keep up the good work.

  8. Frankly Barry, I'd say the concise, objective, honest reviews of shit instruments are the single most useful and important service you've provided over the years. Give full candour to your public opinions of ukuleles in the £20-£50 range, and if possible try to cover more of them. These are the ones that beginners are likely to try and kick off their uke journey with, and (as I've witnessed with school students all too many times) a crap one is likely to put them off playing for good.

  9. It might be possible some of the discontent people are stakeholders in the company you are critical of. That would make a lot of sense.

    I find some of these complaints amusing as you are very aware of your biases as in your reviews. Many a time you will state a certain look or feel is not your taste but remind readers that it could be theirs! Even going so far as saying this is very personal and subjective.

    Keep up the good work. The format of your reviews are very consistent and make it easier to compare. This is the greatest database of ukuleles.

  10. I would be very suspicious of any reviewer who only found good things to say, whether about ukes or anything else......

  11. What grumpy joyless sad little man John Leys must be to write a response to a rant, like anyone gives two ducks about his opinion!

  12. I've always thought the job of a critic was to have opinions and publish them. So please carry on.
    RE Fenders: my first uke was a Fender. Bought at a big box music store for £120, I was enthralled by the name and the headstock. It and two further Fenders served me well in learning the instrument. I lucked out and playability was fine. Now some years later, I mainly play a Martin T1k or a Zachary Taylor tenor. Not long ago, I picked up my remaining Fender 52 and started to play. Oh dear, my ears have learned a lot too. It was a bit disappointing, the sound but it shows how far l have come.

    So remember there's a lot of us baby boomers who grew up watching the rock stars wailing on Fenders. So the chance that we could finally in retirement get our hands on one was fantastic. I just wish they would make better ones.

  13. Baz, many thanks. Two years ago I began to play ukulele, and had the misfortune of knowing absolutely nothing about what to buy. So I made a few mistakes, they weren’t expensive mistakes, but the instruments I bought weren’t particularly musical either. Since finding your site my understanding of what to buy has been aided by your reviews and comments giving me access to Liam Kirby and other luthiers as well as understanding the K brands and helping me choose a couple. I will forever be grateful for the guidance you provide. Love Ukuleles and guitars so keep reporting on both. Would love to have you review the Avenuenue guitar line.

  14. I blame you almost entirely, Baz, for the excessive number of ukuleles in my house! You and your reviews, drawing attention to things I want. Grrrrr!! Happy New Year. Keep up the good work.

  15. Barry, for me you're the best reviewer. Even your rants are good. The best decision I made was after watching one of your videos, and now I have a superb Bonanza Homestead Baritone. Everytime I want to buy strings or a new uke, I check your site first, just in case there's already a review. I can see the joy in your eyes and smile when you have the hands on a great ukulele. Keep up the good work, the ukulele community needs more people like you.

  16. Although I'm sure you don't need any comforting due to the inevitable negativity your reviews etc may attract from the online community, can I just say that as a non-ukulele owner but as a guitarist who is thinking of dipping his toe into this fascinating world and purchasing his first uke, that I have found your reviews invaluable, meticulous and above all fair and as objective as possible. The whole of the site has provided me with an excellent starting point to understanding the instrument, the pitfalls of buying that first instrument (an Ortega) - others and indeed yourself may chose to disagree - and given me a modicum of confidence in making that first purchase. I can't wait to get my hands on my first uke - partly thanks to you. So as an "outsider looking in" I can only say "thanks Barry and keep up the good work". I'll be back here I'm sure for more tips and info and an occasional rant, either yours of of my own, no doubt

  17. Hey Barry - just want to add my voice to the long list of positive comments you’ve gotten (over the tiny tiny number of weird negative ones). I’ve totally loved your reviews and rants. Both were immensely valuable as I was starting to get interested in the ukulele. And helped me avoid some of the massive numbers of bad instruments that would have crushed my interest. The quality instruments you helped me find are a joy to play and hear and central to keeping my interest high as I learn. (I still have a long way to go to do justice to the sound of the instruments you recommended.) And before I started reading your reviews I had almost lost interest because of the bad sound of one I had bought thinking it was an ok, representative, one. The quality ukuleles you steer people toward are night and day from the bad ukuleles that are out there flooding the market and destroying the instruments reputation. Please keep up the great reviews and know they are appreciated massively by us new players who are just discovering the instrument - Bryan


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