I feel a little silly writing about the following topic for a graduate level class but it does demonstrate a practical and valid application of podcasting and social media. I had a song stuck in my head the other day with a prominent ukulele solo, and since I’ve had a ukulele decorating my apartment after my first trip to Hawaii last year, I decided to finally learn how to play a few chords. The Internet really does have a niche for everything: there is an entire online ukulele community just waiting to be discovered. I found Ukulala to be especially helpful. The site is maintained by a brother/sister band, Ukulala, and has, among other features, videocasts explaining how to play many popular songs.

I visited other websites before Ukulala’s and was frustrated by what I found. They all had detailed descriptions, diagrams and illustrations, but even though it looked like I was doing everything right, my notes just sounded wrong; the text was missing out on the critical audio component of music. Ukulala’s video demonstrated visually how and where to position my fingers to play the three chords that make up the song, accompanied by a thorough audio explanation. My chords didn’t sound like the demonstrator’s at first, which confirmed that something was indeed wrong with my instrument; as it turns out, it was not properly tuned. I fixed that problem thanks to another Ukulala tutorial and after watching the 9 minute videocast, I was able to play a real song.

Music has both audio and visual components, so podcasts and videocasts are useful tools when learning how to play a musical instrument. Private lessons are expensive, the internet is cheap. The band itself demonstrates the collaborative power of web 2.0: the duo live on opposite ends of the country and record their tracks separately. They email each other the recordings and mix them individually, and are currently using their blog/website to find a drummer. They field questions from like-minded people all over the world: the most recent query was posted by a man from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ukulele is a silly instrument, but this is a serious site.