I am learning to play the ukulele. When I mention this to others, the response is usually a snicker, and depending on that person's age, they invariably mention that homely, long-haired Tiny Tim who “Tip Toed Through the Tulips” and married Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show.
However, the ukulele has gotten a little more respect lately because of 12-year old singer/songwriter Grace Vanderwaal, who sang and strummed her ukulele into the hearts of viewers and all the way to the title of the America’s Got Talent competition. Who wasn’t totally charmed by this kid?
In the course of learning this instrument, I’ve consulted numerous YouTube videos with instructions as to how to tune, strum and play various songs on the ukulele ranging from Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” to Leonard Cohen’s anthem “Hallelujah.” I am amazed that some of these videos have well over half a million views - some more than that – yet many are downright poor from a production standpoint.
Some of the subjects are seated on their overstuffed couches, hair and clothes askew, strumming their ukuleles. The accompanying audio sounds muffled or hollow. A roommate or spouse or cat may wander through the frame, yet that doesn’t seem to matter. Zero production values and well over 500,000 views. These people are making money.
But as they say, content is king. If the content is compelling enough you’ll watch it, no matter how poorly it’s produced. But it wouldn’t take much to make them a little better. Decent lighting. A real microphone instead of the camera or phone’s built-in mic. Taking a moment to clean up the area behind the subject to remove that pile of clothes or uneven stack of books. But that’s me, and as a writer and producer I like both good content and good production values. However, these videos are serving their purpose as I attempt to master this quirky little instrument, the ukulele.
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Writer and messagologist, Meredith Portman