This week I decided to increase my musical instrument collection and purchase a ukulele. Don’t adjust your screen. You read correctly. A ukulele.

Why a ukulele? Isn’t that something limited to the Hawaiian Islands or Tiny Tim? Do people actually play them? Aren’t they a toy? A poor person’s guitar?

Michael Lewis holding a ukulele

Anyone who knows me will not find this too unusual, especially as it fits very nicely with my collection (and sometimes seen in public) Hawaiian shirts!

Let’s set the record straight. (Quoting Wikipedia):

“The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian interpretation of a small guitar-like instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants. It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century, and from there spread internationally …”. A very close friend and world expert on ukuleles (seriously) told me that a ukulele recently sold to a collector for over $US50,000. That wiped the smile off my face.

Back to the reason for this blog.

Taking home my new purchase, the obvious question for me was how to play it. I had my chord charts, and a list of simple folk tunes I wanted to play. But in all honestly, I had no real clues on technique. Do I strum with my thumb or forefinger? How do I hold it? Tuning wasn’t an issue – but the smooth transition from a G to a D minor chord was.

That’s when I realised the answer to my questions was sitting right in front of me.


I have used YouTube ( to watch old film clips, funny skits, and the odd historical newsreel. I’ve even used it to help my daughter pack away her baby’s pram into the carry case when nothing seemed to fit.

When I searched on “ukulele” I was overwhelmed by the number of tutorials available. Within 30 minutes, I felt like a modern day Burl Ives, strumming along to some old-time favourites.

I had found my own personal tutor, available 24 / 7, right inside my computer. I have already bookmarked one course – all 200 plus lessons. That should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Many companies are using YouTube as a efficient method of communicating with their customers on frequently asked questions about products and services. Telstra established the Telstra Knowhow Channel on YouTube to show customers how to use their phones.

Increasingly new mobiles have the ability to view YouTube videos on the device, a prime example being the iPhone, that comes packaged with the YouTube app. But keep in mind video chews through the data usage, so I highly recommend having a sufficient data pack.

How have you used YouTube to solve a problem or learn something new? Please share your experiences.