ThePianoGuys is an American YouTube channel consisting of Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Tel Stewart, Paul Anderson and Al van der Beek. They became famous through YouTube, where they posted videos of renditions and mashups of popular songs accompanied by professional-looking video shot and edited by Paul Anderson and Tel Stewart. In December 2011 they released their first album.
Paul Anderson owned a piano shop in St. George, Utah. He met musician Jon Schmidt as the latter walked in to ask if he could practice there for an upcoming concert. Months later, Paul Anderson and Tel Stewart (Then just for fun) started making videos together of Jon Schmidt. It wasn’t too long after that they did their first collaboration with Jon Schmidt, Steven Starp Nelson, Joseph Sanns and Al van der Beek as the studio and music technician. After the five of them started collaborating the group really started to take off, producing a music video each week and posting it to YouTube. Several videos have over a million views.
The team also includes Tel Stewart (videographer/editor) and Al van der Beek (Music and studio guy).
Several of the group’s YouTube videos have over 7 million views, and The Piano Guys’ YouTube channel has over 154 million total video views and 855,000 subscribers as of September 8, 2012.
As of October 10, 2012, The Piano Guys are in the top 150 world-wide YouTube channels.
Jon plays piano, Steven plays cello – both acoustic and electric.
In most songs, they record several audio tracks that are mixed together. Occasionally, they superimpose the videos of the previous audio tracks to give the impression that many identical instrumentalists are all playing at once.
In this video, Jon and Steven play an original hip hop/classical mash-up that is recognized by the variety of sound effects they produce. According to the description, all sounds effects were created by them using only the instruments shown in the video (piano, cello, mouth percussion and kick drum), with more than 100 recorded tracks. It was posted to YouTube on May 17, 2011. It was created as a tribute to Mozart and Michael Jackson.
This video is an original arrangement and adaptation of J.S. Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1: Prelude, by Steven Sharp Nelson. While the original song featured a single cello, Steven had it adapted for 8 cellos, with the creation of original material. It was posted to YouTube on June 14, 2011. In the description, Steven explains he named it “The Cello Song” because it was what people actually called Bach’s original song since no one could remember its name.
This video shows Steven Sharp Nelson playing Moonlight, a piece he composed for electric cello inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the melody from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement. It was posted to YouTube on July 14, 2011.
This video shows Jon Schmidt playing a modern version of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor. It was posted to YouTube on July 25, 2011. According to the description, Jon wrote this song when his son started his first band and researched music on YouTube. There are two versions of this song on YouTube; both feature Jon Schmidt and a band consisting of Chris Wormer, Joel Stevenett and Jake Bowen. In the original ‘Rockmaninoff’ version, the volume of all instruments is well-balanced. In the ‘Rock meets Rachmaninoff’ version, the piano sounds much louder than the other instruments. The video also shows the sheet music for this song. The sheet music lists the play volume as ‘Pretty dang loud’.
This video is a spoof of the Star Wars soundtrack and films. It was posted to YouTube on December 2, 2011.
Steven plays both a Jedi Master and a Sith Lord who come together to do a musical fight on cellos. The Jedi and the Sith fight using more than just their cellos – they also use The Force and lightsabers. Darth Vader appears in the movie and after some fighting with the Jedi and the Sith, he reappears with an accordion to play the tune from the cantina in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Chewbacca also makes an appearance. In the end of the clip, Darth Vader and Chewbacca are seen dancing together.
The following John Williams Star Wars movie themes are used (in order of appearance):
After deciding to go for an African theme, Alex Boyé joined Steven and Jon for the recording of a cover of Coldplay’s Paradise. The associated video clip mostly stands out because it was recorded on top of the local Red Stone mountain near St.George Utah. – requiring helicopters to transport piano and crew to the remote location.
In 2012, the American Heritage Lyceum Philharmonic (Youth Orchestra) and its director, Kayson Brown, approached with the idea of a piece based on Beethoven’s 5th symphony. The orchestra performed “Beethoven’s Secrets” with The Piano Guys on YouTube which had received 2 million hits within 2 months of its release. It was OneRepublic’s Secrets with parts from Beethoven’s 5th symphony, a cello and orchestral cover. The vocal version features Youtube star Tiffany Alvord.
Two of the most popular clips uploaded to YouTube by the piano guys do not contain either Jon or Steven. In both cases it is friend pianist and composer, Jarrod Radnich, showing his performance and compositional skills on piano.
The first one, uploaded on June 20, 2010, is Radnich’s original arrangement using a medley of themes from Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie soundtrack. . This is the same piece that plays at Disneyland’s Dream Home of the Future exhibit in Tomorrowland with Radnich’s performance replayed on a player piano (and his image on the screen) over 3,000 times a day. This is the most popular clip filmed by the piano guys, reaching over 20 million views as of October 2012.
The second video was uploaded on June 7, 2011, and is Radnich’s virtuosic arrangement of John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme from the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone soundtrack. It has reached over 7.5 million views as of October 2012.
In September 2012 it was announced that the Piano Guys had been signed by Sony.
Album released December 2011.
The following two songs only appear on the Limited Edition version of the album:
Album released October 2012.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Simple Gifts (Piano/Cello Cover):
Beethoven’s 5 Secrets – OneRepublic (Cello/Orchestral Cover):
Paradise (Peponi) African Style (Piano/Cello Cover):
Desert Symphony (Northern Utah’s Landscape):