The Piano Guys
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (May 2012)|
|Origin||St. George, Utah, USA|
|Genres||Classical crossover, Orchestral pop|
The Piano Guys are an American musical group consisting of Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson and Al van der Beek. They gained popularity through YouTube, where they posted piano and cello renditions of popular songs and classical music. Schmidt and Nelson's music is accompanied by professional-quality videos shot and edited by Paul Anderson and Tel Stewart. In December 2011, they released their first album, titled Hits Volume 1. Their second album, The Piano Guys, reached number one on the Billboard New Age Albums and Classical Albums charts in 2012.
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 was not too long after that they did their first collaboration with Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, 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 of the group's YouTube videos have over 20 million views, while all of them have over 750,000. As of October 29, 2013, The Piano Guys' YouTube channel has over 293 million total video views and about 2,125,000 subscribers.
Most songs are composed of 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 playing at once.
Michael Meets Mozart
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 sound effects were created by them using only the instruments shown in the video (piano, cello, mouth percussion and bass drum) with more than 100 recorded tracks. It was posted to YouTube on May 17, 2011. It was created as a tribute to classical composer Mozart and Michael Jackson.
The Cello Song
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 prelude is for solo cello, Steven adapted it for 8 cellos, with the addition 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 piece 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.
Rock meets Rachmaninoff
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'.
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 (Al van der Beek) appears in the movie and after creating a force wind, he pulls out 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):
- "The Imperial March" (Empire Strikes Back theme)
- "Duel of the Fates" (from Episode I)
- "May the Force Be With You"
- "Star Wars Main Theme"
- "Cantina Band" (from Episode IV)
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.
Beethoven's 5 Secrets
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.
YouTube's “Most Up-and-Coming Channel”
In June 2011 ThePianoGuys won the “Most Up-and-Coming Channel” award in the "On the Rise" contest with two videos—"Pirates of the Caribbean" with Jarrod Radnich and "Michael Meets Mozart" with Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson.
Signing with Sony
- "Billboard New Age Album charts".
- "The Piano Guys - What's our Story?". Retrieved 11 December 2011.
- ThePianoGuys's channel on YouTube
- Jon Schmidt - Michael Meets Mozart - 1 Piano, 2 Guys, 100 Cello Tracks - feat. Steven Sharp Nelson on YouTube
- Steven Sharp Nelson - The Cello Song - Bach is back (with 7 more cellos) The Piano Guys on YouTube
- Steven Sharp Nelson - Moonlight - Electric Cello (Inspired by Beethoven) on YouTube
- Jon Schmidt - Rock meets Rachmaninoff - Piano Remix (BAND MIX link in description) on YouTube
- Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) Lightsaber Duel - Steven Sharp Nelson on YouTube
- Coldplay - Paradise (Peponi) African Style (Piano/Cello Cover) - The Piano Guys ft. Alex Boye on YouTube
- Beethoven's 5 Secrets - OneRepublic (Cello/Orchestral Cover) - The Piano Guys on YouTube
- The Piano Guys success spreads worldwide: Debut album, overseas appearances, US tour by Alexa Verdugo Morgan on March 22, 2013, St. George News.
- "Web hit Piano Guys sign with Sony". Retrieved 9 September 2012.