I don’t listen to much music. But when I do, I listen to classical music and The Piano Guys.
I have a major exam coming up next week and I have spent the last four evenings with my nose deep in the books. In order to achieve flow, I throw on some classical music in the background. If the room is silent, every word goes in one ear and shoots right out the other. With classical music, the words stick.
I began listening to classical music when I was 19 years old.1 I sat in a European history class taught by a traditional professor and we often discussed his love for classical music. Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart were the big names, but he had more specific tastes as well. Names like Verdi, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky were thrown around more often than I could count. Everyday after class, I would go home and download a new piece.
I became captivated by classical music. Every new song offered a new opportunity to wander into the emotional fabric of the sounds. Classical music is so pure. So clean.
As my taste evolved, I always fell back on Beethoven’s popular 9th Symphony,2 Mendelsohn’s Symphony No.4 in A, and Schubert’s German Dance No.1. These pieces all have an upbeat and progressive sound that fill your mind with courage, positivity, and rhythm. With those ideals filling your spirits, it’s so much easier to sit down and get the heavy work done.
If you’re curious about dipping your toe into classical music, you will quickly find that the music is differentiated based on its age and date of creation. The above three pieces all date to the first half of the 1800s, which was a very progressive and stimulating time in human history. As a result, the music was uplifting, forward-thinking, and inspiring.
As history unfolded, such as the revolutions of the 1850s and the American Civil War, classical music became darker and more cynical. Classical music dates back far earlier than the early 1800s as well and each of those epochs have their own special character.
Best of all, classical music is still being developed today. While major artists with catchy tunes are raking in the big bucks, small time composers are still alive and well.
My favourite of these smaller groups is The Piano Guys. The Piano Guys got their big start on YouTube, which may be a 21st Century oddity for classical music creators. Regardless, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and the rest of the crew create some of my favourite music to date. While a few of their songs have small vocalized parts, the majority of their music is created solely with a piano and a cello.
I’ve purchased about 80% of The Piano Guys music over the years and I can’t thank them enough for keeping me on track and focused in the classroom. Further, I have to thank them for walking my family and my bride down the aisle — I strolled into the sanctuary to Home (a remake of Phillip Phillip’s popular song) and Jaclyn entered to A Thousand Years. Their music flows through the deepest parts of our hearts.
When studying, I generally plug into a shuffled playlist of Piano Guys music. My favourites pop up and my head eases left and right, up and down. Thoughts whiz through my head at the speed of light. Creation begins. It’s so powerful.
There are a few Piano Guys pieces I’d like to point out. Not only do I recommend purchasing their music, I recommend checking out their music videos as well. The Piano Guys’ ability to create music is matched by their ability to create stunning videography — case in point, Batman Evolution.
Some of my Piano Guys favourites include:
- Lord of the Rings - The Hobbit — (Music) - (Video)
- Let It Go - Frozen — (Music) - (Video)
- Without You - David Guetta ft. Usher — (Music) - (Video)
I have so many more favourites, but I’ll let you discover them on your own.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, I can’t recommend The Piano Guys videos enough. I’m blown away by their collective teamwork and impeccable execution. Knowing the What Makes You Beautiful song was created by five people playing one piano is mindbending. Seeing the incredible backdrop of The Mission: How Great Thou Art is absolutely spectacular. And watching the team jump around a floating and rotating vessel during their newest Ants Marching/Ode to Joy is simply too fun. These guys know how to create music in a way nobody else can right now.
No matter the kind of music you’re into, it’s interesting to see how music has evolved over the past 500 years or so. It’s fun to follow the evolution of the traditional classical music of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach centuries ago, to the music of The Beetles, Elvis, and U2 in the mid-to-late-1900s, to the spunky tunes of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry of today.
I love where the Piano Guys fit into that time continuum. They reflect so much of the old, yet so much of their music is spontaneous and new. I foresee playing Piano Guys throughout my home for my children in the same way I grew up with U2 as a kid. The Piano Guys and their classical predecessors are a staple in my iTunes Library. I couldn’t live — or work — without them.4
I also grew up with U2 playing throughout the house, so I’m definitely a Bono fan at heart. Their 2015 tour was announced just yesterday morning, which means I will be planning a road trip for this coming summer. You can never know when older bands are going to shut it down, so this may be the last time to listen to the great guitar rifts in Streets. ↩
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was his last great symphony and came in the latest part of his composing career. ↩
I’m seriously longing for a Piano Guys version of my favourite Little Drummer Boy. (Yes, I know there is a small portion of Little Drummer Boy housed in Angels We Have Heard On High, but I want more.) I’ve only ever admitted this to my wife, but I cry every time the Little Drummer Boy — in any version — comes on the radio. A few years ago, there was a young Winnipegger who composed a version of the Little Drummer Boy and played each instrument in the song on his own. He then shot a really incredible video to accompany it. I can’t get enough of this video at this time of year. ↩