In the recent years, Youtube has become the hub for up-and-coming talents. From Shane Dawson to Chester See, Youtube viewers have seen it all. But have you seen Greg Skalak? The Australian-Youtuber began playing piano at age six, and hasn’’t looked back since. Though he was trained in classical-piano, Skalak now posts videos performing more modern songs, ranging anywhere from Howie Day to Katy Perry, all of which he learns by ear.
“Well after my grade-eight exam last year, I was really sick of playing classical music, and so I started to play only modern, lyrical songs. [But] one day, searching around on YouTube, I was lucky enough to find Valentina Lisitsa. She really opened my eyes and ears to the magnificent world of classical music, and what it can truly be, with the right amount of dedication and passion. She inspired me to learn pieces like ‘Chopin’s ‘Fantaisie Impromptu’’ and ‘Rachmaninoff’s ‘Prelude in G Minor.’’ Through this, I developed a much better understanding of the piano itself and was able to incorporate some of the new skills I had learnt from these pieces into my YouTube covers.”
Learning songs by ear is quite a feat for most musicians, but for Skalak, this seems to come naturally. “It really depends on the song, sometimes it just ‘works.’ I can think up a good left hand very quickly and all I have to do is figure out the melody for the right hand and add the harmonies,” he claims. “Ironically, I find it hardest to learn songs by ear that already have piano in them, because I feel obliged to copy them exactly. Again, it depends on the song; some are more repetitive than others. I usually find mainstream songs very easy to learn because I hear them on the radio all the time, so I subconsciously know them better than others.”
His piano covers of songs like ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga and ‘Hero/Heroine’ by Boys Like Girls has earned him, to date, 751 subscribers, as well as thousands of views per video.
“So far, almost all of [the reviews] have been positive. The only problem I’ve encountered so far is, because in my earlier videos I left my classical sheets on the piano while recording, people have accused me of using them, and not learning by ear. However, watching my video “E.T.” by Katy Perry, I have a feeling it’s just a matter of time before someone accuses me of speeding the video up,” Skalak laughs. One look at any of his videos, and it’’s obvious to see Skalak needs no help from a video-editing software. What is not obvious, however, is how he manages to maintain a life separate from Youtube.
“When I’’m not making videos, I’m promoting them,” he laughs. “Actually, my second passion in life is athletics; I do sprints and jumps. I can honestly say, other than school, everything I do in my life is somehow related to piano and athletics. I can’t even remember the last time I just sat down and watched TV.” His dedication to his art is paying off, as more people are clicking the “subscribe” button every day. If you haven’t already seen, check out his channel at Youtube.com/user/TalkWithYourFingers and keep your eyes and ears open for more of him on Youtube and Planet Stereo.