When sophomore Lucas Tishler hears music, he says he can see the notes in front of him.

“I guess it’s always been the case with me,” Tishler said. “When I hear sounds, I can see them being played in my head.”

Lucas Tishler, a pianist, songwriter and producer, started his own YouTube channel three years ago. His channel now has over 8,000 subscribers.

Tishler can hear a song played once through and can immediately transpose it onto the piano. In choosing his songs, he will listen to the song once and usually upload a video of it within an hour.

“I’ve never really heard anything like it,” sophomore Kaitlynne Janes said. Janes met Tishler her freshman year, when they were both living in Giles residence hall. She filmed many of his YouTube videos during their first year.

Tishler started playing the piano at age five on a mini keyboard. He was born in Los Angeles and moved to London at a young age. He grew up playing classical music but was inspired by covers of pop songs he found online.

“I heard people play modern songs on the piano, and I thought that that was so cool,” Tishler said. “I was like, ‘Alright, I need to try this.’”

He quickly found out that he could recreate these covers, teaching himself and following along to YouTube videos online.  He started to cover songs for which he couldn’t find covers online and decided to start posting these covers on YouTube when he was 16 years old.

Tishler’s first cover was an Ed Sheeran rendition of Trap Queen. Although he started off with pop songs, he gradually drifted into rap and hip hop. He tries to upload at least one video a week and covers a variety of music, from Bastille’s “Good Grief” to Post Malone’s “Rockstar.” Tishler films his videos on campus, often using the piano in the Student Wellness Center. He said he appreciates the wide variety of musical equipment Duke has to offer.

“The fact that I have access to such nice pianos here is definitely a contribution to the quality of my videos,” Tishler said. “People are more likely to watch when it looks more professional.”

While he has little trouble covering songs, he said he has had to teach himself the more technical elements of producing videos, like recording the audio and figuring out how to upload the video to YouTube.

Tishler tries to post covers of songs that are not popular but will be. He said his covers of less popular songs tend to get more views, as there are fewer covers of these songs already online. His most popular cover online is Lil Peep’s “Benz Truck,” which has attracted nearly 196,000 views.

He also tries to post covers of popular songs right after the song is released to get more views. When The Weeknd’s album “Starboy” came out, for example, Tishler recorded piano covers of all the songs and put them up on his YouTube channel that day.  

“We put the entire thing up within hours of the album dropping,” said Janes.

Janes describes Tishler as a fun and goofy guy. She remembers having to do new takes of his videos because he kept singing over the song.

“He can play piano, but he can’t sing,” she said.

Tishler dreams of working in music and songwriting when he graduates. His musical inspirations include Kanye West and The Weeknd. Tishler has also started working with Small Town Records and learning more about music production to translate his piano skills into the studio.

Janes said she remembers trying to test Tishler on whether he could play any song. Without fail, Tishler could listen to a song once and reproduce it on the piano.

“We couldn’t find anything he couldn’t do,” said Janes.