Chopin op.28 no.4

Published: 13.07.2020

After having spent two years producing and releasing an album, where most of the time was spent on production and not much on playing instruments, I wanted to get back to playing. My first exposure to music education was attending Solfège in Bosnia and Hercegovina, which was as I remember it very theoretical and extremely boring. I would often skip classes and do some Judo in the park instead. Thing is, you had to pass Solfège in order to be allowed to play an instrument. My sister was already very much into piano and spent a lot of her spare time practicing with my mother by her side. Looking back at it now having lived most of my life in Norway, this was the kind of practice I imagine kids in China and Russia get put through. This kind of discipline yields great results, but the costs are high. She grew tired of the exhausting practice routines and eventually gave up playing altogether. Her experience is I think one of the reasons I stayed away from piano and instead picked up the guitar. Piano was this serious thing while the guitar was what you brought to a party and played with friends. However, I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano and though I should give it a shot at the ripe old age of 35.

First thing I did was pick a piece to learn. As a lifelong fan of Chopin, I wanted to play a piece of his, well aware of how stupid that is given how difficult most his pieces are. The choice fell on Op.28 no.4, which is this beautiful, slow, kind of romantic piece I’ve listened to my whole life. I mostly picked it because of its slow tempo, which I thought meant it was easy to play. That assumption turned out to be false.

Piano pieces are of course written in musical notation, and I had forgotten most of what I had learned as a kid. Luckily, there is an app for everything including learning how to read sheet music. I was making decent progress and spent between one and two hours every day practicing scales and learning to read. Sure enough, I got bored pretty fast and started composing my own pieces instead. Turns out there is quite a large scene of modern piano composers some of whom are even popular. Joep Beving, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and other are keeping the piano alive and well. Anyway, I was very much inspired by these people and wrote an embarrassingly bad Waltz which you will never hear. It became clear to me that if I wanted to learn to play Op.28 no.4, I would need some help.

There are quite a few piano teachers in the Bergen area, but it turns out most of them are at capacity. I got in touch with a math PhD student from China that did some teaching on the side and decided to try it out. First thing he told me was: “You are too old.” I promised to practice diligently, and he agreed to teach me. The difference between having a teacher and playing by myself was huge. In my estimate, it is at least twice as efficient to learn the piano with a teacher than without, if the teacher is any good that is. Within a few months I felt that the Chopin piece was starting to sound pretty decent and decided to record. Below is the only recording I did and the only one I will ever do. It was recorded in mono by mistake, but I kind of like that. I have not played the piano since. It really is quite a serious instrument.

Listen to me playing Chopin op.28 no.4