by Gjermund Sivertsen
Why I Play The Piano
Why do I play the piano? Do you play the piano? If so, why?
In this article, I reflect on why I play the piano in the first place. The answer might be surprising. At least, it is an honest answer.

By reflecting on why we do what we do, we can get more clarity and more motivation. That's why I created this little lesson. Enjoy.

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You either play for God, or you play for Satan! At least, they told me when I was around 14 years of age, having my weekly music class in school.

To be specific, my music teacher told us this “fact.”
I was only 14 years of age and went to a cult-like church and school called “Levende Ord” in Bergen. When I was a teenager, life was all about being in church and the charismatic movement in my hometown.

I went to the church for most days of my week, and I went to school there. My parents had their struggles that led to massive neglect for the young Gjermund.

I could have written pages up and pages down about my past, but I don’t think that would be interesting for you to read. You have probably had your struggles early in life. Most of us go through hurdles in life. That’s part of the journey that we call life.

Instead, let me say that I don’t subscribe to the told truths they said and that I’m just fine
today! I’m terrific! I’ve gone through challenges and have come out on the other side a lot wiser than I could hope.

In school and the church, I had the chance to play a lot of music. Having the ability to play music is one of the things that “saved” me and helped me stay sane.

During the hard times of life, music can be a fantastic outlet for your emotions. You can
listen to music, or even better: Play music! Again, that’s what I did. A lot! Once you do an
activity over and over, you’ll get good at it too.


This text is going to be about why I play the piano. The first and most important reason I
play the piano is that I get to express myself through a medium called music. But why did I choose to play the piano? I’ll come back to that soon.

But first, let me quickly summarize who I am and what I do.

My name is Gjermund Sivertsen. I was born in 1979 in Bergen, Norway. Today I run AS, where I get to inspire thousands of people, mostly hobby musicians, from all around the world. I have a lovely wife, two boys, and one dog. We live in a house outside of Oslo, where I spend most of my days playing, composing, and teaching music. When I don’t do my core activities, I spend time with my family and friends. To relax, I love to be in SPAs and pools.

Now, back to the topic: Why do I play the piano?

I remember the first time I understood essential harmony for piano. I was only four years of age. I sat by my grandmother’s Schimmel piano and played the notes C-E-G. Something clicked in my head. I played a chord for the first time in my life.

Now, you might think that I was the protegee-kid where my surroundings gave  everything to me? No. We didn’t have a piano at home. I got my first piano lesson when I was 19 years. (With a jazz piano teacher.) Everything else I learned in music was through trial and error and playing endlessly in churches.

For years I was bitter that I didn’t get piano lessons earlier. Today I am grateful that I didn’t have any piano teacher before I was relatively old. I believe that having a teacher can help you get good a lot quicker than without one. But that is if you have a good one that understands some basics of human psychology and an ability to inspire and guide the student in the right (for the student) direction.

The fact that I didn’t have any teacher before I was (almost) an adult allowed me to explore music from a different approach. I also have a logical brain where I value asking questions, critical thinking, and building systems. Later in life, when I had piano teachers from classical backgrounds, they dealt with all my questions.

One of the things that I was questioning was why most classical musicians are lost when
they perform something without a manuscript. In other words: Somebody else (the
composer) decides how the performer is going to play. There is no room for improvisation (in most cases), except micro-improvisation, such as playing a note longer than written, adding small breaks, cadenzas, making it louder/softer, and so on.

It seemed to be opposite from what most jazz musicians and I did. We don’t want to play
The Autumn Leaves the same way every time to most of us. We want to invent as we play. That is one of the core values for any jazz musician.

The same went for the many pop musicians playing their three-chord tunes in concert after concert, singing the same lyrics and playing the same guitar solo. I couldn’t understand their paradigm.


After reflecting on these subjects and questioning others with a different paradigm, I
eventually realized that we’re all seeking the same. We’re all striving to express ourselves in different ways during our lifetime.

There is no right or wrong, and there are no good or bad ways of expressing yourself (as
long as you don’t hurt anyone, including yourself).

Here is what I came to realize:

Imagine that there are two circles. (We all have them, even if they are imaginary)
There is one large circle and one smaller circle within the large circle.

The large circle represents all the things that give you meaning. In other words, all the things that you find to be meaningful to you, what you find to be of interest.

For example: Let's say that you are interested in European history. And let's say that you are also interested in food. And maybe you also are interested in computer games, buses,
politics, architecture, and Boxer dogs.

Most of us have a lot of interests, across multiple fields. There are things that give us
meaning, and things that don't give us meaning. This is common sense. It is not black and
white but grey. You can be more interested in history than computer games or vice versa.

But let's speak about the circle within the circle. This is what I call the circle of expression.
Here is where you choose to express yourself to some degree. For example, you can be
interested in both European history, and computer games, but then you choose to play
computer games four hours per week, where you read just one history book per year.

But where am I going with this? And what does it have to do with music or the piano?
Let's use music as an example.

Since you’re reading this now, I’m guessing that you are interested in music. So am I. But I
also assume that you are not equally interested in all types of music.

There are music genres that don't make much sense to me. Some types of music are far
outside both circles. This even goes for jazz music. There are types of jazz genres that I'm
simply not interested in, and I'm far from interested in expressing certain kinds of jazz
music. But you know what? That's totally OK.
Let's speak about the act of playing an instrument for a moment.

When I play an instrument, I do it because I have a need or desire to express myself through music. The instrument itself is just a medium that helps me to achieve that. I can play some guitar, bass, organ, and keyboards, but the instrument that I feel most attracted to is the  piano.

Now, I've chosen to let the piano be a big part of my life. There are other instruments that
I'm fascinated by, such as drums, cello, and flute, to mention a few. These are now inside
my meaning or interest- circle, but they are also outside my expression circle, as I cannot
play any of those instruments.

One of the things that I’m also attracted to is harmony. Especially jazz harmony. I also play
some guitar, but whenever I play the guitar, I feel something is missing. I cannot play the big fleshy jazz chords on six strings. (Allthough, I can do other things on a guitar that I cannot do on a piano, such as bending the strings or playing a different kind of harmony.)

To me, the piano is the king for playing extended harmony. You have ten fingers, 88 keys,
and one sustain-pedal. The piano is also the king when you want to combine playing a
melody together with harmony. The possibilities are almost endless.


After finding out about the circle of “meaning” and “expression” that everyone seems to
have, I realized that all the people I had been criticizing in the past was for no legit reason.
Back to the pop and classical musicians. The reason for why they are playing the same tunes over and over and that they are satisfied with doing just that, is that they find it meaningful to do. They can express themselves through music written by others, or the pop musician/singer find more meaning in expressing themselves through simplicity and lyrics rather than complexity that you can find in classical and jazz music. (Pop music can be both sophisticated and hard to play well.)

In other words: If you know about the meaning and expression-fields, it doesn’t make sense to criticize anyone for their desires. Especially within art.

Who has the best taste for music? The person who enjoys listening to Bill Evans or Britney
Spears? To me, this question is pointless. It doesn’t make sense, as the answer will always
vary depending on preferences.

That brings me into the next thing: What or who decides your preferences in life? If you
agree that we all have different things that gives us meaning, and we all choose to express
ourselves (to some degree) within the things that gives us meaning.

Then, where does it come from? I mean, what makes you want to play the piano or jazz over other activities? This is a big question, and I don’t want to sound like I have figured it all out. Still, it is a question that is relevant to the questions about why I (and perhaps you) have chosen to play music and the piano in the first place.


One billion people in the world earns less than one dollar per day. If I was raised in a thirdworld country, where there were no electricity and where I was forced to look for food all day. Could I be where I am at today? Nobody can tell, but I think we can all agree that the likelihood of me becoming a professional musician and teacher under those circumstancesare very slim.

If I was indeed raised in such circumstances, then the chances are that I was drawn to other things than music and the piano. Maybe if I grew up in those circumstances, I would still be attracted to music. If so, I would probably play with sticks on trash cans.

My grandmother, my uncle and my father can all play the piano. Even if they are not
professional musicians, it plays a huge role for the reasons why I play the piano. Since my
grandmother had a piano, the piano was a natural first encounter with a musical instrument that I got.

When we ask why we are attracted to certain things, why some activities give us more
meaning than other activities, there are both cultural and practical reasons for why. A lot of it is out of our control. In my case, I play the piano because I inherited the genes from my
father’s genus. In combination with the fact that the piano was a real alternative for me, it
soon became the natural choice. I said earlier that I chose to play the piano, but I believe thetruth is more like the piano chose me.

The piano was there as a big object in my grandmother’s small apartment. When I was
visiting her, there were always someone who played the piano. In other words, I was
nurtured with music from the beginning of my life.

The natural question to ask is how much of what we know is caused by nature vs nurture. I
was gifted with a certain understanding of how music works. That combined with the fact
that there was music around me when I grew up, gave me the ability to understand music
relatively easy. My sister got the same amount of music- exposure. She does not play the
piano or other instruments. She can sing quite well, but she was never interested in making her music be at a professional level.


Throughout my life, I’ve met countless of talented and gifted people who could, if they
wanted, take their music to the top level. One example is a drummer that I played with in
literally hundreds of church ceremonies. (Zzzz….)

We always made the music groove well when he played the drums. As my musical
understanding grew, I wanted to explore music more. I was deeply fascinated by jazz music, even if I at the time didn’t fully understand the music. As soon as I got old enough, I was hanging out in the local jazz clubs on a weekly basis.

I asked several people to join me going to the jazz clubs. My drummer-friend was one of
them. To my surprise, he was not interested in going. “Maybe next week?” I asked when he
said that he wasn’t interested. When he then said that he was not interested at all, I found it to be very strange. Here he was, a very musical and talented drummer, NOT interested in going to a concert with top musicians?

That puzzled me for a while. Today I understand why. His “Field of expression” for music
was very small, compared to mine. It was not his fault. His main interest was finance. Not so long ago, I came over an article about him in a finance magazine. He was now a leader for a top finance institution in Oslo. Good for him, good for society.

Having the ability to do something is not the same as systematically developing your
abilities. Once we choose to go the route of taking care of our music and make it one of our
top priorities, there is a lot of work ahead of us.

As I’ve said before in this text, I got my first piano lesson when I was 19 years old. I knew
that I was very interested in music and jazz piano, but I had no idea that it would turn out to be my profession. My teachers were good musicians, but none of them had a good systemthat I could follow. By good system, I mean a way to learn the essentials in jazz piano and making sure that I tighten the holes in my knowledge.

Since I was self-taught, my understanding for music theory and ability to improvise well was very limited. On top of that, my ability to play rhythmical music was also very limited.


After my studies, I initially thought that I’d like to become a fulltime musician. I moved to
Oslo, and then I hang out with other musicians. I got some gigs, but it was not enough to
make a living. Oslo is, after all, the seventh most expensive city to live in Europe. (Source:

I made a website and set up a teaching-studio at home, just to make some income. To my
amazement, I found teaching to be more fun and fulfilling than playing concerts and touring. Teaching music soon became a big part of my circle of expression.

I invented a system that was based on the way that I learned to play the piano. The system
included how to practice the relevant chords, how to practice scales, how to deal with lack
of motivation at times, how to improvise, how to transcribe, and so on.

The feedback from my students was extraordinary positive. Many of them had been to
other jazz piano teachers before, but they too experienced a lack of methodology to
effectively produce results.

Then, I started a local music school in the middle of Oslo. Now, it was the time to test out
my systematical approach on more people. My theory was that if it worked for me and my
students, it could work on a larger scale.

Most of my students were hobby musicians that was interested in jazz piano. I also accepted some beginner students as well as more advanced students. I loved my job. It was extremely fulfilling to work with my students.

After all the hurdles I’ve been through, I got to help so many people. I got used to hearing
phrases like this: “Gjermund, I’ve been to several jazz piano teachers before. I’ve taken
lessons online. Never before have I understood it all and how I can practice to master jazz
piano. Thank you!”

Hearing this inspired me to go online with my methods. I decided to create The Jazz Piano
Step-by-Step Course directly from the great feedback I got from all my students.


Do you remember the intro with the strong words about playing for God or the devil? I also understood now that the phrase that my “music teacher” told us when I was 14 was simply not true. Music is supposed to be expressed by you and by me for ourselves first. Then, we can (if we want) share our music with other human beings.

Music can heal and music can make us feel real.

Music can reflect people and it can connect people.

I play the piano because it is to me the best tool available to express the music that I’ve got

I play the piano as it is the one activity that makes me feel complete.


By using words like should or ought to, there is a likelihood that someone will feel guilt or
shame. Since I come from a culture where shame and shaming were common, I don’t want
to tell you what you ought to do.

If you feel attracted to play the piano, and playing the piano is a part of your “meaning field”
and “expression field,” it is entirely up to you if you’d like to pursue it and to what degree.

I usually end my videos by saying: Take care of your music! I mean that. I hope that we all
are true to ourselves. If music is a big part of you, I hope you consider taking GOOD care of your music.

I wish you all the best and good luck!

Gjermund Sivertsen
Founder, AS

For questions about our courses, please reach out to [email protected]

Our main course is The Jazz Piano Step-by-Step Course. It is the most comprehensive jazz
piano course online.

Other courses: The Lounge Jazz Piano Master's Course, The Jazz Pianist's Ear Training
Course, and The Piano Course For Beginners.