Göran Arnberg talks about his work on Benny Andersson’s ‘Piano’ album

Göran Arnberg - Benny's long time collaborator transcribed 'Piano'
Göran Arnberg – Benny’s long time collaborator transcribed ‘Piano’

How and when did the idea of producing a sheet music book to accompany the album come about?

Benny called me in the beginning of April 2017 and asked if I could transcribe some piano music for him. I did not know then that it would be a real piano book of the entire album.

What made it extra interesting was that he wanted everything written as he played it, with no chord symbols to make it “easier” to read. In this case he wanted an exact reproduction of what his hands were doing. Real ‘Beethoven-scores’, so to say, playable even if you have never heard the piece before.

How did you receive the tracks from Benny?

He sent them to me by mail and ftp.

Can you describe the transcription process, i.e. your method?

Firstly, I put the piece in my sequencer for easy access and for the possibility to loop sections. And then I started listening and test playing. Over and over repeatedly. When I began to understand what Benny was doing, I input the notes in my scoring software, hopefully as correctly and readable as possible.

Did the project differ from anything you have done before? If so, how?

I have never transcribed classical solo piano with this level of accuracy before. As it is a rather time-consuming process you don’t get the opportunity to do it very often.

How long did the transcriptions take to complete?

All in all, with editing, proofreading and layout, around three months. I got great help from Naomi Cook at Music Sales as it is very hard – close to impossible – to proofread your own work. Luckily there weren’t that many errors in the material, but there is an old saying that when you open a new book, fresh from the printers, the first thing your eyes are drawn to are any errors, so…touch wood!

Which track(s) proved most challenging and why?

I would say some of the Chess pieces (Ice: we see what you did there Göran!), like Mountain Duet and You and I primarily because they are rather complex musical pieces to begin with.

Did you enjoy the process? You told us at the studio that it was an almost “psychedelic” experience at points?

Haha, I was referring to the fact that the work process sharpened my ears to a level I did not think was possible. For example, I had to very carefully remember not to put my mobile phone near my work space, because if it rang, I would jump three metres in the air (and almost have a heart attack!). Seriously – a very scary experience!

And what I mean by “psychedelic” is that when I closed my eyes I could mentally zoom in on the different frequencies and envision a gigantic keyboard on which I could clearly see what Benny’s fingers were doing there at any given moment.

This may sound like total mumbo jumbo, but it is very hard to explain it any other way.

Towards the end of the work period I sometimes could be uncertain if plain, ordinary major triads were not actually major seventh chords (until I realised that my ears had become so sharp that I started to hear overtones as chord notes). Luckily this has gone away now!

All in all, I must say that I enjoyed the work very much and that I learned an enormous amount from it. Also, it has been a great opportunity to really immerse in these beautiful melodies.

In addition, it gave me an even greater respect for Benny as a piano player – his pieces are quite a challenge for any pianist in both the technical and musical sense but also very rewarding. Well worth a try!

Göran, thanks so much for this interview, and as we say in English, it’s in the bag!

The sheet music to ‘Piano’ is available now from musicsales.com

There’s more…

  • UK link to the ‘Piano’ album songbook – available now: MusicSales.com

One Comment

  • Gary McCartney said: I must heartily congratulate Göran Arnberg for his work in transcribing Benny’s Piano album. People may think it is an easy task to write what a composer is playing – it really isn’t. What Göran has achieved is capture not just the notes but Benny’s performance.

    It is a beautiful piece of work and people, like myself, who play the piano, will gain immense enjoyment learning and perfecting those works. I use the term ‘works’, quite specifically.

    One thing I would like to suggest, if I may. Some of the titles, particularly the Chess pieces, are technically advanced – easily post ABSRM Grade 8 level and some post Dip ABRSM level. May be worth considering a simplified version of the book, maintaining the essence of Benny’s music and performance but simplifying the technicalities – by 2/3 grades. ABRSM Grades 5-7+, rather than currently Grades 6+/7- Dip ABRSM+.

    Just a thought.


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