‘Sweden isn’t for everyone. You have to be open to change’

Brazilian guitarist Thiago Trinsi has studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music and taught in three continents. Now living in Sweden, he explains to The Local why he thinks his new instructional videos can help other musicians to take a step forward with their playing.

'Sweden isn't for everyone. You have to be open to change'
Brazilian guitarist Thiago Trinsi who now lives in Sweden. Photo: Cha Trinsi

It’s not often that internationals moving to Sweden do so because they want to come to a bigger country, but that’s exactly the case for Trinsi.

“I was living in Iceland for eight years, teaching music technology in public schools, and I thought it would be nice to move to a bigger country that has more access to other countries,” he explains. “Iceland is an island and you need air travel for everything!”

“So that was the idea. I started applying for jobs in the field and got a job and moved here two years ago,” he continues.

The job came in Härjedalen, a small, mostly rural county in central Sweden bordering Norway with a population of only 10,000 people.

It’s a dramatically different place to his native Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, a city which with more than 4.4 million people in the metropolitan area, is about twice as big as Swedish capital Stockholm.

“It was good for me to get my knowledge in Brazil, because it was during a time when you could get inspired by others there. They’re just more into the passion of it, making things happen. If you are good, you have your space and you can have success. In Sweden, if you’re good it doesn’t matter. You need to be someone’s friend and most of the time you need to be Swedish,” he notes.

Cha Trinsi. Photo: Private

Don’t be fooled though. Even if the close-knit nature of the music community in Sweden can be frustrating at times, Trinsi has plenty of positive things to say about his life there.

“The quality of life is way better. It’s great. Everything is clean, the system works. In Brazil it can be chaos. For inspiration, you get a lot. For learning music, it’s the best place. But after you graduate and need to get a life you should move to somewhere like Sweden which has a great system,” he suggests.

“It’s very hard to pay the bills in Brazil if you’re a music teacher. Sweden is much easier. If you’re a teacher you can pay your bills, travel.”

It was while teaching music in schools in Sweden that Trinsi finally decided to put his latest lesson concept into practice. The idea had been with him for a while: to create a new, more comprehensive way for guitarists to improve their alternate picking technique. With life in Sweden going well, it was time to get the venture off the ground.

“I have worked for companies doing video lessons before but it was different. I created an idea for a guitar solo with a few techniques, then broke it down into pieces to show people how it is played both slowly and quickly,” he notes.

“But then I saw that guitar players, especially in rock and metal, struggle with authentic technique, playing their up and downstrokes cleanly. I started looking for something on the internet that could change that, but everything was the same, I couldn’t find it.”

Cha Trinsi. Photo: Private

Realizing there was a gap in knowledge waiting to be filled, he started formulating his lesson plan.

“I took about eight months researching, experimenting and attempting to develop the lessons in a better way. I got great results, and it really changed my playing and brought it to a brand new level. It was really exciting, so I decided to make it into ten studies that everyone has access to.”

Trinsi’s package combines videos, e-books, musical notation, guitar pro (a form of guitar tablature musical notation), files and audio playback. It’s an impressively comprehensive effort, inspired by a desire to do things better.

“I’ve got a way to work here. It’s not like in Brazil, where for example if I needed someone to mix something, I always knew a friend who knew a guy who does it to a very high level. Here I need to become a master of these things and do it myself. It’s very hard to find people. And the people you do find charge a lot of money for it. I understand why, it’s very difficult to do it,” he muses.

“Knowledge is something that comes to you and stays forever. I’ve been teaching for more than 18 years, developing materials for schools, so I’m used to working fast. It doesn’t take me so long to master a subject.”

Even if he has decades of experience, the Porto Alegre native explains that he is always hoping to learn new things. Though he is trained in orchestration at Berklee College in the US, he still thinks there is plenty to learn from Swedish music, and in particular its master producers.

“If I take a Katy Perry song written by Max Martin, I can put some headphones on and it’s like a lesson. You hear the elements, how well it’s produced and composed, it’s great.”

“Swedes are very good composers and producers.”

His hope is to one day work with some of Sweden’s big musicians.

“One of the points of coming here is I know it’s the land of heavy metal. A lot of great bands are from here. I hope to work with some of those guys one day, record for them or play a gig with them. I’m always open to new projects.”

Yet some of the biggest inspiration Sweden has provided for him comes not from its musical masters, but from the kids he teaches regularly.

“I love my day job and I feel great doing it. A huge percentage of my students are from Afghanistan and Syria. It’s really nice to see them develop and play contemporary music, the things they hear on the radio. They let me hear stuff from their countries too on Youtube, and I’ll take a listen, then in two minutes show them how to play it. It always adds something.”

As for whether working in music in Sweden would be easier if he lived in a hub like Stockholm or Gothenburg, the Brazilian thinks the internet makes up most of the difference.

“In terms of gigs or projects it can be tough not being in Stockholm or Gothenburg, but with the internet I can do pretty much everything except concerts. I record for artists in Europe, the USA, Brazil and Asia. Last year I recorded for a Grammy-nominated producer,” he boasts.

“I can pretty much do all my work here from my home studio. If I was in Stockholm, just getting from my home to the studio could take a couple of hours or something. In a town it’s easier, and everything is here in a way thanks to the internet.”

Ultimately, as an artist he is always looking for different experiences, whether they are in Sweden, or teaching in the USA and Denmark as he currently does.

Going forward, Trinsi plans on developing more teaching packages. “It’ll be a surprise,” he hints. “I can blend weird things like Balkan and Spanish music and make it work. So I’ll be working on more and more techniques, composition maybe someday. More packages but in different styles.”

Cha Trinsi. Photo: Private

As for his location, for the moment he is happy in rural Sweden, but he does have some important advice for any Brazilians looking to move there.

“Sweden isn’t for everyone. You have to be open to change. You have to change yourself first. Every country has a mentality and if you’re open you can move forward and be happy,” he recommends.

“Sometimes I see Brazilians here who complain they don’t have what they had in Brazil, but they don’t see the big picture. Sweden has a lot more to offer than just thinking about the kind of bread you liked to get in Brazil.”

Before bringing our chat to an end, The Local couldn’t resist asking the composer what he thinks of Sweden's big musical talking point of recent months. Should Bob Dylan have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature?

“Bob Dylan is an icon, he’s present in many life stories with his music and poetry. He deserves it.” Trinsi concludes.

For members


Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”