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Music - Recital and Audition preparation

A step by step guide to assist you prepare for recitals and auditions

Step 3: Programme notes

Programme notes

Why programme notes?

The main reason to create programme notes for your recital is to increase audience engagement with your performance. 

Music programme notes are said to be a means of:

  • increasing your audience's understanding and enjoyment of the music you are performing.1
  • providing contextual background information on the musical works being performed 
  • clarifying musicians thoughts about the music that they are to perform.2
  • presenting a short biography of the performer

Traditional or contemporary programme note formats, what to choose?

Contemporary programme notes

Social media is a powerful tool for creating connections with audiences.  How might you go about engaging your audiences prior, during and post performance with your social media channels? How creative can you be? 

Check out this article for inspiration: Social Media – 10 Tips on Making Your Musical Mark

Traditional programme notes

Several guides are available on the creation of traditional style programme notes.  The programme notes may contain information such as:

  • Composition title, instrumentation, name of composer and publication date
  • Circumstances of composition 1
  • First performance
  • Historical context
  • Musical style
  • Scoring
  • Things to listen for

Writing programme notes: A guide for diploma candidates by Nigel Scaife offers a detailed method for creating traditional programme notes and contains examples.

Selected books on programme notes



1.) Guidelines for writing programme notes, Friedheim Music Library

2.) Scaife, N. (2001). Writing programme notes: A guide for diploma candidates. London, England: Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Retrieved