Writing Music Program Notes

This guide is designed to assist students in the Department of Music in writing their program notes

Program Notes Content

Music programs generally contain information specific to your recital or concert. In addition, many writers of program notes also provide the audience with additional information specific to the compositions or the composers.

Basic program notes are required for all performances that are available through the University Libraries' archive.

What Information is in Program Notes

Basic Notes

  • Information about the concert and its performers (date, place, names, instruments or voice types)
  • Information on the works being performed - title (including opus or work numbers, keys, etc), movement names

Detailed Notes

Basic information + combinations of items below

  • Context of the work historically and in music history
  • Context of the work in relation to the composer's life and work
  • Description of the work
  • Descriptions of particular terms - such as "scherzo" or "langsam"
  • What will the work sound like or what should the listener listen for
  • Translations of the work 

Helpful Reference Books

The following books are available in the reference collection in Performing Arts and Media. Each has helpful chapters on writing program notes.

Sample Programs on the Web