How to write program note

Program note is a means to let audience know more about the music performed. It usually includes background and musical analysis:


Program note includes background of composer and the musical work itself. Ask yourself the following questions:

Background of composer

What is your general  impression of composer? Where was he born? What was his contribution to the music history?

Background of musical work

Just find out some gimmicks of this work, such as:

When did the musical work composed and published? Was it composed in a particular stage of life of the composer? Were there any other significant works he composed in that period?

To Whom the musical work dedicated to, or who commissioned the work?

Does it presented as independent work or be parts of a bigger work?

Is the musical work related to poems, pictures or other means of arts, or has story behind?

What kind of instrument did the composer write for? Or does it a transcription or paraphrase?

Is it  written in some special genre? If it is uncommon, for example Baroque dance, just let the audience know.

Musical analysis

No need to give a very detailed analysis. Don’t have too much analytical jargon. This will frighten the audience. I am used to mention the mood and general structure of the musical work.

The most useful resources of writing program note are those from CD booklets and real musical concerts. They give you a sense of “real” program notes.  If you need to write one for the public exam, please check the word limit and the criteria from the syllabus.  ABRSM has published guidelines for the candidates. Please have a look of it


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