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Libraries Subject Guides


Writing Program Notes

Program Notes Elements

Use the sources included in this subject guide to help you write your program notes.

Part 1: Piece identification

  • Complete title with appropriate keys, numbers, opus numbers, and catalog numbers
  • Date of composition (if known)
  • Composer's full name, birth- death dates
  • Movements or song titles to be performed
  • Your name and instrument
  • Your accompanist's name and instrument, if needed 

Part 2: Biographical and historical information

  • When/where did the composer live?
  • What events in his/her life may have influenced the composition?
  • What was happening in surrounding environment (significant historical events) that may have impacted him/her?
  • Is this a well-known or little-known piece by the composer?  Why?/Why not?

Part 3: Musical analysis and interpretation

  • What are key musical elements of the piece? This may include elements such as form, rhythm, melody, harmony and accompaniment.
  • What do you hope to express to the audience through your interpretation? What should the audience listen for?

 Part 4: Translation of any foreign language text 


From Millersville University Music - Program Notes, by Tatiana Pashkove-Balkenhol

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