Writing ABRSM and
Trinity Guildhall Music Diploma Programme Notes
For both ABRSM or Trinity Guildhall diplomas, it is important to write programme notes that are meaningful for the appropriate level of audience and keep to the word requirement:
|DipABRSM|| General concert audience ||1,100 words ±10%|
|LRSM || More musically informed audience ||1,800 words ±10%|
|ATCL Recital || 400-700 words|
|LTCL Recital || 800-1,100 words|
|FTCL Performance || 1,200-1,600 words|
The word requirement should cover all the pieces being presented. For Trinity Guildhall diplomas, detailed timings for each work and movement should be included.
In writing programme notes, the objective is to give interesting background to the pieces presented to enhance the listening experience of the audience. It is good that most of the writing be specifically relevant to the pieces.
General comments about the composer's life and style are not encouraged. However, biographical details of conditions under which a composer wrote a piece or how his style is displayed in a piece are relevant and interesting.
Comments about the instrument the piece was written for and how it affects current performance are also appreciated.
Even though command of the language is not specifically marked in the exam, it is absolutely essential to write clearly and concisely.
A broad understanding of the composer's work and style is necessary as a backdrop to the more detailed writing required. Some recommended books are:
|A History of Western Music by Donald J. Grout ||Norton, 2001|
|The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition ||Macmillan, 2001
Further recommended reading can be located at www.abrsm.org/exams/diplomas
For contemporary pieces, where little information may have been published about the work, you may write to the publisher to find out any background on the work involved.
In the programme notes, good points to include about the conception of a piece include:
- When it was composed
- circumstances during composition
- details of dedication (if dedicated to someone in particular)
- details of commission
- details of first performance
- When it was first published
Regarding the musical content of the piece, any easily recognisable, distinct features may be highlighted. How the music reflects a particular style or tradition or how it is particularly unusual or inventive should also be discussed. No detailed analysis is necessary or appropriate.
Pointers for Writing
- Use good grammar.
- Be clear and direct. Avoid long, contorted sentences.
- Use your own words. Avoid plagiarism.
- Have a thorough understanding of what you write especially if you are preparing for Viva Voce. Be prepared to discuss points raised in your programme notes as well as sources of information.
- Be interesting.
- Have a look at some professional concert programmes for reference for content and presentation.
- Spellcheck and proofread your notes.
- Constantly check the word count and adapt your notes accordingly.
Titles of works and composers
- Include the full name of the work, key and catalogue number in the title.
- Include the first name of a living composer or if more than one composer bears the same surname. The composer's years of birth and death if applicable are included.
- List each movement of the work.
Use capital letters for:
Use italics for:
- Musical periods
- Specific titles e.g. Second Piano Concerto
- Titles of movements e.g. Allegretto
Use quotation marks with single inverted commas for:
- Titles of books and musical works
- Foreign terms
Use indent without inverted commas for:
- Nicknames to compositions e.g. 'London' Symphony
- Short commentary by composers or critics (less than 2 lines)
- Longer commentary (more than 2 lines)
Presentation Format for ABRSM Exam
- Type or print your notes in black.
- Include the following on your title page:
Number pages consecutively.
- full title of diploma, including instrument for performance diplomas
- date of exam
- word count (exclude title page)
- works in the order of performance
Do not include a bibliography.
Do not include your name anywhere on the notes.
Include your declaration form with your programme notes.
Go from Writing Programme Notes to Overview of ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall Performance Diplomas.