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How To Prepare a Composition Recital

First steps

  1. Compose all the music and prepare sheet music for performance.
  2. Schedule a date and venue… this may be done in collaboration with key collaborating performers who you know will be involved.
  3. Ask all performers to commit to performing on the recital. Let them know that they will need to commit to a full level of preparation! In an ideal world, this would include all of the steps listed below (learning the music before the first rehearsal, attending three rehearsals, a recorded “dress” rehearsal and the concert)
  4. One month before the recital, your program book is due to Matt Miller. Your professor will need to fill out a venue management form with any special requests (risers, extra piano, harpsichord, etc.)
  5. Percussion must be organized by the percussion performer on your recital. They will need permission from faculty to check out instruments for rehearsals and the concert.

Preparing the Music

  • Establish a rehearsal schedule = 2 months BTR (before the recital)
  • Distribute the score & a part to each player = 1 month BTR
  • Check in with each performer about “difficulties”; this gives you a chance to iron out any bugs in the music, but also to let them know they should be looking at the music by this point. = 3 weeks BTR
  • Re-confirm rehearsal schedule = 3 weeks BTR
REHEARSAL #1 – 2 weeks BTR
You may not want to attend this one. Ask a trusted friend in the ensemble to take notes with questions for you that you can answer about the music, and be accessible by phone during the rehearsal in case they need you urgently.
REHEARSAL #2 – 1.5 weeks BTR
REHEARSAL #3 – 3-4 days BTR
Close to recital – the day before or the same day
Record it!

Before the Concert

Have the ensemble dress appropriately according to your wishes. Concert-black is classic. It’s a semi-formal occasion, so no suits are needed, but sharp concert dress is important. Be sure they know the concert order and how they should enter (Will they be introduced? will they be “clapped on”? Will they be onstage during speaking portions of the show?)
Publicize the event! Tell your friends, your family… everyone. It feels better to have friendly faces in the audience, and plenty of them.
Prepare some remarks to make from the stage. You should be sure to thank relevant people (especially those who gave of their time and talent to perform your compositions, but also your teachers, parents, friends, supporters). Keep your words concise and casual.
Make sure the recording is rolling.
Ask people to silence their phones. It’s your recital.

At the Concert

Try to relax! Enjoy the performance! Don’t wince if there are wrong notes. If anyone gets terribly lost, don’t be afraid to stop the music and help them get back together. It’s not Carnegie Hall, after all.
Afterward, when people tell you how great the concert was, thank them. They are being nice, and hopefully sincere. Don’t tell people that it was awful… this is not the time to be humble… just accept the compliment.
Thank each performer individually. It is very nice to give them a thank-you note or small gift. Remember that they were preparing your music when they could have been studying for their music history exam.

Online Resources for Music Composition



Composition Techniques

“Instruments” and samples



WCU library subscriptions: > Resources > Databases > Subjects/Music

  • Alexander Street
    • Classical Music Library
    • Classical Scores Library
    • Contemporary World Music
    • Jazz Music Library
    • Opera In Video
  • DRAM
  • Met Opera On Demand
  • Naxos Music Library & Naxos Video Library
  • Oxford Music Online

Sheet music collections

Blogs and web ‘zines

Recording sharing


Learning notation software

Matthew Hindman fonts (all free!) for use in computer software and for annotating music essays: Be sure to get:

  • Times + Musical Symbols (Mac only) and Rhythms
  • Instrument-fingering and pedaling fonts are available for harp, saxophone, recorder.


Audio Examples for “Simple Forms”

Franz Schubert: German Dance D. 783, No. 5

J. S. Bach, “Schlaff’s mir mir, Gott” from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook

Franz Josef Haydn: Divertimento Hob. XVI No. 8

Franz Josef Haydn: Sonata Hob. XVI-43

George Gershwin: “I Got Rhythm”

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 26, mov. 1

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2, mov. 3

Schumann “Träumerei” from Kinderszenen

Robert Johnson “Ramblin’ On My Mind”

Beethoven Minuet in G WoO. 10 No. 2

Composition Challenges

Successful completion of these challenges involves approaching each task directly and thoroughly, avoiding extraneous musical details that do not contribute to the requested sonic effect.

Challenges that must be composed for acoustic instruments with no electronic accompaniment or sonic modification are indicated with a ☀ symbol. Challenges designed for electroacoustic music are labeled ⚡. Challenges designed for piano or piano-plus-one are labeled 🎹.

Continue reading Composition Challenges