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Preparing for your Piano Recital

Piano Lessons by Bryan Chuan, The Lesson Studio, Boulder

In Today’s lesson you will learn the best practices when preparing for your piano recital


Most students find the prospect of performing in a studio recital daunting, and worse yet, many students give up on the piano after a negative recital experience. Indeed, few events in life are more anxiety-inducing than performing music in front of an audience of peers, and it is my role as a piano teacher to clarify the purpose of a studio recital in order to make performing a positive experience.

1. A recital provides students with a tangible goal and reward for the many hours they spend practicing pieces, refining technique, and mastering concepts.

2. Performing in front of an audience prepares students for professional and academic challenges later in life, such as public speaking and academic competitions.

3. Hearing more experienced peers can inspire younger students. Conversely, experienced students learn the joy of sharing their musical gifts to their peers.

4. Recitals and other musical gatherings help create collegiality between parents and students.

Overall, performing at a studio recital yields enormous rewards, and your family, peers, and teacher will all be very proud of your efforts. However, the experience of playing at a recital can be improved greatly with adequate preparation.

Preparing for your recital:

Adequately preparing for a recital is a long process that cannot be rushed like cramming for an exam. During the course of a year, you will learn many pieces and finger exercises, and the pieces chosen for a recital should reflect the skills acquired during the year.

Recital repertoire must be mastered, and this means knowing every note, rhythm, dynamic, phrase, and articulation. Memorization will aid fluency and is strongly encouraged for a recital. Furthermore, mastering a piece means that you are expressing the music, not reacting to details. This process should take not days but weeks or even months, and it instills discipline and good habits that carry over to other aspects of life.

The day before a recital, be sure to eat a healthy meal that doesn’t upset the stomach, and sleep earlier than usual because your nervous energy will keep you awake longer than usual. Do not practice excessively.

The day of a recital, eat a big breakfast, and do not try to cram a last minute practice session. Warm up with a few finger exercises, stay hydrated, and make sure to wear gloves or mittens throughout the day to keep the hands warm.

Preparing for your piano recital, Etiquette:

Please arrive early for the recital. Tardiness is unacceptable and can interfere with other students’ preparation and program order.

You do not have to wear your finest clothes, but do dress formally, and no t-shirts or jeans. Older male students can use a recital as an opportunity to learn how to tie a tie.

During the recital, listen attentively to your peers. Keep fidgeting and coughing to a minimum.

When it is your turn to perform, walk up to the piano confidently with a straight back. Scan the audience with your eyes, and acknowledge the applause with a shallow bow before and after performing. If you are playing two pieces, acknowledge the audience with a quick nod between the pieces.


Prior to performing, spend a few seconds gathering your thoughts, and make sure your arms, shoulders, and wrist are all relaxed. Do not place your hands on the keyboard until you are fully prepared to play the first note.

No pianist has ever made it through their career without making a significant mistake. Should you make a mistake, take a deep breath, and start from the beginning of the phrase or even the beginning of the piece. Preparing for a recital is not about avoiding mistakes, but rather practicing enough that you know what do should you make a mistake.

When you finish, take a second or two to let the audience respond before standing up.


Preparing for your piano recital is crucial to making each one a great experience. It does not take much talent to share your passion for music to the world, and your performance will inspire more people than you realize. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to your peers. Practice until the piece becomes one continuous motion.