Professor Cliff Leaman’s Guidelines for writing a review of a Musical Event

When writing a review of a musical event, always remember that this is a subjective, personal opinion which may be agreed with or not by the reader. Your opinion of what happened is the most important aspect of the review. As a part of the review, however, you need to keep in mind that your readers may not have been at the concert. Because of this you will need to mention certain basic information as a part of the review.

1. Who plays -- Mention the performers by name if there are less than 6-8, and mention the type of group which is playing. If they have some professional name (ie. The Greenville Symphony Orchestra, The Canadian Brass, etc.) be sure to include this name as well. Most reviews also include a mention of the date, time, and place of the performance. If there is a large group playing such as an orchestra, mention only those performers who have important solos within the pieces and the conductor.

Always comment on the overall quality of the performance including specific examples of what you heard.

2. What was performed -- List each piece performed and discuss it from the standpoint of both the quality of the piece itself and the quality of the performance. Include all of the vital information needed to identify exactly what piece was performed.

Usually the manner in which it is listed in the program will suffice. DO NOT, however, list the entire program as the opening of your review. List each work and discuss it immediately. Be sure to list any changes to the program or encores played.

3. Include background information -- Some background information can help the reader to understand the program better, but do not go overboard on this aspect. Any background information should be brief and should not take up more than 10 percent of the total paper.

4. Tell the reader whether or not you liked the concert. This is the single most important aspect of a review. Was the program worth hearing? Did you like the pieces chosen, the performance, both, or neither? Please explain as specifically as possible what you did or did not like about the performance. This is the most subjective area of the review and should be the bulk of what you say. You may be critical, but try not to get personal. DO NOT use the word "boring."

5. Refer to performers by full name the first time, and thereafter by last name only. Do not personalize your relationship by referring to Dr. Billy Taylor as "Billy," even if you know him quite well. It should be Dr. Billy Taylor the first time, and "Dr. Taylor" or "Taylor" from that point on.

You may keep notes during the performance, but take in only a small note pad, or write your impressions on the program. It is not appropriate to discuss what you are hearing with anyone during the concert. You may discuss your impressions with your friends afterward, but write your own review. Also, do not enter or leave the auditorium at any time during a performance except in cases of emergency. In all cases you should try to enter or leave during a silence between movements or at the end of a piece. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the concert.

Last updated January 9, 2007