Recital Etiquette



Student recitals can be lots of fun and create valuable experiences for pianists. Unfortunately, they can also be a source of anxiety or stress if students aren’t ready and/or guidelines aren’t followed.

There are guidelines and rules of behavior all performers and audience members should follow during recitals, concerts or other performances.

Audience members must remember the reason for their visit to the recital hall – to listen quietly, actively and appreciatively to the music being offered by the performers.


For the performer:

1.  Dress appropriately. Performers being nicely dressed (or following the recital theme) shows respect for the audience, the teacher and themselves!

Girls in knee-length or longer skirts/dresses or slacks.  No spaghetti straps, no platform shoes, flip-flops, bedroom slippers or athletic footwear.

Do not wear dangling, jingling jewelry – especially bracelets.  You may need to remove rings if they twist around easily.

Boys in dress pants and buttoned dress shirts with ties preferred, or suits.

IMPORTANT: Remember to practice several times in your outfit, shoes included.  You don’t want to get to the recital and find that you can’t use the pedal properly because of your shoes.

2. Clean hands!  Dirty, sticky, or oily fingers can hurt your performance and bother the next pianist. If you complete a long piece and notice some keys are slippery with sweat (a very common issue), notify your instructor so they can clean the keyboard before the next performer.

2. When it is your turn, stand quickly and walk up to the stage. Do not run!

Bow before you perform to acknowledge the applause. Audiences used to know that it was appropriate to clap for the musician who was entering the stage to perform. This now isn’t always the case (I will start clapping if it doesn’t happen automatically). Students should bow to their applauding audience before they sit down at the bench (not acknowledging applause is generally considered to be rude).

2.  Enter the bench from the side furthest from your audience. This was a biggie for my former piano teacher and I’m reminded of it every time I see a student slink in from the “front side”… or climb over the top. I used to think this was awfully stuffy – but when you see a student do it, it just looks right.

3.  Hands in your lap before you begin. I use this with my students to give them a moment to hear the first few measures in their mind before they begin.  Once fingers are on the keys it means you’re  ready to play. If the bench needs adjusting it should be done first… and then  hands should be placed in your lap before beginning to play.

Play the scale of the piece in your head and think over tempo, markings, etc. Then  arch your hands onto the piano and position  feet on the pedals or flat on the floor–NEVER under the stool. Proceed to play!

3. Should you make a mistake while performing, you should try to continue playing without starting over or repeating. This makes sufficient practice before the recital very Very VERY important!

If playing more than one piece, you should acknowledge applause in between with a nod or smile.

4.  Hands in lap after you finish. So many piano students are already lifting themselves off the bench as they play the final note (perhaps really eager to return to their seat in the audience!?) Learning to place your hands in your lap after finishing gives the audience a moment to truly relish what they just heard.

5.  Rise and stand at the edge of the piano (with left hand on the wood). Bow from the hips,  don’t curtsey. Bowing nicely takes practice!  In handbells, we bow towards the table and say silently “I love handbells”.  The same can be said in piano recitals – “I LOVE Piano”.

6.  Walk calmly off the stage or away from the piano.  No running… no matter how badly you want to get back to your seat!

For the audience:

Recitals are a special occasion and so it is customary to dress nicely.

• Please arrive a little early in order to find a comfortable place to sit.

• Make sure all your invited guests understand the importance of arriving on time. If they arrive late, it makes it difficult for those performing.

• Please invite as many friends and family members as you’d like. Our recital hall has lots of room, and can accomodate likely as many as you’d like to invite. And if not, then a standing room only crowd would be a fantastic crowd to have, and a wonderful problem to deal with!

• Turn off all cell phones and any electrical devices that may produce sound.

• Once the recital begins, please listen and be quiet. Crying babies should be taken out. They are not happy, and neither is the audience or the performer!

• If you arrive late, please wait to enter between pieces when you hear applause. Do not enter the recital hall or switch seats while someone is performing.

• The soloist will bow and your response is to applaud politely!

• No whistling, yelling, or other loud methods of congratulation. While boisterous congratulations are meant to show support for the performer, it may actually cause unintended problems instead. The best way to show appreciation for the performance is with thunderous applause, and an occasional “bravo” at the end of an especially great performance.

• Compositions that have movements or suites are, in general, performed without applause in the middle.

• Respect the performers. Unnecessary noise from whispering, talking, candy wrappers, etc. during a program is not acceptable. Reading, studying, and writing letters during a program are also inappropriate.

• Please stay until the performance or event is completely over. Attending a recital so that other families will serve as audience to your student, and then leaving before the other performers have finished is rude, inconsiderate and unacceptable. If you have other obligations or matters to attend to before the recital is over, please do not attend.

• Flash photography is not appropriate during a performance. The flash can disrupt the performer’s concentration.

• Enjoy! Your presence is the greatest affirmation!

For Everyone:

No Perfume!  Your perfume or cologne will linger around the piano after you leave the stage (especially under hot lights), and it might give the next pianist some sinus or eye irritation; or, at the very least, create a distraction that can prevent them from getting “in the zone.”

Parts of this article adapted from It’s The Little Things That Count… Piano Etiquette and Your Piano Students | Teach Piano Today

April 9 ~ Today in Music History


. 1886 ~ Enrique Granados, Spanish pianist and composer, performed his debut piano concert in Barcelona.

. 1888 ~ Sol Hurok, Impresario

OCMS 1890 ~ Efram Zimbalist, Russian-born American violinist and composer
More information about Zimbalist

. 1898 ~ Paul Robeson, American bass. Known for his sympathy for Russia he had his passport revoked for many years. The song Ole Man River, whose words he changed to fit his views, became his signature song.

. 1906 ~ Antal Dorati, Hungarian-born American conductor and composer. He was the first conductor to record all of Haydn’s symphonies.

. 1916 ~ Julian Dash, Jazz musician, tenor sax

. 1928 ~ Tom Lehrer, Songwriter

. 1932 ~ Carl Perkins, early American rock ‘n’ roll figure who originally recorded Blue Suede Shoes. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987

. 1940 ~ Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, along with singer Helen O’Connell, recorded Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga for Decca Records.

. 1950 ~ Bob Hope hosted a Star-Spangled Review on NBC-TV. Hope became the highest- paid performer for a single show on TV. The Star-Spangled Review was a musical special.

. 1970 ~ Paul McCartney sought a High Court writ to wind up the Beatles business partnership, effectively ending the group’s career.

. 1977 ~ The Swedish pop group Abba made its debut at number one on the American pop charts, as Dancing Queen became the most popular record in the U.S.

. 1988 ~ Brook Benton passed away.  He was an American singer and songwriter who was popular with rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences.

. 2001 ~ Graziella Sciutti, an Italian soprano and opera director best known for her interpretations of Mozart, died at the age of 68. Born in Turin, northern Italy, in 1932, Sciutti made her first operatic appearance at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France in 1951. She went on to perform under Herbert von Karajan at Milan’s La Scala. She was lead soprano at a smaller theatre at La Scala called La Piccola Scala for eight years from its inception in 1955. She became a member of the Vienna State Opera in 1960 and the following year made her debut in San Francisco in one of her most celebrated roles, as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. She began her directing career at Covent Garden in London and at the Glyndebourne Festival in England, where she directed and performed in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine in 1977. She then went on to direct in Canada and for the opera companies in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Miami, as well as in Britain, Germany and Italy. She joined London’s Royal College of Music in the mid 1980s and continued to teach there until shortly before her death.