5 Tips for Choosing a Piano Recital Song

How to Find the Right Song For Your Performance

Choosing the right piano recital song.
Image © Brandy Kraemer

Having the freedom to choose your piano recital song can be a double-edged sword. While it’s great to be able to pick a song you already know, or one that inspires you and ignites that creative passion, if you’re uncertain or indecisive, that choice can turn into a time-consuming distraction.

  1. Choose a song you can master completely at least two weeks before your recital.
    This is important for a few reasons:
    A song has many nuances that take time to fully understand and interpret. While listening to a professional recording of the song can help you understand some of its tricky rhythmic bits, your performance should not be a carbon copy of another pianist’s adaptation. Allow the song to awaken a memory, then use those feelings to give the song some genuine character.
    You may want to “test-drive” those nuances on the stage piano to make sure they’ll sound right on a different instrument.
    ​You shouldn’t have to rely on your sheet music on stage; if you’re allowed to have it with you at the piano, think of it as a helpful reminder, not a necessity. (If you need it there with you, be sure you follow the music as you play so you don’t lose your place.)
  2. Do choose a song you relate to artistically.
    If you don’t feel the music the audience won’t either, and your playing might end up sounding impersonal and forced.
  3. Do challenge yourself as a pianist; don’t play it safe.
    Find a song that highlights a feature of your playing you’d like to improve, and conquer it! You want to grow as a musician – practice and display your progress.
  4. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
    Sometimes you’ll be expected to play the piano music exactly as written. But if you’re allowed some flexibility, have fun with it and let your performance stand out from the rest!
    • Arrange an old favorite into another musical style.
    • Try out a contrasting tempo or a subtly different dynamic approach.
    • Create a medly with a few different pieces (but make sure you don’t use another recital performer’s song).
  5. Don’t forget your feet!
    Consider the song’s foot pedaling, and whether you’ll be able to nail it by recital day.