MUSIC 3243





Guidelines for Writing a Concert Review Essay


Refer to the Concert Event Calendar  for a listing of performances to attend.


Papers are due one week plus one class period after the performance.

For example, a performance on Saturday and a TR class would be 10 days and should be turned in on Tuesday.

A performance on Thursday and a MWF class would be 8 days and should be turned in on Friday.


Before the Concert:

        If you are unfamiliar with the names of musical instruments, you may want to review them.  The link below shows pictures of each instrument.  Note particularly for this concert, the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet and percussion.


Bring to the Concert:

        Bring along notebook/paper, pen, and the following list of musical parameters to discuss in your paper:

1.        harmony: dissonance (harsh sonorities) or consonance (smooth or stable sonorities) [Note:  dissonance and consonance are nouns.  When describing harmony or sound, "dissonant" and "consonant" are used as adjectives.

2.        texture: homophonic (theres only one main melody; other instruments are in an accompanimental role), polyphonic (more than one melody is played)            

3.        melody:  character (for example, lyrical, operatic, monotonous, sad, happy, etc.), performed by whom, etc.

4.        dynamics (or volume):  loud, moderate, or soft

5.        rhythm:  steady (even) or syncopated

beat - the regular pulse of music (like the ticking of a clock) When you pat your foot, that is the beat.

rhythm - patterns formed by notes of different lengths (like Beethoven's famous theme, short-short-short-long)

6.        instrumentation:  role of specific instruments (leader, accompanist)

7.        genre (blues, jazz, or musical)


At the Concert:

        Make a few notes to remember your "observations".  Use the list above to remind you of elements to listen for.

        Listen to the pieces and performances objectively and analytically.

        If applicable, think of the message in the title or text and how it is depicted in musical terms. 

        Make a note of your impressions also.  What are the composer and performer trying to put across in the piece?  Why is the piece written and performed the way it is?  Was the composer successful in getting his/her message across?  Was the performer successful in interpreting this message?


After the Concert:

        Write your essay as soon as possible after the concert or performance.

        Write about 3 pieces and proceed in chronological order.  If more than one group is performing, do not choose all 3 pieces from the same group.  If the program is a musical, do not choose all 3 selections from the first half.

       Do not take up unnecessary space listing instruments, composers, arrangers, or performers.  I can look on the program.  If you are reviewing a musical, do not tell me the plot.

       In your conclusion, give your general impressions of the concert or performance as a whole and also an assessment of the different performing groups (if more than one group is performing).  In the case of a musical, include a brief comment on the first half of the performance as compared to the second half.  Also include your evaluation: Did you find it worthwhile? Would you recommend that others attend?  Evaluate the music in terms of content and performance.  Relate/compare/contrast it to other types of music with which you are also familiar.  Be as specific as possible.  Take the role of a music critic who will express preferences justified by specifics.

        Submit your essay to the Turnitin website.  Go here for instructions.  Your class ID# is 1448409  Password: Pop88 (case sensitive)

        NOTE:  Late essays will be penalized 10 points for each calendar day past deadline


  • The 2 general pitfalls to which one can succumb are:

1.  to write too generally about feelings or impressions; e.g. "The music made me feel . . ", or "It was like . . ." etc.  These assessments can be very valuable, but should accompany, not substitute for more specific analysis.  Indeed, it can be quite perceptive to analyze the music for the elements which cause a feeling or result in an impression, but it is necessary to identify those musical elements in the process.

2.  to narrate the piece like a "play by play"; e.g. "First the trombone . . .", "Next the trumpets . . .", Then the drums . . .".   This would result in strictly an observation, and again not an analysis.

Analyzing music requires some specifics and some generalizations, but most of all requires conclusions.  In other words, notice  the specifics, elaborate on those which are particularly noteworthy and draw relevant conclusions.

What is a relevant conclusion?  Here is a silly example:  you see a zebra among some horses.  You are analyzing the situation.  Your content does not need to mention that the zebra has 4 legs or hooves, because that is not noteworthy in this situation.  All of the animals share these attributes.  The salient fact is that one of these animals is unique because of its stripes. 

Other unnecessary statements:

"the drum kept a steady beat" - unless this is unusual, annoying, unexpected or inconsistent in the piece you are analyzing, it is filler information.


Writing Mechanics and Requirements

  •  Description of paper:  750 words, typed, double-spaced, one inch margins, 12 point font, titled, attach program.

  • Do not change verb tenses in the middle of your essay.  Choose one and stick with it.  After writing your paper, read straight through it to check for this consistency.

  • Do not begin every sentence with "This song . . ." or "This piece . . ."  or "The music sounded like . . . "

  •  The title of a whole work (Les Misrables) should be underlined, a movement or part of the work (Do You Hear the People Sing) should be put in quotations.

  • Proof-read your paper even if you use spell check and grammar/style tools (Tools-Options-Spelling and Grammar in Word)

  • Use commas!

Although not all commas make such a crucial difference in meaning, here is an illustration of the necessity of the humble comma.  The following sentence is interpreted by means of punctuation in two very different ways.


Woman without her man is nothing




1.  Woman; without her, man is nothing.


2.  Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Note:  The University Writing Center, located in Humanities 210A, is a free resource for TSU students.  Consultants are available to help you.  They will not revise, proofread, or edit your paper for you, but will help you do a better job doing these things for yourself.  This resource is not just for English classes, but for writing assignments in any class.

This is the form I will use to grade your essays

Concert Review Essay Rubric









 Selection 1Selection 2Selection 3





These are facts and objective information

Harmony (dissonance, consonance)

Texture (homophonic, polyphonic

Melody (lyrical, absent)

Dynamics (loud, soft, changing)

Rhythm (steady, syncopated)

Instrumentation (leader, accompanying

Genre (type, style)



These are subjective thoughts and opinions














2-3 pages typed (40 lines in body)

Double spaced

1-inch margins

12 point font


Program and ticket attached


Writing Mechanics




Sentence structure

Verb tense



Created and maintained by Vicky Boucher


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Alternative Plan for Concert Review Essay

Note:  This is only available in cases of concert cancellation or summer sessions.

Listen to the 3 songs below as if you were hearing them in a live concert and follow the guidelines for the Concert Review Essay.

Devotional (Wynton Marsalis)

Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue (Duke Ellington)

Scrapple from the Apple (Charlie Parker)

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