Piano performance etiquette is important and good “piano manners” are much appreciated.
Taking a bow means to receive and acknowledge audience applause. Whenever there is applause, a pianist should bow. Even between movements, if there is scattered applause, acknowledging the audience with a quick nod should be done. When you ﬁnish your performance, the audience clap as their way of saying: “Thank you for playing to us”. The performer needs to take a bow in order to reply: “Thank you for listening and showing your appreciation.” So it is a bit rude to just walk away without taking a bow!
The following little things made a clear difference to the way to carry yourself and to the perception the audience has of you:
- Bow before you perform to acknowledge the applause. The ideal way to do it is to walk up in front of the bench and then bow without touching the piano. Audiences know that it is appropriate to clap for the musician who is entering the stage to perform. You should bow to the applauding audience before you sit down at the bench.
- Enter the bench from the side furthest from your audience. Don't slink in from the “front side”… or climb over the top.
- Hands in your lap before you start. Take a moment to hear the ﬁrst few measures in your mind before beginning. If the bench needs adjusting it should be done ﬁrst… and then put hands in your lap.
- Hands in lap after you ﬁnish. So many piano students are already lifting themselves off the bench as they play the ﬁnal note. Learning to place their hands in their lap after they ﬁnish gives their audience a moment to truly relish what they just heard.
- If you have been using sheet music for your performance, you may prefer to leave it on the piano while you bow.
- Bow from the hips, and don’t curtsey. Bowing nicely takes practice! Little head ducks, bows that are too long or too short (or the forget it all and walk away!) are really common in recitals, but they can often really spoil the feelings your audience has been left with after a great performance. Avoid looking like a puppet that fell over, so don’t let the arms dangle in front of your body when taking a bow, and keep your back straight as you bend slightly from the waist.
- Count up to six: three counts as you bend down, look at your shoes, three counts as you come out of the bow.
- Walk calmly off the stage or away from the piano. No running… no matter how badly you want to go to the backstage!