Did You Know? Musical Notes from the Penn State Laureate

October 21, 2008

Q: When is the time to clap in a concert?

A: Many concertgoers are confused by the "etiquette" of clapping. You read the program, wondering, "Where are we? Is this Allegro or Moderato?" Then you may just decide, "Oh well, I'll just wait to clap until someone else does." Although tradition has established rules, most musicians are thrilled to hear applause anytime, anywhere, so next time you attend a concert, if you feel excited and moved to clap, please do. For the best cue, watch the musicians. If they begin to stand and bow, then it really is the time to clap.

Recently I heard a live performance on the radio and after a lively movement I heard a lone clap -- frozen after the person realized that no one else would be clapping. Most musicians would be flattered and delighted by the "clap" that held so much excitement and emotion.

At jazz performances, it's not only permissible, but highly desirable for the audience to clap and react after each solo within a piece. Applause, cheers, etc. typically are acknowledged by the soloist with a nod of the head.

Please send any other musical questions that you always wanted to know but were too shy to ask to Penn State Laureate Kim Cook at kdc3@psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010