Terrified of Clapping at the Wrong Time? Don’t Be.

With Halloween right around the corner, we’ve got scary, unsettling, and truly horrifying things on our minds. Like clapping at the wrong time at a symphony concert! (Cue scary music…)


Clapping at an orchestra concert can often feel like an impenetrable social convention, like a secret handshake or something you need a decoder ring to understand. Don’t fret! It’s actually pretty straightforward.

The Easy Part

At the beginning of every concert, two things usually happen and you’ll always want to clap for them:

  • Concertmaster enters, you clap. The Concertmaster will begin to tune the orchestra after acknowledging your applause, and you can stop clapping when the tuning starts.
  • Conductor enters, you clap. The conductor usually invites the whole orchestra to stand, acknowledges your applause, and then turns their back to the audience to begin the concert. When they turn their back to you, stop clapping.

The Clapping Conundrum

In the earlier days of classical music (think 1700s), audiences were actually kind of rowdy; they’d clap, talk, and even shout during the performance. Sometime in the 20th Century, this convention changed and it became the norm to only applaud at the very end of each piece – and never in between movements. So what should you do?

We encourage the audience to clap when you are moved to do so! It’s perfectly fine to clap in between movements if you enjoyed the music, or you can hold your applause for the very end of each piece.

A Note to Frequent Attenders

If you’re a seasoned concertgoer who feels moved to clap only at the very end of each piece, and never in between movements, that’s great – the orchestra is happy to hear your applause whenever and however you give it!

However, we ask that you please be gracious to other attendees – especially newcomers – who might feel differently than you. It can be rather unwelcoming to correct someone or glare because they broke your rule about clapping in between movements. Be glad that your fellow, clap-happy concertgoers are supporting the arts!