The Art of the Encore!

by David Rauh (16.08.2022)
translation by Maarten Reumkens

What makes a good encore? We asked eight professional musicians to try and answer this question. Let their answers inspire you for your next concert!

Relevant sheet music:

“Bravo!”“Bravo!” The musicians on stage gave it their all and now they are enjoying a rapturous applause from the audience. The concert has ended… or has it? Encores have become a staple of modern concert culture. In most cases, it is now expected that there will be more music after the last piece in the programme, particularly if the biggest hits have not yet been heard. During the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year's concert for example, the classics The Blue Danube and the Radetzky-Marsch are only rolled out after great applause, and if Metallica doesn't perform "Enter Sandman" or "Master of Puppets" during their regular set, you can usually count on it that they will be played after the 'End'.

... but what do you do when faced with this situation? You are playing a concert, the official programme has come to an end, but the audience doesn't stop applauding, they want more of your music, what do you do? You could repeat a piece from your programme? Possible, but perhaps a bit boring. Do you leave? That might leave a bitter taste for the audience... why not prepare an encore in advance!

We asked several professional musicians to give their opinion on encores and divided their answers into four categories:

  • What is the purpose of an encore?
  • Which pieces are most suitable as an encore?
  • Should I plan for an encore?
  • Do I have to play an encore?

What is the purpose of an encore?

A well rounded ending

Karoline Höfler: A good encore is like a dessert, afterwards the audience is full, happy and satisfied. The concert arc is closed.

Kristin Thielemann: A good encore is like the chocolate flakes on top of your ice cream. It can – if thoughtfully chosen – provide a nice finishing touch to a concert.

A lasting impression

Aloisia Dauer: The encore is what people take home with them. It stays in their ears and rounds out the concert evening nicely.

Luc Scholtes: Ideally concertgoers are impressed by the encore and it becomes a talking point afterwards. Encores that are just there to entice people to clap or sing along are superfluous in my opinion.

A final thank you

Daniel Steigleder: When the audience demands an encore, that's their way of thanking you for a great concert. With an encore you can return the favour and send them home feeling happy.

Flavia Feudi: The introduction of the encore should not be underestimated either. I often use this opportunity to interact with the audience. A brief turn to my listeners brings us closer together and is always well received.

Which pieces are suitable as an encore?

Liana Pereira: A good encore can be a ‘gamechanger’ in the sense that it might introduce stylistic elements that are totally at odds with the rest of the programme. On the other hand it could also be used to underline the musician's individual style.

Aloisia Dauer: I find it very important for encores to have a kind of wow factor that gets the audience in a good mood. The piece may be technically challenging, but should always be entertaining. The encore should never be too long and have a length that fits with the original concert programme. Personally I always pick pieces that I have already mastered and that don't take a huge amount of practice to prepare. I like to enjoy the encore just as much as the audience while I'm on stage.

Flavia Feudi: When picking an encore, in principle I try to find a work that moves and inspires the audience. A piece that the audience takes home with them, that continues to resonate in their ears, to be remembered.

Kristin Thielemann: I also think about the mood in which I would like my audience to leave the concert: If I want them to be impressed and euphoric about my technical skills, then I will choose a shorter showpiece. If I want a lively, cheerful audience that goes out into the world with a catchy tune in their heads, I pick a cheerful melody that is easily recognised, such as polka, tango, swing or ragtime. If I want to move the listener deeply, a beautiful slow aria or even a folk song can be suitable.

Komalé Akakpo: Different audiences often have different expectations for an encore: some would like to take the energy of a lively concert finale home and are happy with a groovy encore. Some are happy when the performance ends harmoniously with a quiet bedtime treat, while others might look forward to being able to participate at the end of a concert. Some could stay seated for hours, while others are already thinking about the long drive home... We have found that always announcing two encores is a good solution during concerts with our Lanziger Trio, it seems to please as many people in the audience as possible, and us as well: a fast piece and a quiet piece in contrasting styles. The duration of the encores is clear from the outset and that makes it easy for everybody to live with. We know when we're done and if you still can't get enough of our music, you can always come and visit us at our CD stand, after the concert ;)

Should I plan for an encore ahead of time?

Flavia Feudi: An encore is absolutely part of a successful concert programme. Often it is not taken into account beforehand, or only added at short notice, as if it were an appendix that had nothing to do with the rest of the programme. But it is essential that the encore relates to the programme as a whole and is seen as an integral part of the concert experience.

Luc Scholtes: In my opinion, a good encore adds something special to the concert programme, so it shouldn't be added just because the audience is still applauding. The perfect encore ties in thematically to the rest of the programme and should have something special about it. It could be spectacular, or have a special meaning and therefore evoke strong emotions.

Aloisia Dauer: I choose the encore to match the concert programme. If the concert has a specific theme, or if it is centered around a specific occasion, Christmas for example, an appropriate encore is easy to find. After a thematically or musically demanding programme, the audience might be happy to be treated to a lighter, more entertaining melody that stays in their heads even after the concert.

Daniel Steigleder: As a musician, a good choice of songs is essential. Especially towards the end of your concert it is up to you to take your audience by the hand and close the tension arc. Think about the last five songs of the evening and think very specifically about the effect you want to achieve. Does the encore fit with the last song in your set in terms of feeling, tempo and complexity? How will your audience react to the encore? Will they want to hear even more from you or do you send your listeners home satisfied, and with a smile on their face?

Do I have to play an encore?

Luc Scholtes: I think it's nice when the encore surprises the audience at the end of the concert, that's why I think you don't always have to play an encore. If the programme is complete without an encore, and there really isn't any other work that would fit, then it doesn't make sense to play an extra piece. The concert would not become any more beautiful. It is just stretched, because the encore doesn't really add anything meaningful.

Daniel Steigleder: Please only play encores when they're actually requested: There's nothing more embarrassing than a band that fires off a set of encores even though nobody asked for them. Also make sure that an encore is appropriate: If you're playing a festival, the next band is most likely ready to go on, and there is hardly ever enough time for the changeover as it is, so today is not the right day for an encore. Stick to your playing times and keep an eye on the big picture – bookers, organizers and your fellow musicians will love you for it!

Encore: What else is there to know?

The Q&A session actually ends here, but as editor, I would like to allow myself a small encore, with some facts to close out this article: The current record holder for the most encores over several evenings is The Cure with five sets, meaning they left the stage five times, only to return and play one or more more songs. However, the record has probably not been challenged for a long time. A solo concert by pianist Yuja Wang reportedly had ten encores; Prince played seven sets of encores in Metropolis in 2011, more songs than were included in the regular set! Nothing compares to the longest known encore in history: in 1792, Domenico Cimarosa's opera Il matrimonio segreto, which normally lasts about three hours, was simply repeated in its entirety! Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, simply couldn't get enough of it.

On the subject of opera: The practice of providing encores actually originates from the world of opera. It was common for the audience to applaud after a successful performance of an aria. If the applause continued for a long time, the same aria would simply be repeated. During the 18th century, this tradition started stretching some performances so much that certain opera and concert venues started limiting the amount of encores, or banning them altogether.

Of course it shouldn't come to that: With this in mind, I would like to finish by wishing that all your concerts may find the perfect conclusion – with or without an encore!

Verband deutscher MusikschulenBundesverband der Freien MusikschulenJeunesses Musicales DeutschlandFrankfurter Tonkünstler-BundBundes­verb­and deutscher Lieb­haber-OrchesterStützpunkt­händ­ler der Wiener Urtext Edition

© 2004–2024 by Stretta Music. Order and buy sheet music online.

Your specialist for all kinds of sheet music. Online shop, sheet music, music scores and play along for download, books, music stands, music stand lights, accessories.