#1June 16th, 2009 · 03:14 PM
102 threads / 59 songs
204 posts
Lesson 9: Cadences

Cadences are to music as punctuation marks are to sentences. A cadence is a specific progression of two chords, they are especially useful for creating a specific ideas within a piece of music. There are many types of cadences but we'll start with the most common and most important ones.

Authentic cadence:

A authentic cadence is when we have motion from the dominant or dominant seventh chord (V or V7) to the tonic chord and it starts at the end of one measure and ends at the beginning of another. The authentic cadence is music's period, it's pretty much how every song ever written ends.


4/4 | I / IV /  V / V7 | I |

(each pair of | |'s denotes one measure, the spaces between the /'s are one quarter note)

In minor keys authentic cadences move from V (with a raised third so that it is a true dominant) to i.

Half cadence:

A half cadence is motion from any chord to the dominant (V) starting at the end of one measure and ending at the beginning of another. The half cadence is music's comma, we use it to suggest that a phrase has ended but the general idea is still not wrapped up.


4/4 | I / vi / VI / ii | V |

Deceptive cadence:

Remember how I said the submediant has tonic function? A deceptive cadence is just like an authentic cadence except that instead of going to the tonic we move to the submediant (vi). A deceptive cadence is, as its name suggests, deceptive. The audience expects to be lead to conclusion but instead the idea is prolonged. I'm not sure what in English exactly does this but if I could think of it that's what it would be... sort of like a semicolon.


4/4 | I / IV /  V / V7 | vi |

Plagal cadence:

The plagal cadence usually comes at the very end of a piece of music, after the authentic cadence, to send us off with a nice warm fuzzy feeling. It is motion from IV to I. We also call it the amen cadence because it's the sort of chord progression we commonly hear over the "amen" in a prayer. Think:

IV - I
ah - men

Again IV is at the end of a measure and I at the beginning.

Something interesting...

Sometimes a minor song will end on a major key. A "Tierce de Picardie" is when a piece in a minor key ends on I instead of i. These are fun to play around with (they often sound ridiculous).
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