Cadences

Cadences are found at the end of a musical phrase, and especially at the end of a piece. There are different types of cadences to signal different things. Certain cadences are also only appropriate in minor or major keys. I’ll talk about a few of the more common, but this list is by no means exhaustive.

If a cadence ends on the tonic chord, it produces a feeling of finality and so often is used at the end of a piece, though they can also appear at the end of a phrase in the middle of a piece too. A cadence that end on a chord other than the tonic can create a temporary place to rest, but do not sound finished.

 

Examples of cadences

 

Here are some common cadences, and an example of the chords they would use in C major and A minor.

Major:

  • Perfect V-I (G-C)
  • Plagal IV-I (F-C)
  • Imperfect I/II/IV-V (C/Dm/F-G) first chord could be anything but these are common
  • Interrupted V-VI (G-Am) usually VI but could be anything except I

Minor

  • Perfect V-I (E-Am)
  • Plagal IV-I (Dm-Am)
  • Tierce de Picardie V-I major (E-A) uses tonic major
  • Imperfect I/II/IV-V (Am-E)
  • Interrupted V-VI (G-Am) usually VI but could be anything except I
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