Cadences are like punctuation on a sentance. Cadences are two chord statements. There are 4 basic types of cadences: authentic, half, plagal, and decptive.

The authentic cadence is like a period on a sentance, it says,"this is the end."

A perfect authentic cadence is the progression V-I (or v-i in minor) where both chords are in root position and the tonic is the highest sounding note on the I chord (or i).

An imperfect authentic cadence may be imperfect by:
1.) the highest sounding note in I being 3 or 5.
2.) the viio being substitued for the V, viio-I, viio-i
3.) one or both chords being inverted.

A half-cadence is like a comma.
The second chord is V, and the first chord is usually IV, ii, or I.

A plagal cadence (sometime called a church cadence {think "A-men"}) is almost exclusively IV-I or iv-i. Sometimes you see ii/4-I (ex. Dm/C-C)

A deceptive cadence is deceptive in that you expect it to resolve to the I, but doesn't. In a deceptive cadence,
- the first chord is V
- the second chord is not I
- the second chord is usually vi
- V-vi, V-IV/6, V7-bVI (in minor)

Here are some examples:


Well, that's it. No, really. cadences have been used in the past to inject drama and finality to a thought.

Nowadays, the cadence has largely fallen by the wayside in favor of a similar idea "the progression", but understanding cadences will help understand certain musics, namely post-baroque pre-modern classical, ragtime, and big band. half-cadences are heard quite often in jazz, but I don't know a jazz player who is thinking in terms of cadences. Understanding cadences will help illuminate choral/choir music.

We'll touch on cadences in the future in a jazz theory lesson.

Next lesson is on Melodic Analysis.

Christopher Roberts

Back to index
Next lesson - Melodic Analysis
Previous lesson - Transposition

Last updated June 19, 2003
Copyright 2003, 2008. All rights reserved.