What Is a Musical Cadence?


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What Is a Musical Cadence? How Many Are There?

A musical cadence is a chord progression that ends in a feeling of rest, or repose, or hesitation. It has a feeling of completion in contrast to chords that keep moving.

It’s hard to describe in words, but you would recognize it immediately when you hear it. There are at least half-a-dozen different types of cadences, but here we will discuss only the main ones:

1. The Authentic or Perfect Cadence. It is a sequence of the V chord moving to the I chord. A complete authentic cadence is the IV chord moving to the V chord then moving to the I chord – in other words, the primary chords in sequence. An example would be in the key of C – the F chord moving to the G or G7 chord, then moving to the C chord.

2. The Half Cadence. A chord progression which ends on the V chord in any key. For example, if we have chord progression in the key of C that progresses from the D7 chord to the G chord, which is the II chord to the V chord.

3. The Plagal Cadence. A chord progression which moves from the IV chord to the I chord in any key. Also known as the Amen cadence.

Please watch this short video on these three types of musical cadences:

There are other types of cadences such as the Deceptive Cadence, which is the V chord moving to some other chord than the I chord – in other words, you expect the chord progression to go home to the I chord, but it surprises you by going elsewhere, such as to th vi chord. We will take that up at another time.

Obviously, the more you know about music theory the better off you will be as a musician, so I urge you to take a music theory course somewhere. Here is a good one:

Music Theory & Harmony: Boring? No! It’s An Exciting X-Ray Into How Music Works!

Music Theory

Here is a Wikipedia article about musical cadences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_(music)

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