29. Cadences

A cadence is a closing musical phrase, used to complete any musical ‘statement’. A cadence can end a piece, or only a part of one. The most common by far is called the authentic cadence, which is V-I. D to G, A to D, G to C and C to F are all examples of a V-I cadence. If you have trouble identifying the key of a piece, look for V-I wherever you can; the reason it is called ‘authentic’ is because of the supremely high degree of consonance created by this chord sequence. In other words, the V sound like you’re ‘halfway home’, and the I seems to bring one ‘all the way home’. The feeling of I as ‘home’ becomes innate over time. This helps to establish key and to more easily understand other cadences. It’s also a great help for songwriting. The other most used cadences are:

IV-I  Plagal Cadence—strong, though not as much as V-I. C-G and A-E are examples.

ii-V, or any other chord to V—Half Cadence—again, ending at the V feels ‘incomplete’ or halfway there, thus the name. Examples: am-D (in G), em-G(in C),

V-vi-Deceptive Cadence—going to the relative minor (vi) creates resolution, but not nearly as strong as to I. The deceptive cadence is typically in the middle of a piece and will eventually resolve with the authentic cadence later on. Examples: D-em(in G), C to dm(in F).

These cadences assume the chords are in root position. Many interesting possibilities arise when there are inversions of any of the chords. (See 47. Slash Chords and Inversions for more information)

©2012 Jim Greenfield