5 Types of Cadences in Music Theory – Definition & List

Introduction

What is a cadence? Music Cadences are useful not only to understand better what you play, but also it will help you improvise in any music key.

Table of Contents

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Cadences - Music Definition

In music theory, a cadence is the harmonic link/s at the end of a musical  phrase/section/piece. It is a harmonic function, thus, related to chords and it is related to a sort of sensation of ending or pause in music. If you want to have proper music education you must know that there two kinds of Cadences. One sounds conclusive and the other one sounds suspensive.

1- Authentique Cadence (Conclusive)

Authentique cadences are cadences that describe a full tonal confirmation, in which the tonic chord generally coincides with the first beat of the measure. There are two types of Authentique Cadences: Perfect and Imperfect

1.1- Perfect Authentique Cadences

Two chords, one is a Dominant Chord (V), sometimes(not necessary) it includes a 7th. The other one is a Tonic Chord. Both chords must have the root note on the bass.

Authentique Perfect Musical Cadence

1.2- Imperfect Authentique Cadences

It works same way as perfect. In this case, one of the two chords are inverted, meaning that one of the two chords do not have the root note on the bass. 

2- Plagal Cadence (Conclusive)

Tow chords: One is a subdominant chord (IV), the other one is a tonic chord (I). Both in root position. The subdominant chord may also be exchanged by a II or VI degrees. 

Plagal Music Cadence

NOTE: Plagal cadences may also imperfect if one of the two chords are inverted. 

3- Half Cadence (Suspensive)

This cadence is produced with the momentaneous repose of another degree different from the Tonic (I). The most common degrees for this moment of repose are the Dominant and Subdominant, althought they may also be produced on the II, VI, III degrees. 

half-cadences in music

Important Note: As you can see in the previous example, cadences may be preceded by other chords/degrees.

4- Deceptive Cadence (Suspensive)

A deceptive cadence is a progression in which the dominant chord (V) resolves to a chord other than the tonic (I). Most of the times, the dominant chord (V) will lead to the submediant chord (vi in major keys, VI in minor keys). The name “deceptive” expresses that the resolution seems to resolve in a tonic chord. Instead it leads into a different chord/degree. 

Practicing and getting used to the sound of music cadences

Even if you are not a pianist, Bach Chorals will help you master the art of music cadences. 

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