Cadence (music)

From Academic Kids

In Western musical theory a cadence (Latin cadentia, "a falling") is a particular series of intervals (a caesura) or chords that ends a phrase, section, or piece of music. Cadences give phrases a distinctive ending, that can, for example, indicate to the listener whether the piece is to be continued or concluded. An analogy can be made with punctuation, with some weaker cadences acting as commas, indicating a pause or momentary rest, while a stronger cadence will then act as the period, indicating the end of the phrase or musical sentence. Cadences are called "weak" or "strong" the more or less final the sensation they create, with the perfect authentic cadence being the strongest type.

In music of the common practice period, there are four main types of cadences: authentic, plagal, half, and deceptive. Authentic cadences may be perfect or imperfect. Each cadence can be described using the roman numeral system of naming triads (see chord):

  • Authentic cadence: V to I. The phrase perfect cadence is sometimes used as a synonym for authentic cadence, but can also have a more precise meaning:
    • Perfect authentic cadences: V to I, the chords must be in root position, that is the root of the chords must be in the bass, and the root of I must be in the highest voice also
    • Imperfect authentic cadences: V to I, one or more of the chords are inverted or not in root position or the root of the I is not in the highest voice
  • Half (or imperfect) cadence: any cadence ending on V, whether preceded by ii, IV, or I, or any other chord
    • Phrygian cadence: a half cadence from IV⁶ to V in minor, so named because the half-step motion in the bass mimics that of the cadences in medieval music in Phrygian mode
  • Plagal cadence: IV to I, known as the "Amen cadence"
  • Deceptive (or interrupted) cadence: V to any chord except I (typically VI)

It should be noted that these chord sequences do not necessarily constitute a cadence — there must be a sense of closure, as at the end of a phrase. Harmonic rhythm plays an important part in determining where a cadence occurs.

Edward Lowinsky considered the cadence the "cradle of tonality." (Judd, 1998)


Cadences in medieval polyphony

Medieval cadences are based upon dyads rather than chords.

A clausula is a dyadic or intervallic, rather than chordal or harmonic, cadence. It requires at least two voices in contrary motion. According to Carl Dahlhaus (1990), "as late at the 13th century the half step was experienced as a problematic interval not easily understood, as the irrational remainder between the perfect fourth and the ditone [4/3 / (9/8)2 = 256/243!]." In a melodic half step, no "tendency was preceived of the lower tone toward the upper, or of the upper toward the lower. The second tone was not taken to be the 'goal' of the first. Instead, the half step was avoided in clausulas because it lacked clarity as an interval." Beginning in the 13th century cadences begin to require motion in one voice by half step and the other a whole step in contrary motion.

Classical cadential trill

In the Classical period, at the end of a section, authentic cadences often were written which were more drawn out; the V part of the cadence might take a measure or two. These cadences also often on the V had the solo instrument play a trill on the supertonic. These were by far most frequent in Mozart's music, and although they were also found in early Romantic music, their use was restricted chiefly to piano concerti (and to a lesser extent, violin concerti) because they were most easily played and most effective on the piano and violin. Because the music generally became louder and more dramatic in the music leading up to the cadence, they were used for climactic effect, and were often embellished by Romantic composers. Later on in the Romantic era, however, other dramatic virtuosic movements were often used to close sections instead.


  • Judd, Cristle Collins (1998). "Introduction:Analyzing Early Music", Tonal Structures of Early Music (ed. Judd). New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0815323883.

See also

de:Kadenz (Musik) eo:Kadenco fr:Cadence (musique) it:Cadenza nl:Cadens pl:Kadencja (muzyka)


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools